Reiterating Family Values
I overheard my older son say to my younger son the other day, "You don't like sports? Aren't you a guy?" I was more than taken aback. We've worked hard in our family not to delineate roles and interests strictly by gender, and here was one of those declarations coming out of my son's mouth.
Since this bias obviously didn't come from his parents (his mom tends to be the mainstream sports fan, not so much his dad), where did it come from? Peers and the greater society, of course. The exchange served to remind me of the influences our children have beyond the walls of our home and that I need to remain vigilant and asserting our family's beliefs and values.
A world of possibilities
When the kids were younger, we made a conscious effort not to limit interests (including toys and such) based on gender. My boys loved cooking toys and my daughter loved trucks (and still does). We
also made the effort not to talk about roles, responsibilities and jobs in terms of girl or boy or mommy or daddy interests. Boys can like dancing, girls can like baseball, daddies can do laundry,
and mommies can master the grill - heck, men can be nurses, and women can be doctors.
Getting a little smug
At some point, with all the other demands of parenting, we stopped paying attention to this issue as closely as we had in the past. We got a little smug, figuring we'd done the base work. Even though we knew we'd have some indication that we'd need to address the issue again at some point, neither of us expected such a blatant gender-biased statement out of our son's mouth. Definitely it's time to readdress the issue.
We had a talk with our son about what we had said, and reiterated our point of view on gender roles. More specifically, we reminded him that we support the interests of all our children whether
they conform to "traditional" societal expectations or not. It's perfectly okay that his brother isn't into mainstream sports like football right now; maybe he will be one day, maybe he won't, but
he should never be put down for not conforming to that societal expectation. Similarly, his sister may become a huge sports fan and should never be dissuaded from that interest just because of her
gender. It didn't take long; he got it. Somewhere inside him those base lessons were still floating around.
For more on parenting kids: