My children are, I suspect, no different than any other children, in general terms. As their mother, I know I’m biased when it comes to specifics. 🙂 Yesterday, however, I had the doubtful privilege of mediating yet another argument. This one ran along a different vein than the usual “stop bugging me/he hit me/she took my ____/they won’t play with me”.
I had noticed, over the last month or so, the occasional insult hurled at a sibling that sounds something like this: “You’re a girl/boy!” The resulting fuss hasn’t been enough to warrant my direct intervention, and often the issue dies if I avoid making it into something. This, however, has not. Yesterday I finally decided that something needed to be done. The insidious nature of societal gender prejudice had been making its ugly way into our family life and I didn’t like it.
“You’re a girl!” D. said, innocently, being only four years old and still oblivious to gender “rights” and “wrongs”. There was no reply from the child who was the subject of the remark. It was taken up, however, with loud shrieks of laughter, by B., my daughter.
“You’re a girl! You’re a girl! A. is a girl!” There was immediate reaction this time.
“Well then, you’re a boy. Boy! Boy!” A. was indignant and humiliated, but he was going to do his best to give his sister her comeuppance. At this point I could not allow the gender discrimination to proceed further, or the argument to continue. The house might have gone up in flames aside from my desire to raise well-balanced members of society. I walked into the living room to see what had sparked the conflagration, and covered a smile. My eldest, A., 9.5 years old and generally past the stage of experimenting with womanly things, was wearing B.’s most beloved and prized dress-up dress, a golden, real-silk gown reserved for princess pretend. He hasn’t done that in at least a year. I was pretty sure I knew what was going on, though.
“It’s okay for A. to wear a dress if he likes. Maybe he just wants to see what it’s like, or play dress-up with you, B.. And God made girls and boys equally special and wonderful. It’s not right for the two of you to call the other a “boy” or a “girl” as though it were a bad thing. You are who you are, and God made you an important part of family,” I said, along with more along that line that probably didn’t need to be said. After all, if a little was good, more must be better. They got the gist of it. B. looked down at her shoes. A. looked at me quizzically and replied,
“But Mom, I was wearing this because it’s dust-colored [loud shrieks of protest from B. over this fresh insult] and I was driving my Nitro Door-Slammer and I was the dust cloud behind it because it goes so fast.”
Sigh. So much for a “teaching moment”.