|He has been taught from an early age |
that men are nurturing, too.
I must admit, I am now embarrassed and shamed at my very visceral adverse reaction to bearing a boy child (at least we think he;s a boy child- he keeps changing his mind between boy, girl, and goblin). I am not a separatist, nor am I a Dianic Witch (although I dabbled briefly with that path).
I believe that all sexes have value. I was grateful to that ultrasound, because it helped me get my shit together before Rowan arrived- so I could welcome him with all my heart and love him for who he is, regardless of genitalia, chromosomes, or (what will develop later) identity.
And I am happy to say that Rowan is an amazing human being and I would not have any other child, regardless of genitals, in his place. Every need I somehow had in my head about having a daughter has been filled by him, and then some. Rowan is mine and also his own- a truly unique individual who is not defined by his junk any more than I am.
|Pink fuzzy sweater and a pigtail? |
Why yes, please.
For example, there's the issue with Rowan's appearance.
We allow him to choose his own clothes, hair, and accessories. We believe and are teaching him that his body is his own and he can adorn it any way he likes. No one has the right to do things to his body, including dressing him in drab**, that he does not consent to.
|A Beltaine outfit |
of his own choosing.
But it should also be noted that sometimes he tells me that he wants to grow up and be a lady like mommy. And some days he wants to have a beard like daddy. And the fact that he doesn't know or has made up his mind is fine by us. But it squicks a lot of people out. I bet that this phase is probably far more natural than in the children that had their gender chosen for them and forced to wear, say, and act certain things to reinforce their parent's idea of what a boy or girl "is".
Then there is the culture of violence that we force upon boy children.
|Some days he's a boy. |
Sometimes he's a girl.
Somedays, he's a goblin or robot.
But he's ALWAYS shiny.
With a preschooler, the messages and steps we take look like this:
He has strict media limits.
No one, especially corporate interests, are going to tell my son how he should be. I limit "screen time" to 2 hours a day and even then- it does not happen *every* day. He never watches actual TV (with commercials and news breaks) in my home, but instead watches educational streaming video instead (no commercials, only approved programs). It may sound over-the-top to some parents, but a recent study has found that carefully curating what preschoolers and younger watch determines their aggression level. So Rowan picks from Sesame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, Super Why, Curious George, Dinosaur Train, Word Girl, Dora the Explorer, and Go Diego Go, mostly. And still, there have been subtle messages in some of those programs that I disagree with and we talk about what we see together. He has no filters at this age- so I must help him do that. He also watches nature documentaries. He also only watches movies when mama and daddy is there to have dialogue with him about what he is seeing. Recently, he saw Wreck It Ralph and Despicable Me. We had talks about bullies, "bad guys", and being nice. In both movies, the "bad guy" turns out to be a good guy. So Rowan has been talking a lot about that lately.
He is being taught that his body is his to with as he chooses.
(But mama and daddy sometimes need to intervene for his health- like making him eat greens or brushing his hair.) I remember applauding Jada Pinkett-Smith when she defended her daughter's right to crop her short and wear "boyish" clothes. Smith talked about how it was her daughter's body and she got to choose what happened to it. What a powerful message for that child to get from a loving parent!
|Being a lightening bug |
And he will get all versions of the "no means no" talk along with the "yes means consequences- good and bad" talk when he does have that awakening. He will be getting sex education that not only has the bad consequences as a scare tactic (pregnancy, STIs) but also what makes a good relationship, what kinds of sex there are, full anatomy disclosure, and more.
In the wake of the Catholic Church and other predations upon children in the news, I am struggling with the loss of innocence that comes as I teach him about secrets, touching, and that not everyone is a nice person. But I know this message will keep him safe- so I have bought a book called "Not every Secret Should be Kept" and we started to talk about keeping safe and talking to mama and daddy about things that happen when we are not around.
We also teach him that affection and touching (as well as expressing his feelings) are wonderful human things to do.
So many men are emotionally stunted because of their conditioning as children. This manifests itself in emotionally unavailable partners and fathers, an obsession with sex (as a replacement for love), and a horrible repetition of the cycle. We strive to have Rowan be fully human- that is, not be limited by what others consider "normal" male behavior. Just as the parents of daughters must struggle with this issue, so must parents of boys- just in different ways.
In what ways have you found raising your kids, especially in regards to gender and culture difficult? What has been easy? What are you doing to educate you children about gender roles and expectations?
*Raising a girl has its own challenges- don't get me wrong. I just knew what I was in for with having a daughter- having been one myself. I was just unprepared for the particulars of raising a boy as a non-kyriarchal feminist household.
** Drab is the costume we give to boys and men in our highly gendered culture- dull colors, less interesting tailoring, less patterns. Drab is the boring version of drag- which is also a gendered costume.