Tag Archives: positive parenting

The tyranny of Blue & Pink (a blog from 2013)

I’ve just come back from a local discount store, my arms full of gardening equipment and my head full of questions. While shopping, I overheard a woman speaking into her mobile phone – loud enough for the whole store to overhear.

‘Hmm, I’m still not sure what to get… What about an assault rifle?’
Long pause.
‘There’s one here.’
‘No. It’s made of plastic. It doesn’t fire bullets…’
‘…which I suppose is better.’

Yeah – that’s true. Funnily enough, I don’t really want the Toy aisles stocking working AK47s. Doesn’t seem right somehow.

My daughter is in the Toy aisle of a well known ‘stack them high, sell them cheap’ discount store. The boys’ toys aisle. The girls’ aisle is a row of eye-aching pinkness, stacked with cheap dolls and nail painting sets. The boys meanwhile have Dr Who, Ben 10 and bow & arrow sets.

A few days ago I was walking down one aisle with Isla who said, ‘I don’t want these toys. They’re boys’ toys.’
I explained that there was no such thing, despite us being faced with a long wall of blueness.
I don’t want a Dalek,’ says Isla.
But you’d like a skateboard,’ I say.
She nods.
‘So skateboards are for girls too.’
‘I think I would like a pink one. Look.’
She goes down a new aisle and points out a Hello Kitty Mini PINK skateboard.
‘That’s pink.’
‘Certainly is.’ I am pleasantly surprised to see it lurking amongst all the Polly Pockets and Disney Princesses dolls. ‘Sure you don’t want a blue one?’
‘No daddy. Pink is for girls.’
My daughter’s actually said it. For the past 4 years I have been trying to be gender neutral. She has had Fireman Sam and Cinderella dressing up clothes. A Doctor’s medic set too. There’s a wooden train set, a dolls’ house, a Playmobil Pirate Ship ….

Basically a real mix of toys. Yet Isla now equates pink with girls and blue with boys.

I blame the advertisers – the sort who have have girls lip-synching along whilst skipping about in glittery pink shoes. The sort who show boys playing with transforming cars and girls playing with sparkly pink ponies.

I ask Isla what she thinks about toys for boys and girls.
‘Well, Daddy…a Ben 10 torch is for boys but I like torches and you have a torch so I can use that.’
‘Would a boy like one of your dolls?’
Isla giggles.
‘We could play swing ball. James likes swing ball and I like swing ball.’
‘There are no such things as just toys for girls or boys. You can play with what you like,’ I say, with poor grammar but good intentions.
Isla spies a pump action water gun. It is too much like an assault rifle for my liking.
‘That’s not a nice toy.’
‘But you said it’s for girls too.’
‘It’s for warm sunny days and we don’t get many in Scotland.’
Isla nods.
‘Now what shall we get your friends for their birthdays?’ I say, changing the subject.

I grit my teeth and take two Disney Princess money boxes to the tills. At least they are the Paint-Your-Own variety.

Apparently the birthday girls loved them.



Here’s an interesting study from 2005…


Wimbledon’t. Things Dads Really Say To Daughters…

John Inverdale, BBC Sports commentator, put both feet in his mouth when he started to describe the looks of Marion Bartoli, 2013 Wimbledon Women’s Singles Winner.

He said – and I quote from The Guardian – “I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker… You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5 feet 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that… You are going to have to be the most dogged, determined fighter that anyone has ever seen.'”

Oops. Okay, maybe he was trying to say that winning Wimbledon requires effort not looks – and that today’s Media is obsessed with each player’s appearance. I’d expect a commentator to get his words right but live TV does strange things to people.


Marion Bartoli’s father leapt to her defence and stressed his daughter was beautiful and he had always had an unbelievable relationship with her. Well said, Dad.

I think my little girl is beautiful, in personality and looks. The positive, caring way she acts around others fills me with pride. Okay there may be the odd falling out with friends but that is part of growing up – and a small child has to learn by her mistakes. She did not ask to come into this world. It was a choice Kate and I made, wishing to be parents.

With no mother or father on the scene, I grew up looking longingly at my friends. They had Mums and Dad and loving homes to go to. Meanwhile, I had a children’s home that favoured beating children with wire brush handles or filling their mouths with bars of white soap.

