Friday, 23 November 2018

A Unicorn Ate My Daughter

Well, not literally, obviously. But it sometimes feels like it.

A little while ago, Facebook memories reminded me of a post I wrote three years ago. It was about the John Lewis 'Man On The Moon' advert, and I was excited about it featuring a girl who loved space, dinosaurs, the colour blue and scooting. I commented that she was Girl Child in three years' time.

Well, three years on and she still loves blue. She scoots occasionally but not enthusiastically any more. Her interest in dinosaurs waned sometime in Reception, and she seems to have abandoned her interest in space too. We were looking at new books a few days ago and I pointed out a book about space that she'd have loved a couple of years ago. She wasn't interested.

What's replaced these interests? Unicorns, Barbie and My Little Pony, mostly. And fairies, but she's always been into them.

Photo by InĂªs Pimentel on Unsplash

I know I'll get criticism for this, but this change makes me sad. Not because her current interests are more stereotypically 'girly' (although the Barbie thing really makes me cringe) but because I worry that this isn't really her.

You see, while some autistic children are happiest doing their own thing and don't much care about what their peers are into, others desperately want to conform. Girl Child is very much in the latter camp. One of the things she's struggled with about her diagnosis is that it means she's different, and she doesn't want to be different. She wants to be like her friends - and I mean almost exactly like her friends. So when she starts watching shows because her friends do, when she suddenly becomes obsessed with the unicorn craze, I worry that she's buying into what she thinks girls of her age should be like and losing who she really is. She's very conscious of how the media divides things into 'for boys' and 'for girls' and even though she knows logically that it's all nonsense, she doesn't want to rock the boat.

It's all a bit of a conundrum to me. I've always encouraged her to be her own person, to not be afraid of being different and to stand up for who she is. But at the same time, I can see how desperately she wants to belong, to be like other people. She's very aware that her brain is different, that she behaves differently and is treated differently. She still hasn't come to terms with this and will often bewail the fact she's autistic. So do I keep encouraging her to stand out from the crowd, or do I accept that she wants to follow it at the moment? If she feels she has to conform now, how will she fare when peer pressure becomes a stronger and potentially more dangerous force?

What I would really love is for all children to feel free to follow their own interests without the media and retail companies telling them what girls and boys 'should' like. But in the absence of that, I suppose all I can do is keep encouraging her to see her differences as assets, in the hope that someday soon she'll believe me.

1 comment:

  1. Martine Lambourne23 November 2018 at 20:34

    You post made me a little sad too. We all try and fit in at times, and in doing so go against what it is that makes us, us. Everyone needs to be a little bit of a chameleon, assessing the lay of the land and making sure you don't stand out (for the wrong reasons anyway). But in your daughters case, when she is alone, or with her tribe, can you then see her true colours? Can she relax and play just as she wants, without worrying who is watching or judging. My guess (and I have some history working with children with asd) is that at certain ages the desire to fit in will kick in, and at other times her own desire and passions will take the lead. Teenage years are hard for us all, who knows what that may bring. Maybe for your girl it will be a return to loving space etc., and she will choose to be with folk who admire such a cool pursuit. My daughter does not like many of the usual girl stereotype things, but looking round secondary school recently with her, I was struck by how varied the girls were and I had real hope that my daughter will find her tribe, and socially thrive. The media and retail companies definitely don't help. I know you know my toyshop and we try really hard to go against the limits and lazy stereotypes. Change is coming! I wish you lots of luck.

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