We’re currently in the process of preparing the baby’s room for his or her arrival in October. As we’ve been planning and readying the space, I find I’m drawn to the same clean and simple look I was going for with Linden’s room. And so, the fawn coloured walls got painted over in Behr’s Lustre White.
I often remark that I’d do our whole house in the Scandinavian style of Linden’s room given the money and time. But while I can wait to whitewash the rest of the house, there’s something about the kids’ rooms that makes it feel especially right.
Over the past nearly three years, more colour has been added into Linden’s room. Beloved toys, book shelves for her many stories, a fun and adventurous bed, pretty “big girl” bedding, a hand-painted sign on the door that says “Linden’s room”–strokes of colour brushing personality onto that simple, white backdrop. While the white may have initially been about my love of Scandi style, I now value this process of watching colour slowly seep into the space, as I’ve witnessed my child becoming who she is.
Right from the time a child is born, or even before birth, there are many ways to define him or her–sex/gender, race, nationality, family background. Before the kid can even speak for him or herself, there are layers of identity washed over this new little person. We even name the child before ever knowing anything about them.
And the urge to label and define just gets stronger as the child grows up. As a mom to a girl, I’m particularly sensitive to the gender labels. We were amazed the first time we walked through a Toys ‘R Us before Linden’s birth to see an actual line dividing the “girl’s” and “boy’s” toy sections, straight down the middle of the aisle, pink on one side and blue on the other. Same with clothing–it’s actually hard to find items that aren’t so clearly for girls or boys.
I see this process of “genderizing” little girls happening from such a young age, and worry about the more harmful labels that weigh on girls and women later in their lives. If we paint a pink circle around them marking them as a girl, perhaps it’s easier for that circle to get filled in with the oppressive colourings of what that supposedly means. And even without those more sinister possibilities, I think the outcomes would be much more interesting if we simply let kids make their own choices about what to play with and how to dress using their true preferences, impressions, and imagination.
When I think of my daughter, it’s not the simple facts of her identity that I see first. It’s not that she’s a girl, that she’s Canadian, that she’s of our family. I just see Linden. I see her joy, the silly dances she comes up with, the way she says “yeah!” and gives a crooked nod and smile as she reassures me of something. I catch mannerisms and expressions that are mine or my husband’s–references to her origin–but ultimately I see this little masterpiece in progress, unique and so much more than those basic definitions.
As her little personality has begun to emerge, I have realized that it’s not my job as her mom to define her–it’s my job to help her become who she is, unfiltered. And so just as I don’t paint the pictures for her when we bust out the water colors on a rainy afternoon–she choses her colours, the shapes, where to place the brush–I don’t paint any image onto her; I let her show me what’s there.
It’s a hard thing to do, to strike that balance of showing her the basic techniques of living without influencing her own style, but being a parent is hard. And so, we start with white walls, and go from there.
UPDATE: Baby #2’s Room…