It’s with that in mind that I strive to be a good Dad. I want to encourage my daughter to try new things, to express herself freely and to empathise with others. I really don’t care what job she does when she grows up, rather that she is happy doing it – whatever it is. I am keen to help prepare her for the Big Bad World after school – to give her experiences that build her confidence and communication skills. I want her to aim for the stars and not to worry if she only gets as far as the M8 outside Glasgow.

If my daughter does her best then that’s all I can ask. There is no point pushing a child or young adult in one direction as they’ll only go in the other, or end up feeling resentful. Obviously, Marion Bartoli was encouraged to try tennis. She excelled and is now at the pinnacle of her sport. She seems very happy with that – as does her father.

So John Inverdale really got it wrong when he imagined that a father would point out all his daughter’s faults as a way of offering encouragement and support. Any Dad stupid enough to criticise his daughter’s looks would only have to glance in the mirror to see where they came from.

When my daughter is in her teens I will dig up this blog post and invite her to read it. I want her to know that whatever the future holds I will be there. I will challenge her to try new things, to push herself and to see things from the point of view of other people.

Most of all I will say –

“Go For It. Whatever it is. Be the best you can be. Be yourself. Be happy. Know that we are behind you, ready to support you if you fall. Know you are loved.  That you are never alone. That Life is for Living.”

Then I will say Dad stuff like  – “Tidy Your Room Before Your Mother Sees It, Do You Really Need A Boyfriend/Car? Are You Actually Going Out In That?”

And she’ll just say. ‘Oh Daaaaad!’ and get on with her own thing.

Like she does now 🙂


Why it’s great to be a Dad :)

Life is different when you have a child. It means finally growing up and taking responsibility for someone else. Someone who needs love, affection and to be shown the right developmental path. You want a well rounded, caring, thoughtful, enquiring, active and loving child? Well, you have to get off your well rounded derriere and make it so. Boldly going where no Dad has gone before.

No one warns you that boys and girls are capable of filling nappies at warp speed, that they ask questions just as fast. That they are capable of rational and irrational thought at the same time. That for them no means yes. Their emotional filters are tainted by the way you see the world so you have to get it right first time (or second), or at least admit you’re mistakes and show that it is noble to try and fail than never try at all.

Parents create wee human sponges. Sponges that drip and dribble on a new carpet, and squeeze out fat tears when they don’t get their own way.

We don’t get a manual – and if I did I’d throw it out the window (like that damned Gina Ford book about baby routines that turns Mums into insecure wrecks and Dads into peripheral figures).

So after saying all that, why is it great to have a kid? Some reasons spring to mind.

>They say funny observational things – such as, ‘Dad, why do your ears look upside-down?’

>They get you to look at ordinary things in an extraordinary way. We have great conversations about the things we see in clouds or the grain markings on floor boards. Our maple floor in the hall features the face of a sealion, and the blokes’ loos in Glasgow’s Ikea has the face of Jesus on the door.

2008 Jesus Ikea Alan Dapre

Jesus in Ikea?
Photo by Alan Dapre

>They ask questions that get you thinking such as – how do the pictures on the DVD get into the TV? Why does the Earth spin? Why is your belly so fat?

>They say ‘I love you’ at unexpected times.

>They hug you tight and you are aware of your responsibility to keep them safe. This happened today during a swim session where my daughter was trusting enough to remove her armbands and have a go at swimming unaided on the shallow steps, with me in very close proximity.

>They show great compassion towards small creatures, warning of ants and beetles that you might have accidentally stepped on.

>They invent words. I was tired and she came up with the word ‘Shackered.’  I said,’ What like Shattered?’ ‘No, like knackered…’ came the cheeky reply.

>They are strongly opinionated. Recently my Scots born daughter was adamant that she is English. She said, ‘Do I talk like Robbie Burns on Burns day? I do not!’ Truth be told she talks with a definite Kent accent like me…

>They live life with a passion – loving, crying, hurting, investigating, laughing, shouting, stomping, romping at full throttle.

What do kids give you? Everything. If you let them. And they let you!