A couple of years ago the kids and I were looking through the purses and bags at Goodwill, and our son announced that he, too, wanted a purse. I suppose he would have been about six years old at the time.A bag of his own could contain his wallet, ChapStick, a notepad and pen, his Nintendo DS—such a practical solution for easy transport! He started poking around the jumble of gently used purses, totes, and shoulder bags, considering the possibilities.His sisters were horrified, but he was determined.I had to decide what to do, what to say. I had to decide quickly…
This is the start of a post at HighCallingBlogs.com today, where I simply set up and highlight someone else’s boy-meets-bag moment of decision. I invite you to slip over and check out the excerpt from her post.
In the meantime, here’s what happened at Goodwill:Parenting is full of little moments like this that sneak up on me. We’re out picking up milk, returning books at the library, or browsing leather handbags at Goodwill—something utterly ordinary and mundane—and next thing you know, something small leaves me prickling with the possibility that the next word I utter or the look on my face will mark a defining moment in my child’s life.Will my reaction to his purse request change how he views the world or people or gender? Or will it amount to nothing?Standing in front of those Goodwill bags beside my son and daughters, I made a decision.“Some men do carry bags to contain their stuff,” I said. The girls conceded that their dad carries a backpack and a brief case … but those bags, they pointed out, were a far cry from a purse.“Some men, like Papa, use a backpack or brief case,” I continued, “but a few do indeed carry a smaller bag the size of a purse.” But I insisted that bags for men are usually a simple style in a quiet color with masculine details, like webbing for the strap, for example, and little in the way of decoration.I let my son have a bag.He narrowed down his selection, and the girls and I urged him to take a small, relatively manly canvas bag in sage green. He agreed to it and uses it to this day for small items.Defining moment? I don’t know about the far-reaching effects, but I can see that it’s practical. He doesn’t drop his DS on the concrete driveway when it’s tucked neatly into his bag, for example, and he can apply his own ChapStick to those frequently dry, cracked lips of his.If anyone questions it, we can always point to his father’s European upbringing (“Man bags are all the rage in France!”). Or maybe we could just rename it a satchel.
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My husband (a cycling guy) acquires and uses bags with pockets and zippers for all sorts of uses – on the bicycles, in his car, in the office. He knows where his stuff is. It isn’t slipping, sliding, falling between seats, getting lost. He hasn’t gotten into carrying a bag yet, no, but he has quite a few pair of those shorts with pockets all over the legs and is at the outer boundaries of filling those. I think a bag to carry would look better, so….
I agree with your thinking on this one. It isn’t easy being mom and wrestling through these things.
Shorts with pockets all over is a fun alternative…I might look for some of those to provide an option to the “satchel.”
Satchel, definitely a satchel…man bag makes my ears physically hurt when spoken aloud…like they have a cow udder or something not quite right…but satchel…that’s the ticket…or back pack…
Satchel. I’ll start using that instead. I didn’t have your reaction to that phrase, but now I’ll never be able to say it or read it without imagining some bulbous growth!
Llama Momma says
I love the man bag!
Reminds me of when Twin B. was in Kindergarten, and really, really wanted to wear a necklace to school. A purple, beaded necklace. I broke the news that boys don’t usually wear this kind of jewelry, and kids may make fun of him if he wore it.
He wore it anyway.
At the end of the day, I asked him if anyone said anything about his necklace. He said, “Yup. So and so said, “Hey, I like your necklace!”
He gave up the jewelry by 1st grade, but I’m so glad his kindergarten class was still a “safe place” for a boy to dress up! 🙂
I wonder how many Kindergarten classes today would be as innocently impressed as your son’s?
Back in the macho era when John Wayne westerns were the rage … I’m betting the peer reaction to our boys with “satchels” and necklaces would have been pretty negative.
It’s fun to read of other mothers confronted with the complexities of gender expectations and attempting to deal gently with them. My 5-year-old boy wanted desperately to paint his toenails–red, no less. After explaining that it’s not totally culturally acceptable (albeit in more preschool-friendly terms), we compromised and he painted (and then removed) the polish. He had a great time.
That’s a nice solution, Queenie, and it sounds like you had some fun with your son!
Wise mom. He will grow up free to be. Thanks for this. Kids with thinking parents, honest parents, fearless parents, don’t usually need therapy when they’re older. Comforting? 🙂
Yes, that is comforting, Kathleen. Thank you for taking time to write–you write with wisdom and offer perspective.
Like a Bubbling Brook says
What a fun post. We frequent Goodwill ourselves, though my little man has not requested a (cough, cough) satchel… yet :o)
He does love to help me in the kitchen, though, and for that I am grateful.
Enjoying your blog!
Some of the greatest chefs of all time were/are men!
Haven’t had the “satchel” situation yet…but our 3.5 year old little man has associated “dress-up” with dresses… When his big sister “dresses-up” to dance – of course in a frilly dress – little brother heads to the bedroom to get his own dancing dress on. He hasn’t wanted to wear his dress out to run errands yet though …. thinking we should find a top hat and suit jacket for him to dress up in. …..*sigh* boys with older sisters….. 🙂
You said it: “*sigh* boys with older sisters…..”
The first thing my mother-in-law said the day we phoned to tell her it was a boy was: “He needs a little brother!”
She knew the challenge of a brother to older sisters.
My husband was her little boy following three girls.
And she followed her advice: he has a little brother!