It’s amazing what you realize about yourself once you become a parent.
I didn’t form truly independent thought until I was heading into college. Raised in a very Catholic and somewhat sheltered environment, my mind was blown when I started my first year at USC.
As children, we tend to believe what our parents believe – faith, politics and our general worldview.
No dig to my parents: they taught me the value of honesty, hard work and treating others kindly – traits I hope I can pass on to my own daughters. But it does make me pause and hope I’m allowing my daughters (four and 16 months) to form their own opinions without feeling ashamed. At this stage, it’s more about learning to disagree gracefully on things such as favorite color or favorite movie. But as my girls become independent young women, I want us to be able to disagree on bigger issues.
Bigger issues like gender equality, which amazingly, we’ve seen incredible progress in during our lifetime. And, in a roundabout way, this brings me to the point of this discourse: I never knew I was so passionate about gender stereotypes until I had kids.
My daughter’s name is Billie. Let’s start there. One would think with so many unique names on this planet, we wouldn’t have to “explain” why we chose the name we did. “Is it a family name?” “Is it her full name? Like on her birth certificate?”
Yes. And this, my friends, is not a new fangled “thing.” I give you Dana, Charlie, Ashley, Taylor …the list goes on.
But where I find myself becoming the most peeved is when it comes to stereotypes and expectations around gender-specific clothing and toys. It irks me beyond explanation, and the feeling has quite frankly even surprised me. Why do I care so much?
I finally figured it out after overhearing a recent conversation among two four-year-olds:
“Do you have a brother?” asks random little girl.
“No,” says my daughter Billie.
“Then why are you wearing Cars sandals?”
….and this one between a mother and daughter in Target. As my daughter and I pick out a T-shirt in the “boy” section, a similarly aged little girl walks over.
“Oh no, honey,” said her mom. “That’s for BOYS.”
I figured it out.
I care because I don’t want my daughters to make assumptions or judge others simply because of the way they dress or the toys and activities they decide to take part in.
I do realize the irony here. I’m hoping my daughters grow up to be non-judgmental as I sit here and judge other parents. I also realize that I have these types of parents among my circle of friends, and I have to gracefully and tactfully find the right words to politely disagree with their approach.
Because ultimately, my goal is to teach my daughters to be able to do the same – to stand up for themselves and others when they decide to like something that is considered “unconventional.”