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When my son was about 6 months old, I found myself scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed one afternoon as he snoozed on my lap. I came across a post from MAM USA with a picture of one of their new pacifier designs – a white background with a simple solid blue heart in the center. The caption underneath read: “What do you think of our new design for boys?”
I smiled, looking down at my sleeping babe, who happened to have that exact pacifier in his mouth. I “liked” the post, and continued scrolling down past their photo. Then, something caught my eye. I noticed there were a handful of comments posted under the photo.
“I would NEVER let my son wear or use anything with hearts on it!”
“Hearts are for girls. Period.”
“That’s a little too girly for a boy.”
“I would buy this for my son, but my husband would kill me!”
Suddenly, the happiness that derived from looking at my sweet little baby boy nursing on his heart printed pacifier in blissful slumber was gone. In its place, the feelings of embarrassment and shame began to brew in the pit of my stomach.
And, then, they quickly turned to anger.
The thoughts that these women were expressing had literally never crossed my mind before. “Gender Roles” was a nonissue in my mind. But now, something that brought joy and happiness to me just moments before, was tainted by the fears and opinions of others.
This was a defining moment in my journey as a mother. Isn’t it funny how these moments can sneak up on you when you’re sitting on your couch in your bathrobe, holding your sleeping baby, on a random Tuesday afternoon?
But I knew in that moment, that I had to decide how I was going to raise my son. Would I be like those other mothers who left the comments on that photo? Would I put pressure on my little boy to be everything that being a male entails? Would I dictate his choices throughout life, and only encourage those that displayed what society deemed manly? Would I only let him wear blue clothing, play with trucks and dinosaurs and never let him touch a doll in fear that, somehow, it might shape him into something society didn’t want him to be?
Or would I encourage physical, mental and emotional growth and development through every facet of life – leaving no stone unturned? Would I let him decide what he likes to wear, play with and be inspired by? Would I give him the platform and the tools to experience life freely – uninfluenced by outdated social norms?
As I posted my comment under theirs (a photo of my son with his blue heart pacifier), the answer to my questions became pretty clear.
I will raise my children to be their own people.
Today, my son is 3 and a half years old. He received a Kidkraft Kitchen for his 2nd Christmas. He cooks in it every day and makes us all of his favorite food. His 3rd birthday was “dinosaur” themed; and his favorite movie is Godzilla. He pushes his three Corolle babies around the house in their stroller, and tells us to be quiet when he lays them down to nap. He loves super heroes and can tell you every single Avenger’s special power if you ask him. Sometimes he rides around the house on his little sister’s pink Minnie Mouse car, and other times on his tractor. He often pretends he’s a ninja. He wears blue shirts and pink shirts. He and his sister have matching moccasins with feathers on them. He is the same little boy who once had a pacifier with a blue heart on it.
My husband and I made a conscious decision together that day, a few years ago, after I told him about the pacifier comments. And we continue to make it day after day, and apply the same principle to how we raise both our son and our daughter. It’s something that comes naturally to us, but sadly, not to everyone around us.
How non-diverse would the world be if little boys were discouraged from playing with kitchen sets and play food, which in turn, never fueled a potential future passion for culinary arts?
How inhibiting would it be if little girls were only encouraged to play with dolls, and therefore, never got the chance to expand their other interests and explore their potential in male-driven fields?
How can we teach our sons to be loving and nurturing fathers when we tell them it’s not their place to learn how to nurture a baby?
It might not seem like a big deal to say, “You don’t want to play with that tea set. That’s for girls!” It might not even be a conscious choice, but more so a subconscious one, to buy the pacifier with the football on it instead of the blue heart.
But your children are listening to everything you say. They are studying everything you do.
They are learning how to:
BE… ACT… FEEL… THINK… FEAR… HATE…LOVE…
…by your choices.
Make GOOD choices.
Make CONSCIOUS choices.
Make choices that will make CHANGES.
Our children deserve to grow up in a world that is not tainted and driven by the fears of past generations. This is their time – their world – their lives. Let them live it freely. Let them live it open-mindedly.
Let them live it…
Photo Credit: Marley Laynes Closet