I am one of those women who are more comfortable at a table full of guys than a table full of girls. (I currently work in a profession that's 80% women ... go figure.) On the playground I played dodgeball and soccer just as much as I played hopscotch and jump rope. In high school my best friends were guys. I wonder how much of that had its roots in the toys my parents surrounded me with.
My mom bought me the typical girly toys: dolls and kitchen gear. I had Barbies, stuffed dolls, dolls that peed when you fed them, dolls that closed their eyes when you laid them down, dolls that had different outfits. I fed them, gave them naps, changed them, and put them in the mousetraps. I had an orange-and-brown metal kitchen set complete with fridge, stove, and sink. I had an easy-bake oven that saw some serious action.
My dad bought me boy toys: balls and trucks. I had colorful balls, balls attached to paddles, whiffle balls, ping pong balls. I had dump trucks, army trucks, matchbox cars and trucks, Tonka trucks. I especially remember a whole Tonka Trailer-Truck set that included little plastic hay bales, horses, and fences to keep everything corralled properly.
A nice marriage of the duality occured when I played in my dirt pile (really just a bare patch of lawn next to the house). There, I used the trucks to make mud pies that I would then "feed" to the dolls.
My mother taught me to crochet, gossip with friends, polish my nails, bake a cake, and how to laugh with others.
My father taught me to gut a fish, know when to keep my mouth shut, hammer a nail, creative cursing, and how to laugh at myself.
Oddly, my dad taught me how to bake and decorate sugar cookies. He actually did most of the baking in our house; with the possible exception of Chocolate-oatmeal-no-bakes and Rice Krispie treats, he owned the sugar in our house.