I came across this article from the New York Times that was discussing a new challenge for parents – raising children who do not assume typical gender roles. The article highlights little boys who enjoy dressing up and playing with dolls and girls who want to wear their hair short and play sports with their brothers. This article seems to be a product of the growing number of books and support groups providing advice to parents of children who don’t fit into the normal gender roles.
The thing that stands out to me is that in a rush to avoid putting their children in one category, not allowing gender stereotypes to define their children, parents are rushing to put their kids into other categories such as gay, transgendered, effeminate, masculine, etc. And maybe for some of those kids those categories are the reality. Yet at the same time, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that these kids just like these certain toys, games, style of clothing, with little implication on how the choices and life they will lead at an older age. It seems like we can’t get away from seeking to take certain facets of one’s personality and making it the core of their identity, even in an attempt to be “open minded” and “non judgmental”.
Obviously for the parents featured in the article, this practice is coming out of love for the child and a true desire to want to create a safe and nurturing environment in which their children can grow. Parents don’t want their children to feel as though they can’t be who they truly are. But what does it mean to assume the child is what they do or what they like?
It seems that for many of the parents, social acceptability was something they worried about for their kids. They wanted their children to feel as though what they did and how they behaved was “normal” and just like everybody else. But maybe the greater lesson to the children could be that when they interact with other people they shouldn’t look at people based on what they do and their likes and dislikes but who they are – a human being with the capacity to love, laugh, show kindness, justice and generosity who happens to have a wide range of interests and hobbies. This to me seems like a better way to create acceptance.