There’s Just No Time

We are on vacation this week with the cousins, spending our time between a beautiful Lake Michigan beach resort and daily adventures in the local area. The crew of kids consists of three girls (ages 9, 6, and 3) and two boys (ages 7 and almost 2). All are having a grand time.

One of the things I love about my family getting together is the true celebration of “kid time”. Because our cousins live overseas our time together is precious, devoted to the kids playing together and soaking each other in as much as possible. No fun measures up to the exploits and trouble you can get into with cousins. The midnight bedtimes, peels of laughter, overcrowded bath tubs, jokes and secrets, popsicles snuck before dinner….. this is the good stuff in life.

The big kids paddled to a little island to have a picnic, delighted to leave their parents behind.

The big kids paddled to a little island to have a picnic, delighted to leave their parents behind.

Last night as I watched the five of them run around on the beach I looked down at my baby nephew’s footprint in the sand. A month shy of his second birthday he still has those fat, delicious square baby feet. The three year old has a penchant for nudity, as most preschoolers do, and was skinny dipping in the lake. Her legs are so much longer than last summer and they belie the baby chub that lingers on her body that is looking more like a “kid” than the baby she has been.

They are all growing so, so fast and I find myself whispering often in a half wish/half prayer “Stay little forever”.

My own kids, the 9 and 7 year olds, are so big now. They just don’t stay little. They grow and grow faster and faster. Their baby footprints are long gone, my daughter’s imprint in the sand is nearly as big as my own foot. When she chases me in the lake I actually have to work at outrunning her long legs, not like the slo-mo up and down run I do when the the 3 year old and almost-2 year old chase me.

My family encourages all of the kids to explore, try to new things, create, be silly, be strong, be themselves. We will sometimes divide them into “the bigs” and “the littles” for certain activities, but never do we do “boy stuff” and “girl stuff”. There is no such thing.

And? There just no time for that. Think about how much there is to do in childhood. To learn, to try, to discover.

There is no “boy side” or “girl side” to childhood. There isn’t time to limit any part of these years, these magical few calendar pages of childhood.

Exploring the creek.

Exploring the creek.

A list of what our boys and girls have been doing this week:

Water slides and boogie boarding

Playing outside

Attending a major league baseball game

Exploring interactive story land gardens

Art fair and face painting

Airplane show and talking with pilots

Tag and Chase

Paddling a boat to a small island for a kids-only picnic

Playing make believe

Science experiments on beach

Sea shell gathering

Making friends with two guys flying remote controlled airplanes; guy uses hawk plane to chase kids all over a field

Crayfish hunting

Sailing

Desperate attempts to catch sea gulls (tactics include: stealth, flanking, ambush, and pleading with promises of love and tear-filled eyes)

Sand castles and digging giant moats

Turning little brother into a sand merman

Splashing in Lake Michigan

Putt putt

More crayfish hunting

Crayfish hunting with sticks and an empty latte cup.

Crayfish hunting with sticks and an empty latte cup.

I notice the other families visiting the condos around ours and I see boys and girls running all over the beach and common areas while playing. Some are playing organized games like baseball or tag, many are digging and digging in the sand, others are playing with toys like the group of boys and girls I saw with a large container of fighter planes. Most of the kids are running between the water park and the beach, losing their minds with all the choices of fun.

This is why I get so fed up with the gender stereotypes I see all over children’s clothes and toys, telling them how to be a girl or how to be a boy. That isn’t what childhood is about. We are wrong to place limitations on this time in life.

Our kids are experts at being kids, we just need to give them the room to remind us what it should look like.

 

Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author ofRedefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her onFacebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

 

Pinks and Not Pinks

“Thought of you and Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies this morning when I made a quick trip to the local public library. I was refilling my water bottle when a 2 year old girl sat down at the kids computer with her Mom. The little girl asked her Mom if she could wear the boy’s headphones (blue/red) instead of the girls (paisley pink). The mother said that anyone could use either pair! When I agreed with the mother, she replied “it’s amazing what they learn by 2″.” -Susan G

I love the mom’s response! Yes!! Colors are for everyone.

Thanks to Susan for recognizing this moment and sharing it with us.

Gender Norm Brains

How early do children begin to exhibit an understanding of gender roles?

How early do children learn to limit themselves according to gender?

How does this impact childhood?

 

When our system of binary gender is ingrained by age 2 through socialization, can you see how children learn to:
1. Play along to get along, when it comes to gender roles. Girls do this and boys do that.
2. Limit themselves based on what is “for a boy” or “for a girl” through learned gendered coding of colors.

Using the example above, let’s play a game of what if’s:

1. What if *only* the blue/red head phones had been sitting out? Could the very little girl have thought computers are for boys because she didn’t see any pink tipping her off that computer time is also for girls?

2. If she’s learned this early that pink things are for girls and non-pink things are for boys, could the color coded toys of childhood today heavily influence her toy/play choices?
If yes, what toys are typically pink and what toys are typically not pink? What cognitive skills develop from different types of play? What cognitive skills are not developed when types of play are limited or avoided?

3. Finally, if the understanding of gender is influencing her activity choices from age 2, how would we ever know what her true interests are or could have been?

