Living Columns & Blogs

More on genders

I posted a week or so about gender selection. I should have linked to the Babble article at the time.

In the comments of this post, a user named “alexaray” asked me if I felt any pressure to make sure my children behave in a gender "appropriate" manner. This is an excellent question.

Prior to having kids, I was bound and determined to raise my children the same, should I end up with children of both genders. I remember myself quite naively declaring this in fact. My girls would play the more stereotypically boy sports and if my boys wanted to play with dolls, then they would play with dolls. I was certain that (like user "LogicRules" also mentioned) the failure to do this may be one reason why there are fewer girls in math and science.

The other day when my son got a hold of a Pottery Barn Kids catalog, he ogled over the Star Wars bedding (which I will wait to purchase until it goes on clearance) and then flipped to the Halloween costumes. He pointed out a very cool shark costume then flipped the page and declared that instead of being a tiger or fireman or Batman for Halloween, that he wanted that butterfly costume, right there.

My knee-jerk reaction was a simple statement, "Oh honey, that costume is for girls." Seconds later, I was chastising myself for saying that. It was marketed to girls, but like LogicRules pointed out, there are male butterflies.

What I should have said was my second knee-jerk reaction, "Yes dear, that is a nice costume, but sorry, no way you are getting it because I am not spending $119 on ANY costume, ever."

After reading the comments on that post, it got me to thinking about the ways in which I am, myself, sticking with the gender stereotypes. I admit it, I have a thing for cute little girl clothes, and my heart swoons when I see my daughter carrying her baby dolls around and putting them in the stroller and pushing them around the house in a manner that would warrant a call to CPS if they were real babies.

It dawned on me the other day (yes, I can be slow), that in order to have fulfilled my pre-kids commitment to raise my kids similarly -- regardless of gender -- I really missed the boat four years ago. Part of raising our kids without regard to gender isn't just encouraging our daughters to be more like boys, but it's also attaching a softer side to our boys.

For example, my daughter has a number of dolls at nearly 18 months old. But I bought my son his first doll at about 2 1/2 years old. And I purchased it because I was hoping to role play a little regarding the baby residing in my stomach, not for the purpose of providing gender equality.

When I dreamed of having little girls, I also dreamed of dresses and pigtails as well as perfect SAT scores in math. I was a girly girl myself who for years insisted on dresses and resigned myself to wearing pants one day each week for PE day. I struggled with my mom to bypass the basketball team my sophomore year in high school in favor of the gymnastics team. Yet, I still topped my class in math scores and grew up to be a scientist. I accomplished this because I grew up with a family and teachers who told me I could do or be anything I wanted.

Raising our kids with a blind eye to gender isn't about having them behave more like the opposite gender, but instead providing a world without limits for both genders.

And my answer to the butterfly costume is still no.