I am a dinosaur, one who prefers to live in the good old world of denial. I zealously guard Pari against any kind of gender related education. It helps that almost all of our friends have baby-girls, and the only cousin that Pari really gets to spend time with, our little Chia is a also a girl. So usually it is a cakewalk for me. And at times when it is not, I transform into the wicked mumma, who deprives the child of the slightest opportunity to gain any worldly wisdom. For instance, Chia is a baby and exclusively breast-fed, so at her meal-times, I fiercely grab Pari by the neck and ensure her prompt removal from the scene, lest she gets scandalized. It is not that I am afraid of her asking me difficult questions, but I somehow feel that she is too young to be exposed to this stuff, and it might just confuse her. And she will eventually get to learn all of it, it is just delaying the imminent. I think it is easier to shield the less-observant kids though, I for one was a totally absent-minded child. I hardly ever noticed anything and tough as it might be to believe, learned about most adult stuff much later than my contemporaries, usually through experience. Any wonder we celebrated our first anniversary with the baby in our arms, ha! However, I always felt that Pari is far smarter than me, and would pick up things on her own.. till this incident happened.
The husband and me are both big-time foodies, and watch all shows related to food with great interest, with a bucket under our respective chins to collect the drool. I think we were watching 'Highway on my plate' on NDTV Good Times, and just watching the duo eat made us both terribly hungry. That it was 10.30 pm might have also had something to do with it. Anyways, both of us left the living room in search of food, while the TV was still on with the child planted firmly on the sofa. We returned after what appeared like a short while to find her enjoying the making of the Kingfisher calendar. Now, how do I know if she 'enjoyed' it? For one, she had lifted her pretty little arse from the sofa and had moved closer to the TV, close enough for her nose to blot the screen. Now, not very often, but sometimes, I pretend to be a cool mumma, and think it is perfectly fine and normal for a 4 yo to watch shows featuring full-grown, at times over-grown women dressed in clothes belonging to 4 yo's. I know I am exaggerating, their swimsuits typically require lesser cloth than we need to clad our 4 yo. In any case, out of sheer curiosity, I asked Pari- 'What are you watching baby?'. Pari retorted with a profound question, without of course turning away from the TV lest she missed out on one moment of pure fun - 'Mumma, are these girls or boys?'. Both me and the husband felt totally confused. Pari is usually able to tell boys from girls, and quite accurately too. Why isn't she able to distinguish here, where almost everything is on display? Shouldn't it be easier in this case? Have we failed at parenting? Such questions immediately came to haunt us.. till it finally dawned on me. The child identifies the gender of the person by his/her clothes. She was unable to use the thumb-rule here since these women weren't wearing any!
PS1. This was observed an year ago, when we were in Bangalore, had a house for ourselves, and lived as a family, not as disillusioned individuals. Pari has grown up since, though I am not sure if her sense of gender has improved.
PS2. I was chatting with the husband the other day, when this incident came back to me, and I asked him if we should begin some 'sex-education' for Pari. The poor man nearly fell off his chair, and could resume breathing only after I rephrased it to 'gender-education'!