The other day I was talking with a friend about how we do not force gender roles on the boys. Then, as I was searching Pinterest I came across this saying:
“We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons, but few have the courage to raise our sons more like daughters.” -Gloria Steinem
Gender roles are the social and behavioral norms that are generally considered appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship. I have always been a strong believer in letting the boys decide their route in life. I do not believe in forcing gender roles upon them. For the longest time when I was younger, believe it or not, I went through a tomboy stage. No one so much as blinked an eye when I said I wanted a boy hair cut. I was just going through a “phase” and I would eventually grow out of it. They placed the blame on the fact that my best friend was a boy, or that I was not sure where I fit in because of the color of my skin. So they labeled me a tomboy. I have always hated that term. Because a little girl likes “boyish” things, she is labeled a tomboy. I grew up that life, and I HATED it. I then turned a complete 180, as you can tell, and fell in love with fashion. When I had children I knew I did not want to force them into being something they may not want to be. So why is it okay for us to teach our daughters to be tougher and raise them more like our sons but not okay for us to raise our sons to be more compassionate and raise them more like daughters. Why is it okay for us to allow our girls to do boyish things, but if a boy wants to be a princess for dress up it is instantly frowned upon. Why when my son expressed that he wanted to grow his hair out did people say “you need a boy hair cut” or that people instantly assume Hurleigh is a girl and say “well I saw the hair and the shoes, aka moccasins, and instantly thought girl. Are boys not born with curly hair? I am pretty sure this is his natural hair and not the doing of a perm.
This hit me very hard when I faced my first deployment. Not only was I newly married, but I had my first child who was only three months old. I was the baby on my mother’s side and my father’s only daughter, so you can imagine how terrified I was. I had to step into a father’s “role”. I had to learn to fix things, take care of the car, do all the “manly” things that a father would normally do. I learned to change my oil and I may have used duct tape a few times, but I fixed a lot of broken stuff lol. Did that make me more manly, or was I just doing what I had to do as a parent? I also was raising my son, my first child, which was scary enough, but a boy. I knew nothing about being a boy. I knew I was a good mom, but I was scared. Then I really sat down and thought about it. Why would I raise my boy any different than a girl. They’re both children. I had made the decision not to raise my children how I was raised so why was it so hard? Sure, I did not dress Bentleigh in dresses, but we did “girly” things. If you are going to ask, would I be against them wearing a dress, the answer is no. Bentleigh, every time we went to Babies R Us when the halloween costumes were out would put on a princess dress and strut around. He did not ask to bring it home so we left it there till our next visit. Shaeson was not on board when he came home. He was also raised the eldest of 5, 4 of those being boys. His parents were very strict on this is what boys do, so to him it was not normal. He had to slowly come around to realize that by letting Bentleigh do things that he wanted, whether they were “boyish” or “girly” would not hurt him. That by playing with a baby doll would not make him into a girl, but just show him how to be a father and have compassion. By buying him a kitchen, we were not forcing him into a role to stay at home, but rather how to cook so that if he ever lives alone he will not be stuck eating take out every night. That he wanted to paint his nails, play with my make up brushes, and walk around in my shoes not because he thought he was a girl, but that is what mommy did so why couldn’t he. He loves pink and loves wearing pink, so when I saw these pink boots I knew he had to have them. What totally breaks my heart is that I had to sit down and have the conversation with him that if someone says mean things about your boots, just tell them you like them and that is all that matters.
This took me to when I had people telling me that I was going to make him “gay” because of how I am raising him. I will say I was completely ashamed and embarrassed to be friends with everyone that said that at that moment in time. A COMPLETELY different topic for another day, but 1. people are not made homosexual. You are born that way and if one of my boys was born that way, I will not love them any less. 2. It is completely ignorant and small minded to say that about a small child that likes to play with dolls or vacuums just because it is not conforming to their gender role.
When I was pregnant with Hurleigh, I was convinced he was a girl. Then my husband pulled out the, she can do whatever she wants and would wear big bows and dresses every day. I had to remind him, girl or not she would be a child and we would allow her to do what she wanted. If she did not want to wear bows, then no bows it would be. And if she wanted to play baseball, I would be at every practice. Hurleigh was not a girl (: Now having two boys, we love the life we have without gender boundaries. The boys love having their nails painted, they love helping me cook and clean, I am proud to say that Bentleigh’s favorite color is pink, and we spend just as much time in the baby aisle as we do the lego aisle. They both play dress up with my shoes and clothes, but give Bentleigh a baseball bat and he will show you whats up. Hurleigh, I mean, he is so feisty. He has a mean right hook and he is down to get dirty. Do I feel that letting my sons pick what they like and want to do is going to hurt them? Not by any means. I also am not saying that the way we do it is right. It just works for us and pushing gender roles on children is something I feel very strong about.
I have come across many amazing books, including The Princess Boy, which is about a young boy who loves all things sparkly and his mothers struggles to understand. There is also a book by Diane Ehrensaft PhD, Gender Born, Gender Made, that is on its way to me! It is about raising healthy gender-nonconforming children. I love reading about things like this and I feel that if I can be more aware and open to what my children may want to do, I can help them grow to be the adults they are meant to be. Letting them be who they want to be allows them to blossom. I am always told that I have the happiest children, which I promise is not true. That comes with the blogger persona that their life is “perfect” and I am the first to say it is not. My children have bad days just like others, but I feel that allowing them to be open like we have has made those bad days very limited. It is all about acceptance and love. We just need to remember to love them with no boundaries.