Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pink and Blue and In Between

As part of Celebrate Women and Women's History Month, today I'm taking up a common theme among other blogging women: feminist parenting.

My husband and I said we were done having babies when our daughters were 5 and 3. I sat at a table in a South Tulsa restaurant, out with some girlfriends, telling them that no way would I have any more kids. Why would I? Life was cruising along. The girls were nearly school aged. My work as a doula had become a tic more regular.

As I sat there extolling the virtues of our two child home, I was pregnant. Proof that God has a sense of humor.

Our son was born nine months later and enriched my life in ways that I could not have dreamed, especially since I spent the first trimester in tears. Yeah. I said it. I was pregnant when I didn't want to be. He's seven now and he tickles me heart every single day. Just today he was telling me about his "thumb toes," which the uneducated would refer to as the big toes.

There are no two ways about it, though. The girls and the boy are different. Of course, physically. Duh. But also in their temperaments, their social awareness, their interests.

My daughters and I share a subtext in language that I don't have with my son. If one of the girls says her day at school was "okay," that could mean pretty much anything. It could mean that her day was okay. Or, it could mean it was the worst day of her life and uncovering the truth would require hours, maybe days of questions, glances, and comments to finally hear that someone was a jerk in the lunchroom. The truth is usually revealed at the most inconvenient time, but always makes the mama heart sit still and listen. This is often draining, and it is always mysterious. If I ask my son about his day, well, usually, he says, "Awesome," and it involves something about a soccer ball, a swing, some dirt and something one of his many friends said.

Thing is, I want my kids to have equal respect for each other, and all of humanity. My eldest daughter is a natural scientist. She always has been. She could identify all the different types of butterflies at the zoo exhibit when she was barely toddling. She could tell you the difference between an arachnid and an insect whether or not you wanted to know. The dentist asked her in kindergarten what she wanted to be when she grew up. She announced: "An archaeologist. What's your favorite dinosaur? Mine's the parasaurolophus." He didn't know about that dinosaur; she gave him a short lesson and he returned to counting her little baby teeth. She still bemoans the fact that exactly none of her interests are represented in the girls department of any store. We make a lot of tshirts with bugs and stuff on them.

On the other hand, when we were expecting our son, someone said to my soccer coaching husband, "you'll finally have your boy who can play soccer." My husband is a much calmer and nicer person than I will ever hope to be. He just replied that his second daughter was already playing, don't need a boy to do that. Our son loves to dance and sing. He says he knows how to break dance. (He doesn't really.) He is at once sweet and wild. He is not "all boy." He is himself.

I know that I can be over the top about gender roles and labels with my children, but it comes from a place that wants them to use their noggins. I want them to think through what the world says and determine for themselves if they can rely on that, or if they want to challenge the status quo. My kids shake their heads that their classmates think there are boy colors and girl colors. They laugh when their friends say girls can't have certain jobs. That's because I've told them that. Just as my parents told me; don't let the world limit you.

Like I wrote last week, a feminist is not just a woman. A feminist is someone who can see value and strength in the other. I want that as much for my son as I want that for my daughters.


  1. I respect your honesty, and I love how things have turned out for your family. As a mother of both a girl and a boy I want them to value each other and themselves. I think that as a parent if I can teach them that then all will be well for their futures.

  2. loved your post. loved the "he is not 'all boy,' he is himself." And so I sit here at the Children's Ref desk humming "William wants a doll." (I have Charlotte Zolotow on the mind...)

    As the sister of a sister AND a brother, I am grateful for the different ways they see the world. I know I would be such a different person if I only had one of them as a sibling.