donut holes, not gender roles // part III
First, we role play.
We began setting aside time to come up with candid comebacks to the “Why do you have a boy haircut?” and the “Why do you dress like a boy?” statements of the world.
I told her, my job as her mom was to help her navigate the world and if she wants to dress a certain way, a way that will garner more attention than she is used to then great. Let’s figure this out. This was so important to me because she was so excited when she cut her hair and picked out her clothes that she shined at home, but that shine was scuffed when we were out in the world. She would close in on herself and mumble through tears when someone would rudely make comments. THIS was something we could control, and I felt like was an easy place to start. We can’t control how they are going to act and what they are going to say, but we can begin to control how she responds.
“Why do you look like a boy and have a boy haircut?” Crouching down and mumbling through tears, is now becoming standing tall and saying confidently, “I am a girl who likes short hair. I love how it feels on my neck and I like the way I look.”
People. This works and I, as an adult, I am taking notes. If you stand confident in your choices, people notice, in a good way.
Second, we tap into our strengths and expand our circle.
In an effort to take the focus off of how she looks (this seems to be the new topic of conversation for almost middle school girls, seems early to me, but alas…), we have been diving deep into what she enjoys.
As the second child, Bear tends to get the small end of the stick when it comes to after school activities. I have always felt guilty about this, but this gave me the push I needed to make her after school time the priority for once and not always her older brother.
She is so so so creative that art and music classes have been on her wish list for a while now. Let’s do it. This makes my calendar a lot more difficult to manage, especially with school in the evenings, but it is expanding her peer circle in such a positive way right now, that the pros outweigh the cons for sure. So new weekly art classes, play practices, and band practices are in the rotation. It has been such a short time with this new routine, but I have already seen the confidence boost she gets from being surrounded by people her age with the same interests.
Lastly, we represent.
Parenting is such a trip and sometimes it can be super confusing to even the child. I mean, they grow up in this little bubble of love, unconditional love and acceptance. Then they go out into the world and it is harsh, people judge them, don’t give a shit about them, and I can see how it leaves them confused. Like with Bear, “you told me I could wear whatever I wanted and look what happened.” They want someone to blame, I get it, doesn’t make it easy, but I get it.
Representation matters, not just for children, but for all of us. For example, when I see people like Jessamyn, it reminds me that YES, I am allowed to take up space and that bigger bodies ARE in fact allowed to be a part of the yoga community. You don’t see that represented as the norm, so representation like that matters to me.
We have always been an inclusive household, but recently my views on representation have held more weight. These days our role models look like Abby Wambach, Billie Eilish, Jennie Finch, P!NK, Raina Telgemeier, Tess Holliday, and best of all, Johnathan Van Ness. Each showing a strength in character, mind, body, activism, authenticity and a commitment to owning their identity and all that comes with it; their strengths and their weaknesses.
Reflecting on all this seems silly and part of me reads this and is like, DUH WOMAN, this is how you raise a confident person. However, I have made thoughtful changes to my parenting approach over the last few months to tend to a new and deep inner issue my daughter was having. These deep inner issues are going to be coming more and more with this stage of parenting I am in and I am hyper conscious of putting my best foot forward.
My goal is no longer keeping them alive until the end of the day, as much of parenting toddlers and children is, it is now focused on helping shape a whole person who will grow into an adult that, fingers crossed, knows who they are, loves themselves, has inner drive, and self confidence, just to name a few. The stakes in this parenting game just got a whole lot higher.
This was one of the first times that I saw a serious negative change in one of my children’s psyche and it not only broke my heart, but scared me and made me feel helpless. I know it won’t be the last time this happens, but I am learning along side them both and hoping I do my best to let them see the beautiful souls that I see smiling back at me each morning.
Oh…back to that lady in the McDonald’s bathroom..
I ran in there all fired up and ready to cut a bitch, but she was already gone. I took me a while to calm down and both kids noticed. I won’t ever forget that feeling, that carnal mama bear feeling of wanting to protect my children at all cost.
It’s what drives us mamas and papas, let’s just make sure we use that drive for positive change. Like The WHO definition of gender we spoke about before,
…the socially constructed characteristics of women and men, such as norms, roles, and relationships of and between groups of women and men. It varies from society to society and can be changed.
It’s that last part that sticks out to me now, …can be changed.
Let’s make a change, it’s about time don’t you think?
Note: Bear has read and consented to the above story.