I was about five years old when I learnt a valuable lesson on the differences between boys and girls.
Standing in the playground, desperate for a wee but too far for a dash to the loos, I debated whether I too could successfully do the relieving deed whilst standing up. All of 10 seconds of debating with myself and I stood straddled over the drain when I realised something was very, very wrong. I spent the rest of the day in my soaking wet trousers, humiliated, embarrassed and having learnt an extremely important lesson: boys and girls are not the same.
Yes, I was wearing trousers, not a skirt. Red trousers, although now some parts were redder than others. I loved dolls but also loved playing with my dad's carpentry tools. I sang songs and twirled around, but liked rolling down hills and getting muddy too. I wanted to try on my mum's make up, but also liked watching football.
What I liked, what I played with, what I wore, none of it made any difference to who I was. I was me. It was that simple.
There seems to be this puzzling trend lately with parents - mums in particular - taking offence at anything and everything which may have any form of gender specification linked to it.
From rebellion against Disney Princesses, to shop's classifications of separate boys' and girls' toys, to what colour their child's wardrobe does, or more to the point, absolutely does not include, there seems to be a ready-made army of parents who just want to find an argument out of - nothing.
Facebook statuses are cheeringly shared with the sisterhood, with mums raising victorious virtual fists in the air as they forward the rebellious image declaring 'Pick any colour for me as long as it's not pink!' on behalf of their daughters. Forum conversations are rife with proud boasts that parents will never call their daughter beautiful or their son handsome as they don't want to add to the atrocious stereotypical idea that they should be either.
'I will not buy my daughter a doll - ever!' some haughtily add, as if doing so will cause their child to turn into a simpering, incapable wreck of an adult.
Amusing as it can be, I find these examples and others like them quite alarming.
So what if Disney Princesses and fairy tales talk about happy ever after? Don't men and women alike both want to live a contented life, or is it just limited to coy, eye-lash fluttering girlies who brush their hair all day singing songs about finding their true loves?
So what if your son or daughter grows up believing they are the most beautiful thing you've ever set eyes on? Is it not better that than for them to be wondering what was so wrong that you couldn't even mention their appearance?
So what if your daugher has a doll? Put it with the cars and trucks and books.
So what if their wardrobes have clothes in every colour - including pink?
Denying something doesn't make your child equal to the opposite sex. Denying something means making them less equal. Give them the choice of what to play with, what to wear, what colour they choose or what they like to do.
It might mean that your daughter plays with cars whilst wearing their favourite pink, frilly dress, or that your son tenderly practises changing a doll's nappy before running off to make a mud pie to feed it.
Girls and boys are different. They always have been, they always will be, and no parental rebellion in the world will change that. By limiting their choices, you're doing exactly what you're aiming not to do - you're limiting who they are.
Let your children be who they are and allow them free reign to experience it all - the princesses and fairy tales, the tree-climbing and mud pies, the dressing-up box and the wardrobe of whatever colours the clothes are. It may be that your son is a boy's boy, or your daughter is a girlie girl despite your best efforts to keep them away from any gender stereotypes. It may mean the opposite. Don't bring politics into their childhoods and stop making arguments out of nothing.
Let your child be themselves.
This isn't your childhood, it's theirs.
Let them be.
Especially if it means believing in happy ever afters.
Larger Family Life was created to offer an insight on life in a large family and to promote and encourage family life. Tania and her husband Michael currently have 12 children ranging from 20 years down to their latest addition born in November 2012. Their 13th child is due in early 2014.
Blogs at: Larger Family Life
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