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[personal profile] baroquestar
OK, so I was going to start blogging again with a great big catch up post full of stuff about Melbourne acculturation, our visit to the US, Easter in Canberra and all things like that. But I just had a really disturbing conversation with my three year old, and I need to get it out, and get some input.

I was turning on the TV for her, and it went past "Dragon Booster", some mecha-battle cartoon thing. Maeve piped up with "Not that. It has scary bits, so it's for boys."
I froze, and turned around. "Pardon?"
"It's for boys. It has scary bits."
"Um, no, that's not how it works." I just found a prerecorded Playschool at that point, and sat down, head spinning. I've NEVER heard anything like that from her before, and it floored me more than is perhaps warranted. I thought that maybe I'd not been clear enough, so I took advantage of the boring last dregs of Night Garden on the recording to extend the conversation.
"Sweetheart, there's no such thing as shows for boys. There's no such thing as games and toys and books for boys, or for girls. Do you understand what I'm saying? You are allowed to watch or play whatever you like, and if you don't like it, that's ok too. But there's no such thing as stuff that's just for boys, or just for girls. OK?" This was all in a gentle voice, I didn't want her to think I was angry, or seriously upset (even if I was).
"Oh, ok mama," and she turned back to the TV.

She doesn't watch commercial TV, she doesn't have a totally pinkified wardrobe, her toys are rainbow coloured and constructive, her closest female cousin battles baby balrogs with a light sabre, her close adult friends and family are much more sensible than to say crap like that. It must have come from another kid at daycare, I guess. That's going to happen with all sorts of undesirable things, no doubt; swear words, headlice, requests for Br*tz merchandise... but am I doing the right thing? Do I address it head on and then let it go? Or just live my life as authentically and as hard as I can, showing her that we don't limit ourselves by foolish and arbitrary understandings about what we're meant to enjoy based on the configurations of our chromosomes?

on 2009-05-03 12:01 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I didn't want my awesome Voltron toy because all the kids said it was a boy's toy when I took it to school.

It went in the cupboard, I hated it and it was given to the Smith Family. You know this tale :) And I angst about it ALL THE TIME. Clearly I wasn't raised to see a difference, but kids at school are kids at school. They have enormous sway.

So moral is, don't throw away awesome toys because she'll get-it eventually.

on 2009-05-03 01:01 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
"Do I address it head on and then let it go? Or just live my life as authentically and as hard as I can, showing her that we don't limit ourselves by foolish and arbitrary understandings about what we're meant to enjoy based on the configurations of our chromosomes?"

a little from column a, a little from column b, i reckon. from everything i'm learning about social development, the examples set by parents and important others are far more important than words, but i also think learning the vocabulary of equality is really important.

on 2009-05-03 01:20 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Yeah, I think it's good to verbalise it - but not belabour the point. But also just be a good example - which I know you are ;)

on 2009-05-03 01:22 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
The other thing you could do is ask her where she got the idea. Once an idea has gone into a head it can be hard to get it out. If you can identify the misconception and the reason for it, you can sometimes figure out how to get them to keep the idea you want.

on 2009-05-03 01:34 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Sounds a lot like a daycare thing.

Ok, my approach (heh, I was going to say "would" but lets say "will" hall we...?) will be

If she verbalises such beliefs, then you discuss it, similarly if she behaves in a way that clearly reflects it, then discuss.

We all conform to something, and it is part of social cohesion. Conformity isn't the problem, it is the reasons behind the conformity (or for that matter, non-conformity) that needs to be thought about. Verbalising is the best way for her and us to think about it.

Give lots of opportunity to not conform, support any non-conforming choices, draw attention to any non-conforming you or other of her loved ones might be doing.

Heh, make her think.

on 2009-05-03 02:27 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
It may seem like she has dismissed or glossed over what you said, but I'd say there's a better than even chance that next time a daycare brat says that something is "just for boys", she'll pipe up and challenge them on it. That's a win right there.

Here's an example: I was playing with a 4 y/o boy who lives with his mum and doesn't know his dad. He craves any male interaction he can get, which I why I love spending time with him. We were rough-housing and mucking about and he was really wound up, so I was pretty sure that anything I tried to teach him would go straight out the other ear. Still, I told him about rough-play and respecting boundaries and when people say stop, etc. A few weeks later I overheard him telling one of the girls almost the exact same thing (after she had out-roughed him, lol). I was stunned that he'd remembered, let alone understood and now applied it himself.

