As I rushed out the door with Munchkin, I pondered where that inner cheer came from. Was I happy she was playing with trains? Sure, but why? Was it because Monkey loved them so much and I hoped she could share in his past obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine? Was it because building tracks and playing with trains are something we could do together? Or was it because I thought, "If she likes cars and trains, then she might be tough and I want a strong little girl." It was largely the latter and I knew I was wrong for thinking that way for many, many reasons.
First of all, Munchkin has already demonstrated that she's tough. She is fearless on the playground, tackling ladders and ledges meant for older kids. She gives me a heart attack every week, but I love her enthusiasm for trying new things. She also can take a tumble without complaint. Sure, she cries sometimes, but if I had a penny for every time she scraped a knee and just kept going, I'd be able to retire.
Secondly, lots of kids like trains and cars, and not all of them are toughies. Timid kids, brave kids, hyper kids and calm kids all share interests, so it's unfair to infer their personalities solely from the toys they chose. Some kids rock trains to sleep and others crash baby dolls so it's probably more important to note how kids play, not which toys they play with.
Lastly, boys are not inherently tougher than girls. Nor are girls who wear blue necessarily tougher than girls who wear pink. Kids that play with dolls are not necessarily weaker than kids who don't. I know that as the truth and firmly believe that women have strengths that men do not possess (and no, I don't just mean childbirth), yet that little voice that said "Yeah, she's playing with trains!" showed me that my brain needs a reminder of what I already supposedly know.
The truth is, I'm aware of a few other biases I have about women which clearly need an update. For example, in my mind, these preferences are incongruous with strength: women who wear full make-up every day; women who like to shop; women who have not just shoes, but a shoe collection; women who don't like to get dirty; women who can't fix household items on their own. I know though, that women can be those things and be strong, intelligent women. Despite my disdain for the color pink and stereotypically "girly" behavior, being feminine is not a sign of weakness in girls or boys.
I'm going to work on addressing these biases (with a little help from Carolyn Hax) and love my little girl for who she is. I don't know what Munchkin will grow up to be, but for now, I'll support her whether she dresses up like a princess, a firefighter or a superhero. After all, these days a girl can be all three.