We all love having awkward conversations with strangers, especially when strangers feel the need to share their opinions on how we need to raise our kids. Or a personal new favourite of mine: when a stranger insists on me cutting my sons hair as a means of not letting him feel confused – gender wise. “YAY – so fun”, said no mom ever.
I’ve been mulling over this topic of kid gender stereotypes for some time now, and I wanted to share some of my personal views with you on this hot topic. I would love to hear your thoughts on this – please feel free to share in the comment section below <3
HE VS. SHE
The latest ice breaking conversation with total random strangers involves my three year old son, Malakai. Toddlers naturally draw attention in public spaces, as they’re loud, unpredictable, cute, a little gross, and unfiltered – SO UNFILTERED!
Therefore, people will often stop to ask my husband and I: “How old is your daughter?” OR, “Your daughter is so beautiful.” My husband and I will politely respond with : ” HE is three years old, OR, HE is a boy” , OR, if I am too tired for yet another awkward chat with a stranger about my sons gender I just say: ” thanks so much “ without correcting them.
When we politely correct strangers by saying: “He is a boy“, they immediately look shocked and quickly respond with: “Are you sure he is a boy? OR , Won’t his long hair confuse him as he grows up? You should cut his hair so that he looks like a boy!”
Granted, strangers mean well (for the most part) and they speak from a point of reference. But what I don’t like is the defining of his identity according to his hair. Yes, normally girls have long hair, but so do boys. Why would long hair confuse him as he grows up? He is your typical: farting, messy, loud, independent, exploring, adventurous, sweet, caring, creative and sensitive – little BOY.
His hair does NOT define him, nor does his hair define us as parents.
In all honesty it can be frustrating sometimes, because I am constantly feeling the need to justify to strangers why his hair is long. When in actual fact : WHO CARES!? He is MY son, his hair has never been a problem to him, or to anyone else who matters in our world. Those that do matter, love him for him, and they too get a little offended when people confuse him for a girl!
GENDER STEREOTYPES & FEAR
From a drama teaching perspective I have had many “interesting conversations” over the years with parents of boys who wanted to explore drama as fun afternoon activity. Some parents would query if drama would make their boys more “feminine” , or if role-playing and dressing up would confuse their identity.
Creative role-playing is one of the best things that ALL children could and should do when growing up. It builds their confidence whilst role playing, and it allows them to empathize, relate, and express feelings and thoughts that they wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable doing so in person. Drama and role-playing gives young people the tools, the words, and the confidence to feel empowered as they grow up in a world that is ever changing and so unpredictable.
I have seen boys play girl characters, and girls play boy characters, and it has NEVER ever been a problem or a concern. I think it becomes a concern when we make it something that it’s not. Kids should be allowed to explore and express themselves creatively, as it teaches them more about themselves, others and the world that they live in.
Our insecurities or hidden fears shouldn’t shape their character, our love for them should hold the power and weight to let them be who they were created to be.
IDENTITY IS SHAPED BY LOVE
So for me, as a mom of a boy, and as a drama teacher who has taught for a million years and counting. I know that my sons hair, different colours, clothes and toys cannot shape or influence his identity, the way I love him will.
Before becoming a mom, a few people came up to my husband and I and said:
“Your children will grow up understanding that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Things of this world, the negative, the broken, words that destroy will fall off them and have no impact on them what so ever!” —> Fast forward to today, and I still firmly stand on that!
My job as his mom is to make sure: that he feels loved, safe, feels understood and heard, and that we are learning from one another constantly. This in turn will shape and influence his identity, his sense of self worth, and his confidence.
What I am basically trying to say is: do not box your little children in – out of fear of the “what if” they turn into “x,y,z” , because they played with “this” toy that’s for the opposite sex, because they want to wear these colours etc .
They are little, they are just playing, trust me, they are not thinking about all of your internal fears and what if’s. It only becomes a “thing” when you turn it into a thing. Don’t let your fears box your children. Let your love for them shape them, not your fears.