Childhood is a time for great exploration that should not be impeded by the pink or blue boxes we place our sons and daughters in, sometimes as early as that 20 week ultrasound.

We don’t let our children develop as unique and complex individuals, we let them grow up as members of one gender or the other. Their childhoods shaped by the expectations of the gender society limits them to.

 

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Melissa headshot 1 fb sizeMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

We Are Approaching This All Wrong: It’s a child

“What is it?” is usually the first thing expectant parents are asked. It does seem a bit odd that we bring a new life into the world and our custom is to zero in on itty bitty baby genitals and predetermine who that person will be based on biological sex and our cultural understanding of gender.

I suggest we let gender be the least salient quality we see in a children, and instead see each child for the unique person they are.

But I digress…….

“What is it? It’s a child.”  by European children’s apparel company Villervalla.

 

Which approach seems a more fitting way to welcome into our world a newly born life?

Villervalla

 

And this isn’t a bad idea either……

Source unknown

Source: idiopathicsmile tumblr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just over half of parents find out the sex of their baby during pregnancy, the rest choose to be surprised. Important to note here – parents find out the sex of the baby, male or female, in ultrasound. The gender of the baby comes later, and may not always align with the biological sex. All those “It’s a boy!” and “Congrats on your little girl!” balloons should more accurately read “It’s a male!” and “Congrats on your little female!” For many parents, once the sex of the baby is revealed their world begins to fill with gendered items in a wave of pink or blue. Ballerinas or baseball bats, princesses or pirates. When it comes to baby items, it is usually “either or” not “this AND this”, which is a shame because when we limit our children we limit our children.

For those parents who don’t find out their baby’s sex in utero, some feel it helps them get through the delivery knowing the “big reveal” is just a few (or fifty) pushes away. Or they feel the sex of the baby doesn’t really matter, either way they are having a brand new child –  a very tiny person who will need to learn, explore, experience, and love all there is to life regardless their “boy or girl” status.

Some parents feel knowing the sex helps them connect to the little life they will soon be in charge of caring for, for others it makes the pregnancy seem more real and parenting more doable. For some it helps with planning, deciding on a name, or they are just so excited to meet their son or daughter and want to know everything they can as soon as they can. Happy healthy families is what we’re after so we should be respectful of individual family’s choices and joyfully welcome them to parenthood.

Whatever your family chose to do or chooses to do in the future, let’s just remember one really important fact: There are many ways to be a girl and many ways to be a boy. And all of childhood is magical.

 

*Hat tip to @HippieHappy_ and @LetToysBeToys for the Villervalla video.

** If you know the original source of the Parenting Tip image, please let us know so that we can properly credit. (Update: Found it!)

 

MAW Profile PicMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can read her blog at: www.pigtailpalsblog.com or connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals).

MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant Recipients Break Down Gender Stereotypes

2013 MacArthur Foundation fellows (Image: New York Times)

The latest recipients of the MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius Grant’ have just been announced and there are some seriously amazing people on this list. The award recognizes work in the arts, sciences, and social justice issues by creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. This year thirteen men and eleven women received the honor of becoming a MacArthur fellow.

How does this relate to gender stereotypes and sexualization in childhood, the issues PPBB is concerned about? When I read through the bios of the new fellows, it struck me how many of them are being celebrated for their life’s work that completely goes against the gender stereotypes being marketed to millions of kids today. It got me thinking about how many other genius careers the world has been shorted because a boy was told not to dance, because a girl was never thought to be bright in the sciences or math. When we make gender the most salient quality about a person, we fail to see the rest of their being and the capability and creativity that rests there. Too often we allow gender stereotypes to dictate what we think we know about a person, instead of allowing them to show us who they can be in this world.

How many geniuses are we missing?

I want you to do something with your kids. Look at this group and discuss:

~ gender parity and racial diversity in the group
~ how many of the fellows are breaking down gender stereotypes in their work by proving to be excellent at what they do
~ question if mainstream media celebrates these Americans, or celebs with far less accomplishments? why? what do we value as a society?
~ several of the recipients talk about using their grant to give back to their community, as opposed to buying a new house or fancy car or new wardrobe; is that a message the media emphasizes?

Then I want you to take the list below to your nearest toy store and compare the work these recognized geniuses are doing against the media and toy themes being marketed to children and discuss in what ways are boys and girls being encouraged to grow into their full potential and in what ways are they being limited by the gender stereotypes that invade their childhoods.

Male fellows are: choreographer, writer, teacher, paleobotanist, physician, organic chemist, materials scientist, behavioral economist, concert pianist, composer, agricultural ecologist, playwright

Ask your child: Are boys encouraged to dance? Create music? Write? Care for others? Care about the world around them or just become masters over it?

Female fellows are: research psychologist, medieval historian, computer scientist, medical anthropologist, statistician, neuroscientist, theoretical physicist, writer, astrophysicist, immigration lawyer, photographer

Ask your child: Are girls encouraged to be a storyteller of history? Work with computers? Be excellent and math and physics? Change laws? Be behind the camera instead of smiling sweetly in front of it?

{Please click HERE for a full view of the 2013 class of fellows and short bios.}
How many geniuses are we missing because we allow gender stereotypes to sell our kids short?