the other day i was talking with a coworker about gender neutrality in regards to parenting. i have started to realize that our son is coming to a point in life where he only wants to do "boy" things. well, let me rephrase...he wants to take cooking classes and hip hop dance classes, but he doesn't want his friends to know about it.
as a parent, i have found it (so far) to be very easy to not push any kind of gender issues on my kids. eva plays with trucks and henry likes to cook (and yes, i am aware that by writing these words, i am saying trucks are a boy thing and cooking is a girl thing...bear with me, please). when you have young children, there is no peer pressure for girls to be girly and boys to be masculine (unless in comes from an overbearing adult). kids at that age might lean towards masculine or feminine tendencies, but they really have no clues about stereotyping.
henry is getting older now, and he has a wide range of friends. some like to read and play science games, some like to play football, and some like to climb under the bathroom doors after they've locked them just to be funny. the thing i've noticed is that henry really tries a bit harder to please the latter two groups. he loves to read and experiment, but he tries so hard to prove himself in school as an athlete and a class clown. and now i realize i'm going to have to start dealing with a whole other set of issues. when your kids are babies, you have to worry about sleeping and eating and changing diapers. now, as they grow up, you have to worry about how they fit in at school, what they are willing to do to fit in, and how other kids react if they don't fit in.
i want henry to take dance and cooking classes. i mean, as an adult, what woman doesn't love a man who can cook and dance? am i right? so i will continue to encourage these activities. but as my coworker pointed out to me, you also have to look out for your child in the sense that you don't want them to be made fun of for participating in said activities (and yes, some of his more "jock" friends would and will make fun of him). in fact, this particular coworker went so far as to say that if boys are still dominantly playing with dolls at the age of 13, than they probably need some sort of therapy. (for the record, i adamantly disagree with this thought.)
so i'm asking you today, if you have children, how do you plan on raising them to be well rounded and unbullied? if you don't have children, what is your take on the issue? i always thought it would be easy to raise your kids to not see gender in making their decisions...but that was before they learned how to talk. i still think we are doing a great job as parents...it just gets harder as they get older. i can't wait to hear everyone's feedback.