My daughter, who will be three in just a few short weeks, is madly in love with Thomas the Tank Engine. While I never intended to limit my child’s interests based upon her gender, I was surprised that she developed such a strong fascination with the book series and product line. My little tomboy doesn’t yet know that she isn’t “supposed to” like trains; she simply knows that she enjoys Thomas the Tank Engine.
When we explored different themes for her birthday party, she declined every other offer I made. Obviously, as a child, she never enjoys a usual Denver casino night party that we have with our friends. No, she didn’t want a zoo party, a tropical fish party, a dinosaur party, or a Clifford the Big Red Dog party. She wanted one theme and one alone: Thomas the Tank Engine.
If your daughter wants a Thomas the Tank Engine birthday party and you want to give it a more feminine or gender-neutral flair, these tips can help.
- Respect your daughter’s wishes. If your girl is determined to have a “boy” party and doesn’t want a single touch of pink or purple in her party’s decor, respect that. There’s nothing wrong with having a girl who has stereotypically male interests, and there’s nothing wrong with a girl who isn’t into the glitter and flair of girly birthday parties. Feminize the Thomas the Tank Engine birthday party only if it’s what your daughter agrees to.
- Consider flowers. As stereotypical as it may be, flowers are traditionally associated with girls, so they can help to feminize a train-themed birthday party. I chose to have flowers at my daughter’s party not to fit gender stereotypes, but to keep the theme appropriate for an outdoor party in spring.
- Let your daughter pick the balloons. Look for colors seen elsewhere in the party’s decor– plates, flowers, cake, and so on. Even within these boundaries, it should be very easy to find gender-neutral colors. Bring out a collision of red latex balloons to complement Thomas’s red stripes. Percy the Tank Engine’s green colors also look great on balloons. If your daughter wants to, you can also select purple and pink balloons to make the party uniquely feminine.
- Look for “girl” trains. I’m not sure what makes a tank engine male or female, but there are several female train characters in Thomas the Tank Engine, including Emily, Lady, and the coach cars Annie and Clarabel. Although party decorations showing these characters are hard to come by, you may be able to special-order products that features these mechanical girls.
- Emasculate the cake. Most pre-order Thomas the Tank Engine cakes are made for boys. If it’s what your child wants, stick it to the stereotypes and ask the cake decorator to make it girlier. Button-flowers along the train tracks? Pink trim? A butterfly or two? Most cake decorators will gladly oblige if you ask them to personalize the birthday cake to suit a little girl’s own preferences.
At the end of the day, it isn’t fair to limit your daughter’s interests based upon her gender. Career segregation was the foundation for centuries of patriarchy and oppression of women. In today’s times, there is nothing wrong with a girl having a train party or a boy having a pony party. But, if it’s what you both want, it’s always possible to make the theme a bit girlier.