Nov 08 2013
I was going to write something different today and then I read this:
‘Why My Kids Are Not The Center Of My World’ Is Great, Except For The Part About Bullying
So then, I went and read this:
“Why My Kids Are Not The Center Of My World” which to be fair I actually didn’t read after I read the Mommyish article because bullying as you can see in my earlier post this week, is an issue for me simply because of the lack of it actually BEING bullying in the traditional sense of the word. Then a couple of my friends shared the link to the original article and really liked it so I had to be fair and read it.
Aside from it being centered which is annoying, I got what she was saying. I also have to show a little solidarity since we are both from the same general area and probably live in similar worlds.
What strikes me about all of the anti-article posts is the fact that people are annoyed with the “gender stereotyping” which is NOT a thing for me. However, most of them skipped over the bullying sentiment. Some bashed her age and “inexperience” and some bashed her because her boys are so young and she doesn’t have a clue. I disagree with a lot of that.
I don’t think she is inexperienced because I believe she’s of the generation that started to see the sheer cruelty rather than bullying and she probably remembers that. I’m more removed from high school than her and I still remember what bullying was like. I was not bullied because I just didn’t tolerate it. I’m fairly strong willed and didn’t let people bully me, the one time someone tried I shut it down and people realized it wasn’t worth it. That doesn’t work now because they are more persistent and in my day, bullies were largely just talk a threat here or there, a prank phone call, etc… Now, they gang up on you and they don’t stop at talking or a prank phone call but a relentless campaign to destroy the person they dislike begins and never seems to end until they’ve accomplished their ultimate goal.
I digress though… The thing I wanted to REALLY address was the gender stereotyping backlash. I have two very different kids. I also have family members who didn’t identify with their sexuality and at the time they didn’t, it was not acceptable under any circumstances to show it. Times have changed, but kids really have not. I have seen the backlash over Barbie and LEGO, I have seen people flip when LEGO released a “LEGO Friends” line or when Mattel made pink Matchbox cars. It’s just not a thing people. Kids are kids. I am FAR more concerned over the lack of imaginative play in today’s kids than I am with whether or not they play with pink or green or purple blocks. Too many kids are in front of a video game, using an iPad, or on a computer and not enough kids are actually out playing anyway. If you’re honest, how much time does your child spend actually playing with their toys as opposed to playing video games or watching TV? When I was young we were outside from sun up to sun down and let me tell you, we played as a group in my neighborhood and even in my grandma’s neighborhood. We were a mix gender group and we ALL played school, house, or cops and robbers. We played kickball and baseball in the middle of the street or in a field, and we rode our bikes and caused general kid mayhem. In fact, the kids who weren’t outside playing with us were actually the “outcasts” of our time so to speak. I also grew up in a neighborhood and school where we were all friends. There was no bullying because we were together from K-12th grade and until Jr. High we were inseparable and tight knit. In Junior High and High School of course we diversified some and some of us chose sports, music, etc… and kids from other elementary schools were introduced in to our lives and we spent less time as our tight knit group and more time as individuals with new friends and new interests and that’s how it should be. However, my mom never worried that by my loving Barbie or Cabbage Patch Dolls (which I collected and had an extremely impressive collection of, btw) or my playing with Matchbox cars or in the dirt, would identify my sex and therefore should be monitored. Of course I am from Wyoming as well so we ALL knew how to shoot, and no one worried that playing with guns, real or otherwise was going to cause a mass shooting. I realize times have changed, but really kids have changed only in that they have become a product of a cruel society, and not because they chose to learn to shoot a weapon or played trucks or with pink blocks. Kids who are guilty of mass shootings are guilty of mass shootings because they are struggling with something entirely different than whether or not they had a cap gun or a Barbie. To say it is because they had cap guns or played a video game is in my opinion ludicrous. In my uneducated opinion kids who are not born gender confused just really don’t give a crap what they play with and will play with whatever they are given to play with and don’t have the ability to truly rationalize what it means regarding their identifying as a boy or girl anyway.
My daughter loves all things girl including the *gasp* LEGO Friends collection. She also loves playing in mud puddles and playing trucks with her cousin. As a matter of fact, when she was a toddler she preferred trucks. I have no idea why because her brother was never a truck kid. He was in to LEGOS, Star Wars and Transformers and things he could tear apart and put back together. The first actual thing she asked for that could be remotely considered gender based was a kitchen. That same year my nephew who’s a few months younger, got the same kitchen because he loved hers. None of us gave one single thought to whether or not we were forcing a gender on them and because we didn’t they just flat didn’t give it a thought either. Now, she won’t wear clothes that aren’t pink, purple, or teal and she’s in to dresses and hair bands, but she will still choose to sit and play trucks with her cousin over playing with her more sedate female cousins who are in to dance and gymnastics and don’t like to get dirty. She lives and breathes hockey because that’s what her brother does and she loves it in her own right and will probably take more misconduct penalties than any other kid out there because she’s very physical in all she does. She also likes soccer but she hated dance (with the exception of picture day and recital when she could wear make up). She loves having her nails painted but they always have dirt under them. She doesn’t hate dance because it’s girly, there were boys in her classes. She hated dance because she lacks the grace and finesse to be a dancer and gain is very physical in everything she does.
As for my son? He still prefers things he can tear apart and put back together, but he also loves to go shooting and has had hunter’s safety. He’s not in to tractors or trucks and just recently started to show a serious affinity for sports cars but that’s because he’s a couple of years away from driving age. He lives and breathes hockey and if he’s home he’s with his friends and they do whatever they feel like at that moment, everything else is extraneous. He loves to go shooting with his dad and uncle and cousins, he loves to ride 4-wheelers and dirt bikes, and he loves to look at sport’s cars. No one would ever guess he hauled around 3 separate, identical Blue’s Clues blankets when he was little and could not be separated from them. If you catch him doing anything that doesn’t have to do with “hanging with his friends” or playing hockey, it’s generally shooting balls at a hockey net in the driveway breaking windows or shooting his air soft gun at a target.
My point is this, kids if allowed imaginative play will try everything. If they want gender specific toys it’s just not a thing. If they want an opposite gender toy it’s also not a thing. It becomes a thing when parents, family members, teachers, etc… over think it and make it a thing. Almost all children are born one sex or another, what toys they play with is going to have no bearing on who they become as an adult. Don’t want your kids playing with toy guns because you are afraid they will take that as an OK to be violent? Your choice, but when they are out using sticks to play cops and robbers they don’t need rushed to the psychologist’s office for threat testing. They are simply being kids and you should let them explore, play, and truly just be them because more important than stifling any creative play (even if it is cops and robbers or playing house with definitive gender roles) is stifling their creativity and keeping them locked in the house in front of the television or a video game.
Let your kids be kids, let them diversify and create and imagine and don’t try to break any molds or stereotypes with them because in the long run they don’t give a crap about whether or not it’s a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy, they just want to make friends and have fun.
If they start killing neighborhood cats and dogs or self harming or become moody or withdrawn, then worry your ass off, but I all but guarantee you they aren’t doing any of that because they played with a Barbie doll or a toy gun or wore pink, green, blue, or rainbow colored clothing. They are doing it because they are in need of help because they have a serious issue that most likely has NOTHING to do with what toys they had and EVERYTHING to do with what’s going on in their peer group or their heads. In a world where kids are forced to grow up too quickly and have threat drills at school, there is so much more we have to worry about than what toys they choose to play with. If we just let them be kids there would be so much less to worry about.