“We’ve always done it this way.” That sentence always makes me stop in my tracks. Growing up, I never questioned when someone would say that girls and boys should act a certain way. I knew that the reason my little brother was allowed to do things at a younger age than I was allowed to was that he was a boy, and I wasn’t. Because he was a boy, he was allowed, and things were different for him. That’s just how it was.
Then I got pregnant, and I realized that I didn’t want to fit my future child into a box. If I ended up with one of each, I didn’t want my daughter or my son to think that one was given certain privileges just because one chromosome was different. My husband felt the same way I did.
We were going to raise a child, not a gender.
To start our campaign against the pink versus blue mentality, we decided not to find out the gender of our baby until birth. Our decision forced our families and us to provide gender-neutral gifts, which was what we wanted. We focused on the fact that we were going to have a ‘baby’ versus focusing on what their gender would be. It made it so much easier to enjoy the pregnancy, and honestly, it was one of the greatest surprises of our lives.
Once Madison graced us with her presence in April of 2017, we then decided that we would not allow for the norms that come with having a girl. While we were gifted with pink and frilly outfits, those weren’t the only ones in her closet. We bought clothes from the boy section. We bought gender-neutral toys and chose a neutral theme of woodlands for her nursery.
My husband and I decided that we wouldn’t inundate her with princess themed movies or TV shows early on.
Instead, we chose to show her movies, and tv shows that either featured animals, objects (like cars and trains) or had a healthy mix of male and female characters. People are shocked when I tell them my daughter prefers to play with cars, trains, and read books versus playing with her kitchen set.
When we speak to her we don’t focus on her looks or call her names like ‘princess,’ instead we talk to her about her abilities, her kindness, thank her for her manners, and call her ‘baby.’ (We really need to stop calling her baby because she’s convinced that’s her name.)
Now I don’t want you to think we look down or scoff when we hear or see other parents with girls or boys reinforcing the norms. It happens, sometimes girls love princesses and boys love cars, and that’s okay. But we shouldn’t expect that those are the only things they will like. We should give them the chance to explore other themes.
Boys should play with dolls and be allowed to dress up as a princess if they want. Girls can get dirty in the mud, build with blocks, and crash together cars if they’d like.
We should be breaking with traditional gender norms and allowing our children to simply be themselves.
They will have likes and dislikes; they will explore their feelings and us as their parents, their support system should encourage them.