The Ugly Truth In Gender Stereotypes

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I was determined to be one of those parents who buys my boy dolls and my girl tools. Who lets my son wear pink if he wants. Who is not bound by gender stereotypes.

Then I had kids.

And my boy wanted Ninja Turtles, not baby dolls. He wanted nothing to do with pink. My baby girl, too young for toys, likes to cuddle and coo sweetly while my son was most content as a baby sitting in his baby seat and screeching his presence to the world.

It’s been interesting to find out, that at least in my case, many of the gender stereotypes ring true.

Sure, our babies’ gender is colored almost from the beginning, and literally at times, in pink or blue. At baby showers we are given “boy” or “girl” clothes and likewise for toys.

But my 4-year-old boy has always liked to help clean, and I bought him a toy broom as a toddler. Pink and purple, of course, because apparently only girls sweep. Ha! True if you ask my husband.

My boy swept, but mostly used the broom as a makeshift sword to whack us.

Most interesting to watch is the boy and girl dynamics at daycare and preschool. My son has been surrounded by boys since he was just months old at daycare, and loved to watch the boys roughhouse around him until he could toddle around and join the fun.

Bumps and bruises have always been commonplace for him.

After my daughter was born and I started bringing her to pick up my son at preschool, the little girls at preschool had baby fever to the max. They swooped in, trying to inject their germs into her not-yet-vaccinated little immune system through their nose-picking fingers. They’d walk up to me, feeding their dolls bottles and full of questions about my real life baby.

The boys generally didn’t give two hoots about my baby. They were too busy pretending to be superheros and pushing eachother down and crying.

Other times when I pick my son up from preschool, most of the girls are sitting quietly doing art or having snacks. The boys are off playing on the play equipment or running in the yard.

It’s like despite our best efforts to make boys and girls the same, the genders are often just plain different. Maybe that’s OK. Each gender (whichever that is, regardless of your physical sex) brings its own strengths. What’s important is ensuring all children have equal opportunities and are accepted as they are, not that we roll them together into one big ball of gender nuetral playdough.

Of course there’s a good deal of socialization involved in shaping gender, but is it more than that? Are boys acting on some primal hunter-gatherer instinct and girls are being the nurturers we have evolved to be out of necessity to ensure our children that we alone are naturally equipped to feed are cared for?

Lord knows, at least in my house, the baby just might get left in her seat out in the family room while her dad sleep walks to bed. Someone has to hold down the fort. And someone else will probably whack that fort with a pink and purple broom.

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Lesson Learned: Live Large Before The Little Ones Arrive

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No time for any of this anymore.

When my husband and I moved in together before we were married or even engaged (sorry, Grandma!) we’d do what we wanted when we wanted.

The problem is what we wanted then was rarely more exciting than taking a few laps around the neighborhood or watching raunchy TV shows. We should have truly appreciated life before kids and done something better than walking to Kmart, and so should you.

Ah, doing what we wanted.  Yes, that, and get your mind out of the gutter, but also going to the movies. Playing video games (him). Signing up for every single magazine giveaway contest (me). Eating an entire meal without having to stop to give someone a time out. Showering in peace. Taking a poop without interruptions. Doing nothing and liking it.

One of our favorite activities at night was going on walks around the neighborhood. To give us a purpose, we’d walk to a Kmart that was just a few blocks away. On the way to Kmart, we’d pass through the grounds of a hotel full of twinkly little white lights and it almost felt like a teeny tiny vacation.

Hand in hand, we’d crack up at eachother’s dumb jokes. We’d head to the toy section at Kmart where we’d play around with Barbies and Transformers and say we’d buy that stuff for our kids one day. Even then, we had babies on the brain.

Soon enough, we were engaged and planning for our wedding. That process took over a year. Where will we hold the ceremony? Who will be invited? What thousand-dollar dress will I wear? And as an afterthought, where will we honeymoon?

What I didn’t realize then is that our life could have been one big honeymoon. What was stopping us from having a small backyard wedding and instead using that money to spend a year living abroad or just in a different state somewhere experiencing different cultures and places, meeting interesting people? So what if we spent our meager savings eating good food and having cool adventures. Helping people who needed it. There was no one depending on us but us.

Back then we didn’t realize how completely the responsibility of kids would consume our lives. How we’d never again eat a meal all the way through.  How we’d never poop in peace. How we’d worry about moving too much for fear of not allowing our kids to grow roots in one place. The importance we’d one day place on job stability and good health benefits.

I wish I wouldn’t have worried so much about what people thought or expected of us. Sure, the wedding was fun, but was anyone’s life going to be enriched by the beading detail on my wedding dress?

We should have lived wild and loose for those fews years, before our lives became all about these wonderful, beautiful little troublemakers who I wouldn’t trade for anything. There’s no better time to do it then when you’re young, able-bodied and most-importantly – kid free.