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Posts Tagged ‘boys’

Gender crisis

Monday, May 30th, 2011

I have written about this topic before, but I recently came across an article which reignited my frustration and I felt the need to write again. Why has gender become such a contentious topic in today’s parenting community?

The aforementioned article refers to a couple who have decided to keep their 3rd baby’s gender a secret to all except those who were present at the birth. They have named the baby “Storm”, which is exactly what they are brewing by raising a “gender-free” baby. Their two previous children are boys, whom they allow to choose their own clothes (including pink dresses) and whether they want to cut their hair. But that is a completely different idea to “gender-free” parenting.

For starters, look at the differences in a male and female’s physique. A man has more muscle mass and is physically stronger. This is to enable him to fulfill his traditional role as a “hunter-gatherer”. Obviously, as time has unfolded, not all men “work the land” as they were originally deigned to, but the physical aspects of a man have not changed. A woman’s body has a higher fat percentage, which is useful in providing the right nourishment for childbearing. Our bodies have been designed for gender-specific purposes. Yes there is about a 10-week window in-utero in which we are unisex, but from there we go on to develop female or male genitalia – don’t you think there is a reason for this evolution?

Babies are not aware of their own gender until the age of about 2 or 3. Even then the distinction, in their minds, ends at boys have a penis and girls have a vagina. They might start noticing that most girls have long hair and most boys have short hair, that is just the norm for the societal majority. In the article, the “gender-free” baby’s older brother who is 5 years old, chooses to wear dresses and “girl coloured” clothes and have long hair, but gets upset when people mistake him for a girl. He knows he is a boy, he wants to be a boy, he just likes experimenting with dressing up. This is NORMAL. What is not normal is that he had to ask his mother to correct some people who were assuming he was a girl and he (apparently) chooses not to attend conventional schools because of gender-related questions.

The parents also say that parents in general, make too many decisions for their kids and it’s “obnoxious”. Isn’t that precisely what they are doing? They are making a very huge political choice about keeping their child’s gender a secret. What if their child chooses to follow the typical stereotype of his or her actual gender? Will the parents be disappointed that their alternative choices didn’t change a thing? Will the child struggle to find any identity or feel ashamed to identify as their own sex, for fear of disappointing their parents?

I think there is definitely room for creative play and there is no harm in children choosing their own clothes and hair styles – in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that children have healthy boundaries and routine. My experience is that kids really do thrive on flexible routines with guidelines to help them figure out what’s right and wrong. The choices parents make are not “obnoxious” if they are done with the child’s best interest at heart. I’m sure even the “gender-free” baby’s parents think they have their child’s best interest at heart. I’m all for natural parenting, I just think that their ideas are a bit too ‘left of centre’ and almost certainly will be damaging to their children.

I try my best to offer toys without gender bias. I offer dolls, prams, trains, cars – whatever my boy seems interested in. I was pretty close to buying him a wooden unisex dolls house because he loved one he played with when we visited a friend, but instead he got a wooden train set table (it was cheaper and he is also in love with trains). I do let him choose between a choice of two options of clothes I pick to buy, but letting him run free to seemingly allow him to choose either girls or boys clothes would result in no clothes being bought at all or him wanting the whole shop. To tell you the truth, I don’t have a problem with boys in blue and girls in pink. It’s getting increasingly difficult to NOT dress like this because most clothes are gender specific. But I also don’t have a problem with boys in pink and girls in blue.

The most important thing is to teach our children acceptance and tolerance. The best the we, as parents, can do for our children is foster self-confidence and imaginative play. We need to encourage the choices they make and not push them into gender stereotypes, especially with regards to hobbies, sports and, later on, job choice. But I really do think that “gender-free” parenting is crossing the line and tipping the delicate balance of boundaries, which is our parenting responsibility and duty.

Boys will be boys

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

I read an interesting article recently on essential baby, written from the perspective of a father (who was raised by two matriarchs) dealing will the testosterone filled behaviour of his two sons. It’s a good read. It got me thinking and reminiscing.

I remember vividly, visiting a friend who had four children, the youngest of whom was a two year old boy. While we were sitting in the lounge room chatting and calmly sipping our tea, her son was busy building towers out of blocks, which he abandoned to play with some other toy nearby. Suddenly, he came running up with a bat of some sort, yelling like something akin to “George of the jungle” on steroids, and knocked the tower over, causing a cacophony of blocks to go flying across the room. My friend didn’t even flinch. Her response was “he’s not hurting anyone, sometimes you just have to let them be boys”. I was more than shocked. Wasn’t she going to reprimand him? At the time I put it down to her being so tired from having four children that she couldn’t face disciplining him for this behaviour.

How the tables turn. Now I have a two year old son and I totally understand what she meant. My son has a game that he plays only with his dad. He only tried playing it with me once, but as I was not thrilled about being included and obviously wasn’t as fun, it is now just their game. It is called “joewoe”. Basically it involves a run up and crash tackle hug of his dad who is sitting on the floor, whilst yelling at the top of his voice, a phrase concocted by my son – “joewoe!!!!”. We have no idea what the word means, apart from “get ready, I’m coming to get you”. It is full on. I have to be ejudicator to make sure no one gets hurt (which is inevitable of course). It is special that he has his dad who can fill that need of being rough and playing stax on. It really is a boy thing I think.

When i thought about my future children I never really imagined whether I would have boys or girls. I guess I didn’t really care. So, I never really thought specifically about what it would be like to raise a boy. My boy is very loud and active. He loves dirt and trucks and balls. None of which has been a result of my particular prompting or persuading or encouraging. I just as equally offer dolls with prams to play with, and he does sometimes occupy himself with them for a few minutes, but he just prefers cars and mechanical things. He loves building towers and knocking them down. He loves standing on the fence watching the garbage trucks come and go past our house (we live opposite their depot). He is also obsessed with drawing, colouring and painting, which are not specifically boy orientated things. He is a creative, flamboyant, determined little soul and I want to nurture that.

I have quite a few friends who have two sons each, all of whom are at different stages in their life. Some are little babies, some children and some becoming adults. I enjoy seeing how the different family units work. I look on with giggling and anxiousness at the farting, wrestling, sporting competitiveness of the brothers. I watch with solidarity, quietly observing the brave mothers’ harrangueing their boys and trying to learn how to balance discipline and fun. Sometimes they seem more like referees than mums. It’s a hard game. I’m glad I have the opportunity to learn from their experiences.

I hope I can impart some skills to my boys that many men are lacking. Things such as being emotionally available, listening actively and being helpful around the house. I also hope they can help me grow and learn how to let go, be active and enjoy life to it’s boy-sterous fullness. So for now, I take a deep breath and strap myself in for the ride of raising two (maybe more??) deliciously gorgeous boys.