The point, I guess, is I think you were spot on.

on 2009-05-03 04:44 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Working out The Rules is a big part of three. I found that the BatPup (can't remember all that way back to the EDoD's threehood) because incredibly didactic about gender about a year ago. She's getting over it now, though. Essentially, when she would say things like "If you're a girl you have to wear pink/skirts/long hair" or "I have to [do X] because I'm a girl" I'd gently point her thoughts in the direction of women she knows who don't do or wear X. That along with doing all the other things you said you are already doing.

That said, the EDoD was much girlier as a three year old and she's a kick-ass feminist at the age of 11 ;-)

on 2009-05-03 07:26 am (UTC)
ext_54463: (Default)
Posted by [identity profile]
Do I address it head on and then let it go? Or just live my life as authentically and as hard as I can, showing her that we don't limit ourselves by foolish and arbitrary understandings about what we're meant to enjoy based on the configurations of our chromosomes?

I'm definitely voting for both. Nothing beats a good example, but I think it's always worth fostering an intellectual understanding of 'why we choose to behave the way we do' at the same time.

Also, I second the point I saw above about chatting to her about where she gets her ideas - having the 3yo equivalent of the 'who thinks this? are they a credible source? why might they think that way?' discussion. Good critical thinking skills are a protection against many ills.

PS Never sell a child's Voltron. I lost mine in a similar experience to Sara's!

on 2009-05-03 06:27 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Yes. All of this. I also love the idea of asking her where she got that idea. I do that with Connor regularly, when he comes home with some strange ideas from school. Usually, the idea has come from someone he doesn't like/respect anyway, so it's pretty easy to diffuse any strange ideas with a "consider the source."

The sad truth is that this will only happen with increasing frequency as she spends more time out in "the world" (daycare and, soon, school). BUT, I don't think you need to be worried. You are raising her well, and she is surrounded by people with integrity. She's going to grow up with solid values. Still, I really do understand how you're feeling; I've gotten a bit freaked out with things that Connor has said (and have handled it mostly by talking it through). The good news is that there's a flip-side to that, when we have a conversation which shows me that he really does GET all the stuff I've been trying to do with him.

An example - a few months ago, we were talking about the civil rights movement (around MLK day), and how things are better than they used to be (re: slavery, etc), but that there is still a long way to go for all people to have equality. I said something like, "People from Mexico, for example, still aren't equal in our society." He said, quite vehemently, "Yes they are!" and at first I thought he was totally not getting it, but after talking a bit more, I realized that what he was expressing was his belief that people from Mexico are *intrinsically* equal, and should receive all the same rights, benefits and respect of everyone else here. He didn't realize that they weren't treated that way, because as far as he was concerned, there really was no distinction between him and anyone else, based on their ethnic background.

I know (and so do you) that you're raising Maeve to believe in herself, and to know in her heart that being a woman is fantastic, and that she isn't limited by her gender. Little things like this will pop up - it's inevitable - but I don't think we need to worry about them. Our children are growing up just fine. :)

on 2009-05-03 12:27 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I can't believe I haven't responded to this yet - fail me.

I think you handled this so well and much better than I probably would have in this situation. Excellent parenting at work!

I agree with everyone that it is probably a bit of both. And, seriously, Maeve is a testament to your awesomeness!

on 2009-05-03 12:43 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
I agree with all the thoughtful, considered responses above... but I also reckon it'd be great to teach her - if someone tells her she can't or shouldn't watch/play with/do something because "it's for boys" - to say "really? which part of it needs a penis?"

Yeah, I know, I'm a bad influence...

on 2009-05-12 11:00 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
sounds like a line we'd throw out here at the end of a long week - to be heard repeated until graduation day!

hugs S, we had a while of "i don't play with boys" and we're getting through that atm

on 2009-05-04 04:15 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
Developmental psych courses taught me that this is a totally normal part of age three: identifying with a particular group/groups and wanting to behave in the perceived 'appropriate' way for the group. They didn't suggest any ways to deal with it though...
Sounds like you handled it really well. And even if she does decide for a bit that she is going to be a 'proper girl' and only wear pink and play with dolls or whatever, I'm sure she will grow out of it. I think it would take serious effort for any child of yours to grow up non-feminist :o)

on 2009-05-04 08:55 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile]
yes it comes from other kids. But correcting away from the norming can also come from other kids - my five year old came out with some jaw-dropping sexist statement a month or two back, to which eldest (then ten year old)responded with carefully reasoned statements about how inappropriate that was, and how ze didn't have to live zer life that way! I was wrapt! I hadn't realised that we had talked enough about such things for the message to get through. But then, eldest spent years as the only boy with long hair in the school (beautiful, blond hair too. so sad when ze decided to get it cut. But, zer choice.)
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