Tuesday, April 20, 2010

my boy might have a doll, and that girl can throw a football.

so, over at perpetua's place, they have this controversunday deal going on, where they take on different topics (it started out re: kids and parenting, and i guess it still sort of is) and thrash out their opinions on it. it's ridiculously interesting for me to read her thoughts on parenting.  she's insightful, articulate, and not afraid to admit she and her husband are figuring it out as they go along.

i dig that.

since i'm not a mom (despite the 4000 sticks i've peed on in a deluded, birth-control induced PMS that mimicked pregnancy except for, you know, the baby part), i've shied away from talking about stuff i don't know anything about (or, honestly, have an opinion about yet).

but this week's topic is gender.

and boy do i have an Opinion.

so just about everyone in my world is pregnant.  by my world, i mean the people in my ward, people i know on facebook, people who got married a little bit before me (or after me), etc.  people everywhere are full of the fetus.

i am excited. i love babies. i fully support birth and procreating and all that jazz.

but all of these events, plus all of the aforementioned stick peeing, has gotten me thinking about what i want to do with our kids.  musicboy and i have had many a conversation about this, and happily for me, he's pretty much on board with my philosophy, which basically boils down to this.

i hate gender-specific colors and i hate gender-specific toys.

you will not find a nursery of mine that is painted pink or blue. first of all, pragmatically, i think that i might vomit if i had to walk into a pink room at 3 in the morning, bleary-eyed and praying for sleep, or 900 times a day.  i just don't like pink that much.  blue is soothing, but i don't like the connotation.  why is blue a boy color and pink a girl color? it makes me nuts.  now, i will be the first to say that not every man can or should try to pull off a pink shirt. some look good in it. some don't.  i'm not even saying that i would dress my son in pink. it's not about that.

it's about the assignments, the assumptions.  i wear skirts, i wear shorts, i wear jeans, i wear pajama pants, i live in flip flops, and high heels hurt my feet but i wear them when the time is appropriate. musicboy is a shorts and t-shirts guy, but he looks amazing in suits and ties and dress pants and jeans and he can rock a fedora like nobody's business.  we both are adaptable, given the situation.  but i think, given our choice, we would always choose comfort and practicality over frilly or fancy.  that's just us.*

why can't we do that with little kids? how will they learn what they like if they're not exposed to a variety of appropriate options?

for example, i want my daughters in t-ball.  when i told musicboy that, he looked at me strangely. of course, i had said it very adamantly, as if it were a religious mandate, so that might have been why.  he asked me why, and i told him: i want every child of mine to have a chance to try everything.  baseball isn't just for boys, especially when they're not really even playing baseball. those kids are knocking a wiffle ball off of a plastic tee. you can't tell me a girl isn't as good at that as anything else.

his point was that there are lots of other sports that would allow our girls to explore their athletic side (soccer, i think, was his example).  but if my daughter, having grown up in a house with a rabid college football fan of a mother, wants to play football rather than play tea party, more power to her.  i will hate the day when i have to tell her that she won't actually be able to play on a college team, but i will do so and then suggest she become a kicker and get on the team anyway.

i want my boys to learn to be nurturing and kind.  if they want to love a baby doll, go for it.  especially if they are trying to learn how to love and take care of a new sibling, i can't think of a better way to teach boys than to use baby dolls.  who cares? is it suddenly a bad idea for men to be good with babies? last time i checked, it was a totally impressive skill.  while i'm sure the stunning good looks they'll inherit from musicboy will be enough to make them all chick magnets, i'll do my best to help them access their sensitive sides.

and we'll have nerf basketball in our house for rainy days and dress-up clothes and train sets and tinkertoys and legos and hey, maybe the kids will figure out what they like on their own.  

and it won't be because i painted a room purple with princess tiaras or blue with jungle animals.  it will be because we let them figure out what they liked by giving them access to lots of choices.  isn't that what parenting is about? keeping them safe, showing them the correct way, and then teaching them how to choose?  and choose wisely?**

i'm not a mom, but it seems like that's what parents do. 

*let me be very clear here, though.  the choices offered to my children will be choices that we deem appropriate.  in dress, musicboy and i have very clear standards and we will uphold those standards for all of our children, male or female. while some parents may feel comfortable allowing their sons to wear skirts and dresses, i don't. will i freak out if he decides to play princess one day? no way.  but as a rule, the choices offered to them will be gender appropriate (and i know that's such a loaded term, but i don't know how else to say it).

**there's no safer place to fail than in the warmth and love of your family home.  i feel like that's our responsibility too--to teach our children how to choose and to teach them what to do when they choose poorly.


  1. I think it makes complete sense to think through these things long before you get the two lines on a stick.

    I know "gender appropriate" is a tough term; maybe what you also mean is "culturally/religiously appropriate"? If we were Hasidic, for example, I'd be in a skirt down to my ankles. It would be gender appropriate, yes, but I would wear it because that's what my religion dictates.

    Does that make sense?

    On a lighter note...If I can give one piece of parenting advice (I try not to do it often) figure out the names ahead of time. I used to think it was silly to pick out names years before you get pregnant, but...no. It's VERY hard. Start thinking now. :)

  2. totally appropriate, perpetua. my standards for dress are very much informed by my beliefs, so culturally/religiously appropriate is likely more accurate. that said...jeans for everyone! except in church. then it's jean skirts and khaki pants! ;)

  3. YES! We need to give options that aren't just boys=sports, girls=dolls. Frankly, that's just such an old school way of thinking of the world I'm surprised that we even still have those assumptions (hello female Olympians and male chefs and female firefighters and male nurses, and well you get my point). Why do we assume that little kids need the separation?