Thursday, December 22, 2011

Children and Gender

I am swamped.  Really, really swamped right now.  I have more to do than hours in the days before Christmas.  Somehow it will all get done, though I'm not sure how.

So what's a girl to do?  Surf the internet as a practice of avoidance, of course!

I came across this article about gender variance today and had a little mini-cry.  I'm not sure what the tears were about, though.  I think I was moved by the teacher's dedication to making her corner of the world a more accepting, loving place.  I think I am also so sad for any kid that is the target of bullying.  I'm also a little scared for my own kids. 

One of the (very) few things I am confident about as a parent is that I am not raising bullies.  My kids are small, both below Kindergarten, so who knows what the future will bring to their little personalities, but I will say with some manner of self-assuredness, picking on other kids will NOT be part of it so long as I have breath in my body.  I don't need "nice" or "sweet" or "well-behaved" all the time, but I am raising my kids to be aware of those around them and to be on the side of Right and Truth, to stand up for what is good and holy in the world, to protect those that need help.  I'm aware that this alone might bring them a different brand of heartache, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

The article brings up another frustrating trap that I haven't had as much success keeping out of: the pink and the blue.  More broadly, it is the gender-based everything that pervades our house.  A friend lamented to me recently that Christmas shopping for her children, a boy and a girl, reminded her that she's left her feminist principles in the dust.  My Christmas shopping was the same: babies and beads for our daughter, Transformers and soccer ball for our son. 

At what point can I as a parent stop trying to fight the princess onslaught or the monster truck parade and just let THAT be who my kids are?  There is a uber-Liberal part of me that wants to tell you how gender-bendy my son is because he sleeps with a pink plastic baby doll and takes ballet.  And that, mixed in with the Transformers, I bought said baby doll a bottle and bib for Christmas.  Because when I tell you that, I feel better about myself, that I have somehow cracked the code on the gender mystery. 

But as a feminist who is a mother of two children, one boy and one girl, I'm struggling with the fact that my kids choices in toys and clothes are exactly that: their choices, not mine (within reason).  That my son really loves to make any pointy object into a sword doesn't necessarily mean that he is not going to be a good person who supports his spouse and is sensitive to his own children.  And that my daughter will take that same pointy object and make it a princess wand does not mean that she will not be an equally good person who will make her own smart choices.

Maybe "choices" is what it is all about, helping our kids understand that there are princesses and trucks and ballet and soccer out there and that those things are open to them as much as we can make them. Our daughter loves to "practice" ballet along with her brother (though she has the grace of a tiny water buffalo) and we got her a soccer ball for Christmas, too-- it is pink, I admit.

I cannot say with pure honesty that I will be proud of my kids no matter what they do.  But I will do my level best to love who they are which, I think, is my job as a feminist/christian/parent-type-person.

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