Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Motherhood & More: Kids defy gender roles*

I try to live my life avoiding gender stereotypes as much as possible. Obviously that’s not something that can be completely done away with, but I do try to teach my kids it’s OK to be who they are, it’s OK to go against the grain of what society feels is normal.

If my son wants to play with dolls, then I’m all for it. If he wants to watch “girl” cartoons, then by all means, blast that “My Little Pony” show.

For my daughter’s second birthday, my mother bought her a princess dress-up outfit. My son, who loves dressing up in costumes, wanted to wear it. Absolutely, kid. Have at it.

I had zero problem with it. And if he wanted to wear a dress when he’s older, then fine, as long as he’s being true to himself. To me, that’s the most important thing.

Of course, now, no matter how hard I’ve tried to instill gender neutrality, he insists anything princess is for girls, especially Cinderella. Also Barbie dolls. Those definitely are girly, according to him, though he did become interested in some of my old ones when I pulled them out.

Now my daughter, of course, has defied all gender stereotypes. I know she’s just 2 and a half, but it’s hard not to compare her to her brother or to myself as a child.

Her greatest joys are basketball and soccer and running and animals. She’s so incredibly athletic and wild-spirited and full of action that I can’t keep up. She’s so different from me, from how I remember playing.

I was involved in sports and enjoyed them, but as a young child I remember mainly being interested in dolls. Dolls galore. Dolls I could mother and hug and feed and pretend-nurse. Dolls I could dress and change and put down for a nap.

But while encouraging my daughter in whatever she seems to be interested in, other than aggravating her brother, I also felt like maybe, as she grew older, we wouldn’t have as much in common as I’d hoped. And I don’t think I ever voiced that to myself until I saw her pick up a Cabbage Patch doll and try to change its diaper.

All of the sudden, I felt like, “Yes, this I understand.” This was something I could play with her that I had experience with. My son is completely entranced with Legos and Star Wars and all things I didn’t partake in as a kid, so I’m learning as I go. But playing with baby dolls? Well, let me show you how to feed that baby. Let me show you how to change her diaper. Let me show you how to sing her a lullaby.

Sometimes I hear my daughter on her monitor reading the baby a story. And the baby has to have its own blanket. And she’ll tuck it in and say “snug as a bug in a rug,” just like I do. And then I fall over from the cuteness.

I am restraining myself from buying her a special doll with diapers and a stroller and a bottle because I don’t have a reason to at this point. Her birthday isn’t until September and there isn’t a holiday coming up. But that doesn’t stop me from browsing through all the listings online, researching which would be the perfect one for her.

Most important in my search, of course, is that the baby doll have the ability to withstand a basketball to the face or a dinosaur attack. Because with Adele, that’s just common sense.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on June 26, 2013. 

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