I’ve been thinking a lot about my kids and how I may or may not encourage/discourage certain gender-specific activities. I try my best to simply let the kids do whatever they want: Society Induced Gender Roles BE DAMNED! That part is easy. If the boy wants to play dress-up in his sister’s princess clothes? GO FOR IT. If the girl wants to play with her brother’s tool bench? IT’S ALL YOURS. This part of making sure your child has a neutral understanding of “gender roles” – this is the easy part. Just don’t say “No!” when they want to do something even if it’s typically reserved for the other gender.
Except it’s not always that easy. There are two situations I often find myself in that cause me a bit of a struggle:
1. Trying to force myself to allow the stereotypically girlie behavior. NikkiZ is such a girlie girl it’s not even funny. I am not. Sometimes I get irritated that she likes to play Pretend Fashion Diva (or whatever this game is where she dresses up in crazy outfits and prances around the house) and I try to make her go play soccer or color or something…anything else. But you know what? Not letting her play girly dress-up is just as bad as not letting her play with tools. The point is to let her do whatever, right? But she is SO GIRLIE and I am SO NOT that I struggle more with that than with anything else. If I’m letting her pick out something to wear and she chooses pink I’m always, “What about this green skirt?” Or, “don’t you want to wear this purple dress? Purple is a girlie color too.” Mainly because I’m SO SICK OF PINK. If I never intervened she would wear frilly pink dresses and pink headbands and shoes ALL THE TIME. But I’m constantly asking myself, why am I interfering? I mean…I try to act like I’m open-minded and progressive: Look! My daughter plays T-ball AND takes Dance! But in reality if I’m trying to force her more towards the t-ball and less towards the dance…aren’t I just as bad as if I were doing it the other way around? I seek solace though in knowing my desire to make her more rugged is simply because I want to have more in common with her. I’m more rugged. Just like any parent we steer our children towards our own interests. In other words, I’m not steering her away from pink because it’s girlie, I’m steering her toward blue because that’s the color I like.
Of course – whatever my own personal motivation – I should still just let her be her own girly-self. I can’t help but to encourage other activities too – but I guess if she wants to be the super-girlie princess, I will try not to stand in her way. I’ll simply get her to teach me how to do my makeup when she gets older.
2. Allowing activities I worry they’ll hate me for later. This one applies mainly to Wes. When I was painting his sister’s nails last weekend, he obviously wanted to join in on the fun. I have him blue toenails because I can hide those in shoes and I painted one finger on each hand yellow. He loved it so much that he made sure to show everyone he saw out in public. We ran into my friend at Jason’s Deli the other night, Wes had never met her before (that I can recall) yet the first thing he did when I started talking to her was stick out his fingers and toes to show her his nails.
This is all fine and dandy except for one factor: What if he hates me for allowing that later? That’s the part I struggle with. Maybe he’ll be like his big brother and think that stuff is hilarious. But maybe he won’t. I mean, of course I hope he’ll grow up to be open-minded like his father and I, but what if he looks back on this and gets angry with me? I knew the boys as teenagers and I’ve encountered the men as adults who are the type who would be angry at their Moms for doing the same thing. I guess I just hope that the environment I raise him in will keep that from happening. That he has no choice but to grow up open-minded and glad his Mom let him have those moments of whimsy when he was a child….right?
What about you…do you try to let your kids do whatever they want regardless of gender norms? Do you have any struggles with doing this? Do you HATE PINK AS MUCH AS I DO RIGHT NOW? Because sometimes I want to punch that color in the face.