Saturday: Mom Musings about gender – a follow-up

Vegan Goodness:

Today we ate:

  • Breakfast: Cheerios for all (LP declared that he did not want a smoothie today – a first!)
  • Lunch: The final bit of leftover spicy eggplant stew.  LP only had a little, and then he wanted some quinoa with butter.  We gave it to him – his stomach has been a bit off as of yesterday, so it made sense that he wanted some bland food.
  • During LP’s nap Mom made (and ate) some choclate chip shortbread cookies.  It was a cool day that just asked to have cookies!  After his nap LP snacked on some almonds and we all snacked on some coleslaw.
  • Dinner: Clean out the fridge night!  LP had more quinoa and butter, along with a black bean and avocado quesodilla.  Mom had salsa rice with beans and avocado.  Dad had an avocado, tomoato and hummus sandwich.  Fajitas, complete with salsa rice, refried black beans, soy chorizo and onions and peppers from our CSA!
  • More cookies for Mom and Dad’s dessert!

Money Matters:

Today we only went out to music class, and then a walk to look for trains.  No money spent today!

Mom Musings:

Last Saturday I posted some musings about having a girl and what her “girl” clothes made me think about.  I got more responses (both as comments and over e-mail) to this post than I have with any other post I have written, which was pretty exciting!  I started blogging (both here and on my teacher blog) in part to have an outlet for reflective writing.  In my mind, one of the main purpose of reflective writing is to help the writer sort through his/her own thoughts and ideas.  Putting that writing on a blog has the additional benefit of starting a conversation and giving the writer (me) the opportunity to hear from others, which helps develop my own thoughts and opinions beyond what would happen in my own mind.  I just want to say that hearing from so many people about this post was both exciting and thought-provoking.  On that note, I wanted to write a follow-up post about some of the comments and new ideas I have had as a result of reading and thinking about these comments.

One of the common things I heard from folks was about the question of who has more options – boys or girls.  Many of you rightly pointed out that boys actually have fewer options for dress than girls.  This is to true, and this definitely came up in an interesting article in the NY Times that my friend sent to me, entitled “What’s So Bad About A Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?”  The article discusses the way children might bend our concepts of gender, and what that means for them and their parents.  The article pretty much exclusively focuses on boys, which actually makes sense to me, since the idea of a boy wearing a dress (or even just pink socks, as the article points out) can be a huge problem in school and other social situations, whereas a girl wearing “boy” clothes (like sports gear, etc.) doesn’t raise an eyebrow.  Your comments and this article made me realize how I might be actually be inadvertently denying my son the very same choices around dress that also put me in a tizzy about my daughter.  We give LP clothing choices now, but we have never offered him a dress.  On one hand, we don’t have one in his size since all of our hand-me-downs have come from boys (even from before LP was born, since all of our close friends have boys).  On the other hand, I haven’t gone out of my way to buy him one so that he could have that choice.  Of course this goes beyond clothing, or even toys.  I’ve seen the ways that LP has become a “boy” already, which I tried to be prepared for because I know that we become gendered by society at a very, very young age.  I always wondered what I role I am playing in that gendering, and I want LP and IP to both feel free to explore all aspects of dress, play and being, be they gendered as masculine and feminine.  But they have to have those choices in front of them, and I wonder if LP does.  Of course, he has had moments where he puts on mom’s shoes (flip flops), carries mom’s bag (either the diaper bag or my backpack that I take to work) and puts on chapstick (I don’t wear lipstick).  I wonder if that is one of the ways he is playing with gender, of if it is really just doing whatever mom and dad do (which he does often – see all my posts about how much he loves the kitchen!)  I wonder also how this will develop as he gets more and more aware of “boy” things and “girl” things, especially when he starts pre-school.

As I consider this, I’m starting to see ways that LP might actually have more options because he has a sister.  With IP in the house, “girl” stuff is going to appear in ways that it has not so far.  I’ve always said I was fine with my son playing with dolls, or make-up, etc., but we don’t have it around, so why would he?  Now, if IP wants or gets those things (I don’t see us buying much, simply because we didn’t buy toys for LP either – 99% of what we have are gifts or hand-me-downs) LP will probably use them to.  Already, LP sees that his sister has baby dresses.  He hasn’t asked if he can have a dress yet, but if he does I will TOTALLY get him one.  Same goes for wearing nail polish, playing with “girl” stuff, etc.  I’m not saying that having a girl means we will automatically have all of that stuff in our home, but it is more likely now, and I think that will be a good thing for both of our children.  Gender is socially constructed, but that doesn’t make it less “real” in our daily lives, and I want my kids to be aware of it and make choices about how they “gender” themselves.  I think that was the root of my previous post – I want my kids to be aware that they have choices about who they are and what they do in all facets of their lives, including how they develop their gendered identity.  Having gendered items isn’t a problem, but restricting which child uses which them because of their gender could be, in my mind.

There was another point that a commenter brought up that really named something I hadn’t been able to name myself.  Basically, I think I feel additional pressure to be a role model for my daughter, in a different way than I do for my son.  I don’t know if I should feel this way, but I do.  With my son I feel pressure to be a good parent, good community member and good person so that he learns from me (and my husband) how to be a good member of society.  With my daughter, I feel the same pressure, but a little bit extra.  I feel like I also need to show her how to navigate this world as a woman, something I still struggle mightily with.  No matter how a person sees themselves (man, woman, genderqueer, etc.) it comes with baggage and requires learning to navigate in society.  I feel more pressure to help my daughter do this than I did with my son because I know that what it feels like to try and navigate this way more as a woman than as a man.  And that additional pressure is scary to me.

Being a parent is both the most amazing thing, and the most daunting thing, I have ever done.  The idea that my husband and I are raising two people and trying to teach them to be kind, caring, generous, strong, productive, etc., all while also keeping them fed, clothed and happy is kind of crazy to me whenever I step back to look at it.  I keep waiting for the magical moment when my “adult” knowledge will kick in and I’ll know everything I’m supposed to, the way I thought my parents knew everything when I was a little kid.  (Of course, when I hit my pre-teen years, I decided they knew nothing at all . . . but that’s another story).  So far my own automatic “adult” knowledge has not been forthcoming, and, in all seriousness, it never will.  Until then, my ideas about parenting and how to raise my kids will be a lot like my writing, my work, and my own life – an evolving journey.

Note: Thanks again so much for all your great comments last week, both on the blog and in my e-mail!  Please continue to comment whenever the mood strikes – your comments help me think about the world, and also provide the opportunity for the conversation to grow and develop for all my readers!

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