Sunday, July 1, 2012

Where Are The Lions?

My first grandson was born last week, and we are all delighted except for one small issue. After two granddaughters, I have to say that baby boy clothing is in need of a real fashion makeover. I'm suffering from powder-blue blindness and overexposure to zoo animals. Yes, there are a few yellow or green layette items, but those clearly mean that you just didn't know the sex of the child and purchased the items ahead of time. Since most parents know the sex of their child nowadays, even if they choose NOT to share this information with the anxious grandparents, the unisex colors are unnecessary. There are a few tan/khaki items sprinkled around, but they make the baby look like an early recruit for the army or a future sanitation worker.

My daughter got some gifts in bigger sizes for her baby and those did come in navy blue, accompanied by sail boats--do we want him to join the navy when he gets older or the Southampton Beach Club? There was a smattering of tools on a couple of outfits, hammers, shovels, ditch diggers--hm, subliminal message to become a teamster? I'd rather bet on his becoming a doctor like his Dad, but time will tell.  Giraffes and elephants are de rigueur for the baby under three months. These are deemed friendly and harmless, I've actually never seen such a conglomeration of elephants and giraffes printed on soft blue cotton in my life. Peeking at the clothing in the next size, I spotted a couple of monkeys. Apparently six  months is old enough to allow for mischief and curiosity.

When my now twenty four year old son was a baby, there were all sorts of animals on his baby clothes--zebras, bears and lions. I especially remember the lions because his name in Hebrew means lion and it connotes strength and leadership, an appropriate message I feel for a male (or female) child. But it appears as if the lions have gone the way of winning sports trophies based on skill and achievement and fairy tales in their original form. There is no end to sanitizing experiences for our young children that previously were considered acceptable and necessary for problem-solving and emotional growth--the chief one being allowing them to fail. Failure is vital for success.

If we change the raw and admittedly offensive language of the classic, Tom Sawyer, our children will never truly know the struggles other children faced growing up. If we give the losing team a trophy just for trying then where is the incentive to try harder the next time? Our children are a lot sturdier and more malleable than we realize and by spoon feeding every activity and weeding out every potential pitfall that may come their way we are depriving them of the right to figure things out for themselves. Of course we as parents want to protect our children, but stripping their stretchies of lions isn't the way. In the feel good era we are living in too many messages have been reduced to their least threatening image so as not to offend anyone. Well, guess what? I'm offended. Who decided that my grandson can't wear a lion or a bear on his outfit lest he exhibit aggressive behavior a few years from now? Have we "wussied" our children to the point that we have to worry what zoo animals are allowed on their clothing?

I think it's time for parents to take a giant step back and allow their children to fall and fail. As long as you're there to kiss a scraped knee or lend a supportive shoulder, you're doing your job. Let's give our children a little more credit and allow them to step in the mud, splash in the rain, and make a couple of mistakes. And for goodness sakes, bring back the lions!

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