Parenting to Stereotype: Yesterday I was chatting with a mom I recently met while we watched our kids on the playground. A little boy was going down the slide with one leg over the edge, at which point she asked him to be careful. Then she turned to me and said, “Boys! They are so wild!” As if on cue Amelia and one of her buddies came running into our peripheral vision and tackled each other to the ground. I replied, “I think you mean, ‘Kids!’, because my daughter would go down the slide the same way and so would the other little girl she is wrestling with right now.”
The mom went on to tell me how different her boy and girl are from each other, that her daughter is so well behaved and her son is such a little dare devil. I asked if maybe it had more to do with individual personality vs gender, but she insisted it was gender. While she was speaking she literally had to stop herself to gasp as another little girl jumped from the platform of the play structure to an outlying bar so that she could dangle there ten feet above the ground. I looked around for my son and found him sitting underneath a different slide, quietly talking with another little boy.
I informed her that my experience as a parent has been the opposite as it is my girl who is the dare devil and my son is the *slightly* better behaved of the two. She again insisted she saw a huge difference in her boy and girl and that it was due to their gender. I just smiled and acquiesced with “Every kid is so different from the next, but you know your children and their personalities best.” We said our goodbyes as it was time for us to go, and as her daughter walked over I noticed she was dressed head to toe in pink and her mother held out a princess backpack for her to wear for the walk home.
Maybe it is her daughter’s personality, and there is nothing inherently wrong with liking pink or princesses. But part of me wondered, is that her daughter being herself or her daughter meeting her parent(s) expectations for what it means to be a girl? Did her daughter have a choice other than pink or princess? When I saw her today after school I noticed that she was again wearing head to toe pink. I’m sure this mom is a great mom, I just found it unfortunate she was ignoring evidence right in front of her that not all kids fit the gender stereotypes she was literally insisting were true.
Let’s just let kids be kids, yes?
I know I’ve shared a similar story to this before, but a photo sent in by PPBB Community Member Penny Collins got me thinking about a book I read this past spring called “The Gender Trap: Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls” by Emily Kane. I hope you check it out, it is eye-opening to how parents parent to stereotype.
Oh, it is laundry day at the Collins’ house, and these pants belong to Penny’s daughter.