Gender Stereotypes Don’t Need To Dictate Your Child’s After-School Activities (or Toys)
Raise your hand if you’re tired of gender stereotypes influencing what activities your kids do after school and what toys they play with 🙋♀️
I’m not going to lie… The first time I put my son in a ballet class, I had an ulterior motive.
While I would beam to the other parents and our family that my son just loved dancing, the truth was, I was getting really tired of trying to entertain him (and keep him from running into traffic) while his big sister took her class.
At first, it was fun to be a “Waiting Room Mom” to a newborn and even one-year-old, but trying to keep an 18-month-old entertained in a room full of trophies that shouldn’t be touched, students’ bags that shouldn’t be palmed by perpetually sticky toddler hands and an exterior door constantly kept open for airflow was a feat I just didn’t want to attempt anymore.
(I think it’s healthy I could identify my breaking point.)
And that’s how my son got into dancing.
Today, he’s five and while he doesn’t do ballet anymore, he goes to the same dance school where he now takes Acro and Breakdancing. At the end of year dance recital, he can’t wait to take the stage and will proudly perform his routine anywhere, anytime.
Even though it’s 2021 and I like to think we’ve come a really long way with how society views what types of toys boys and girls should play with as well as what extracurricular activities they should do, I still get the audible eye-roll and awkward pregnant pause whenever someone learns that my son likes to dance.
I also get the following:
“He’ll grow out of it.”
“It’s just a phase.”
“What does his father think of that?”
Do you want to know how I answer?
I hope he doesn’t grow out of it because I really like watching ballet, musical theatre performances and dance sequences in made-for Netflix teen movies.
If it’s just a phase, I hope it’s one that instills confidence, empathy and enviable flexibility.
His father thinks our son does the best Backstreet Boys impersonation on this side of the Mississippi!
Sadly, it’s not just after-school activities that people judge. It’s also toys.
I was talking to my friend, Zoe, about what she’s getting her son, who’s nearly three, for his birthday. She told me that she’s getting him a play kitchen, but that while at the store, an older woman – roughly in her low to mid-70s said, “SHE’S going to love it.” Zoe corrected her. “Thanks, but it’s for my son.” The woman looked uneasy and seemingly wanted to reassure Zoe so she said, “Don’t worry – he’ll grow out of it.”
Since Zoe is like most moms who operate on zombie mode, she just awkwardly smiled and left. And then in the car had the mental rant of her life. “Grow out of what? Wanting to be able to prepare food for himself, his family or his friends? His chef goals?”
As she relayed the situation to me I shared an instance where my son wanted to play dress-up with my daughter and her friends at a BBQ. As he whirled and twirled in a sparkly gown one of the kid’s grandfathers said to me, “Let’s hope that’s just a phase.”
At the time, I gave him that dry mouth smile and wide eye look that says, “I’m agreeing with you, but only because you’re my friend’s dad and this is her house and I don’t feel like she’d appreciate my sassy comment about your homophobia.” Just like Zoe though, the rant in my head as I left was nearly audible. “Why would I want my child’s ability to socialize, imagine, play, act, dance, and twirl just be a phase?!”
Zoe agreed. She also told me about how both of her sons have loved pushing strollers around and that again, women and men of a certain age, love to comment and offer support that, “They’ll grow out of it.” Here’s what Zoe said,
“I don’t want to see my children grow out of feeling paternal and nurturing. My sons are pushing strollers around because they see strong male role models, like their own father, and their friends’ fathers, push strollers around and that’s a good thing.”
As the mother of both a boy and a girl, I’m not trying to live in a gender-neutral house. I love celebrating my daughter’s femininity and my son’s masculinity. However, I also love seeing the cross over and knowing that they will grow up feeling like they have equal opportunities in the workplace and equal responsibilities at home. (And in dance class.)
- What We’re Reading: Why Fighting Your Children’s Battles Can Do More Harm?
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