Saturday, 13 June 2009

The strangeness of kinders

This feminist blogging business can be a bit soul-destroying at times. So I'm going to take a self-indulgent ramble through a topic that never fails to cheer me up: my kids.

Being austere (pro)feminist leftie types, my partner and I have tried to raise our kids to be accepting of diverse gender identities. With my daughter M, now seven, it was straightforward enough. She's immersed in the same pink hideousness as most of her small female colleagues; but she'll just as happily turn to a kids' book about physics or maths, not realising these have traditionally been areas of male accomplishment. Maybe those divisive days are gone, and she'll move freely between My Little Pony and calculus all her life (although I hope she'll grow out of MLP sooner rather than later).

And then there's Boy. Nearly three, Boy has been difficult since the moment of conception. Relentlessly loud and boisterous, Boy is just so darn boyish. Despite having had the same upbringing as his sister, Boy has gravitated to stereotypically male things since he was old enough to gravitate. He loves cars and balls and mud and being loud. He's a bundle of irrepressible physical energy, jumping on the couch and throwing stuff. Every now and again he feels the urge to pull my hair or dig his wee fingernails into my face. (I'm sporting a scratch on one cheek, and the dorky-looking one on the tip of my nose has only just healed.) Boy truly doesn't have a malicious bone in his little body - he just seems to get flesh-gougingly excited about life from time to time.

I've stopped pondering the nature vs nurture debate, because it doesn't shed much light on what I should actually do as a feminist parent, trying to raise my kids with a certain set of values. Here's what I've concluded. There's nothing wrong with being a rough-and-tumble, full of beans, loud little boy. What would be mistaken would be thinking this is the only way a boy ought to behave, that there's something 'wrong' with the boy who isn't noisy and physical, that it's always appropriate to be boisterous, or that the things girls stereotypically do are in some way inferior to boys' activities.

I guess I'm trying to raise a Renaissance Boy. We spend time jumping in puddles and playing raucous games together, but we also do a fair bit of reading and jigsaw puzzling. Just this morning, I found the little guy singing 'Forest of Feelings' from the Care Bears movie, very earnestly, to the television. He'll yell angrily when his sister refuses to share her Polly Pocket dolls with him. Perhaps best of all, when he's inflicted a particularly deep gouge on my face, he can be relied on to give me a sheepish hug. And whether nature or nurture served up that crazy little personality, I continue to love Boy with all the partial intensity that only a mother wearing rose-tinted spectacles over her one eye can muster.

6 comments:

showyourworkings said...

I've had the same worries since the kids came along and came to the conclusion that you just need to keep providing all the choices and you may not see the effects until they are adults.

stargazer said...

one of the problems is that you're only one of the influences on a child's life. and those influences start pretty early, from watching tv, watching what other family members and friends do etc. so as much as you try to provide an alternative view, it's really hard when they're hearing another message from other places.

nonetheless, sounds like you're doing a wonderful job. and some of it will surely stay with them!

Anna said...

I grew up in an environment that wasn't tolerant of boys who didn't fit the normative masculinity - for example, boys who were gay or were assumed to be, boys who took their academic aspirations seriously, boys who liked 'girly' things like music instead of sport. The intolerance led pretty directly to bullying in a lot of cases. I remind myself that there's a generation between myself and my son, and that the world is (hopefully) changing in this regard. Hopefully, whatever path the little guy takes, he'll be understanding of those who go a different way!

Anonymous said...

My 4yr old boy came home the other week upset from childcare because the girls were telling him that boys couldn't wear pink. It was only for girls. He dosn't like anyone telling him he can't do something. I had a big conversation with him about how colours are for everyone. The other day when we were looking at some tracksuit pants on sale I asked him to choose which colour. Red, grey or pink. I got a lot of delight in seeing the look of horror on the mum standing next us when he chose pink. He is so going to be showing off to the girls next week at school...

hungrymama said...

I have two boys. My oldest is seven and is a non-conformist in many ways. He's thoughtful and academic, thinks Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote the best books ever and prefers to play with the girls at school because they don't make him play Star Wars. My almost four-year-old just told me he doesn't like pink because it's a girl's colour.

Anna said...

A few months ago, we were given a bag of hand-me-downs, including a wee pair pink socks with pictures of ice creams on them. I put them on my son and he said, 'M's socks' - he was convinced they must be his sister's. He was still pretty much pre-verbal at that stage, so I don't know how he even managed to comprehend the gender code. Presumably he picked it up from TV, his sister, or a combination of both. Pretty scary though - goes to show how deeply ingrained it can be.