Every time I hear a gender stereotype said, I challenge it. I’m “that” person in the room. Hearing those words are like nails on a chalkboard to me. (For you whippersnappers, it would be like losing your wifi.) Those stereotypes alter our beliefs and how we allow our children to interact in the world. I am raising a boy and a girl, and their gender is not their most salient quality about their person.
The other day my friend’s son was standing on top of the high monkey bars. “Get down, you’ll hurt yourself!” she hollered to him. And then turned to me and said, “Boys!” I cocked my head to the side and made no attempt to hide my smirk as I pointed out to her my daughter was standing right next to her son. “Don’t break anything on the way down!” I hollered to my daughter as she jumped off. I turned to my friend and said, “Girls!” In reality, it was just two kids being kids, giving their mothers heart attacks as they launched their bodies off the play equipment from seven feet in the air.
And when a mom I know was going on and on about her sons bringing her gross things from the yard and how hard it is to raise boys, I directed her attention to my daughter and her girlfriend who were marching around the field with branches raised in the air like parade banners, cicada shells hanging off their ears and lips. I told her it was the same thing for moms of girls. In reality, kids will be kids and some have a propensity for bringing you bugs, snakes, frogs, and spiders. And the occasional dead bird.
And this morning, when someone at school mentioned how glad they were the kids got some playtime in the morning before they went into class. “These boys really need it”, she said. I looked around at girls running and playing tag in the field, another group of girls spinning in circles, and my daughter and her friends jumping around and squawking like chickens. “The girls do too, by the looks of it.”
In all of these instances the girls were doing EXACTLY the same things the boys were, but it was literally invisible to the people observing the situation because it didn’t align with their stereotypes.
In the twenty-some years I’ve been working with kids I have yet to have this belief discredited: When we limit our children, we limit our children.