We have a long history of heavily editing children’s books on the fly.

When Leigh was little, there were all kinds of reasons to change pronouns in books, not least, that I was reading to my daughter and there are not nearly enough really cool girl characters in children’s books. We would also change parental genders, and frequently parental titles (Gail goes by “Ima” so we’d throw in random “Imas” — going for a casual impression that any family might just happen to contain an Ima). Goodness knows I’ve shortened books that were just deadly dull (unfortunately the kids now call me on that one). Some folks oppose such rampant editing, but I like making the stories my kids hear reflect the world I’d like for them to inhabit while I can, and if a pronoun here or there does the trick, I’m going for it.*

Gail pointed out the other day, that in our new family form, it’s a lot easier to send messages that push back on assumptions about gender roles (which are rampant in children’s books). She’ll be reading along, and get to a  line like “Mommy bakes the cupcakes.” But now she can say, “Huh. What do you think would happen in our family? Who would bake cupcakes?” Ira answers “Aba,” and voila, we have a lovely example of a dad in the kitchen. It is nice to notice the occasional perk, and in this instance, I do love getting to model for my kids what I’ve been saying forever, that of course dads take care of kids and bake cupcakes.


* All this pronoun fluidity may have had a couple effects. (1) Leigh did not learn standard pronouns with any level of consistency until well after her peers (2) She now feels extremely empowered to change pronouns on her own, and as an extremely girl-aligned kid, all characters turn into girls. I love finding her story worksheets from school. It’s hard to see here, but look very closely to the left of this picture for an example: