Until It Isn’t

It is easy to practice what you preach, until it isn’t.

A popular topic of parenting humor on social media is a list of all of the things you swore you would never do as a parent, until you became one.  I read them and laugh, knowing that most of them are true of myself and probably most of the other parents of young children that I know.  Many years ago I might have groaned out of annoyance as a child of any age sat near me on an airplane, for example, and now my chest aches with pity and empathy for the haggard mom with the screaming baby in the row behind me, because I have been there too.
As my oldest child approaches school-age, I find myself running into more and more examples of situations that just aren’t as easy to stick to my guns as I thought they would be.  Not putting a DVD player in the minivan in order to encourage discussion and imagination?  Simple.  Limiting TV for my child to a set amount of time each day?  Easy….until I had twins.  Staying calm during temper tantrums and trying to re-direct into more positive activities?  Hard in any situation.  But even I am surprised by my newest challenge – ignoring gender stereotypes.

My four-year-old is a boy, and my three-month-old twins are girls.  I have never been one to believe for one minute that girls should have everything pink and only boys should play with trucks.  I couldn’t bear to wear pink until I was well into my 20’s and dressing professionally.  I started watching sports as early as I can remember and started playing them as soon as the leagues would allow my age.  My husband does most of the cooking, and I will readily admit he is much better at it than me.  So of course it should be easy to continue living these examples with my children, right?

It is easy to practice what you preach, until it isn’t.

My daughters wear some baby clothes that are meant for girls, and hand-me-downs from my son that are meant for boys.  They just stay in the house and spit up on them anyway, who cares?  But after a nurse commented that “I must not have known I was having girls” when I dressed them in neutral-colored clothing for a doctor appointment, I made sure they were wearing something girly to the next one, even though I felt a pang of regret for the reason I was dressing them that way.

I think my son is the sweetest little boy in the world.  When he uses his manners, or sings to himself while he plays with his toys, or gives hugs to his friends and family without being prompted, I just want to squeeze him forever. Two of his favorite things right now are the Disney cartoon “Doc McStuffins” and the Disney movie “Frozen.”  Doc McStuffins is about a little girl who plays a doctor that fixes and cares for toys.  Frozen is a movie with two sisters as the main characters, who end up (SPOILER ALERT) saving each other instead of the handsome prince coming to save the day. (If you haven’t seen that movie yet, it is amazing, go see it).  I couldn’t be more proud that he chooses these types of stories to enjoy.  But when he was so excited to tell me that a friend at school (a girl) had on a Frozen t-shirt, instead of my usual response of “That’s awesome, do you think you would like something like that too?”, I simply said “That’s awesome.”  When he saw the Frozen dolls while picking out a gift for a birthday party, or the big Frozen castle, I said it cost too much money (which it did) knowing full well that I didn’t want to buy it even if it didn’t.  When he asked for the Doc McStuffins play set, all kinds of glittery, pink, and purple, so he could have check-ups with his stuffed animals too, I procrastinated even looking into it until it was long sold-out for the Christmas season. That wasn’t pre-meditated, but I’ll admit a little bit of relief that it was.  And through all of this the part of my pre-parent brain that thought all of this color stuff was nonsense just looks at this weak mother, caving to the pressures of society, bug-eyed and disappointed.  I’m not actively discouraging him, but I’m not actively encouraging like I should be, either.  Why do I care what “they” would think?  I know I would steal the moon for my children, and I know that I want them to believe that they can be whoever they want to be, and like whatever they want to like, but it is harder than I thought to ignore outside influences.

It is easy to practice what you preach, until it isn’t.

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3 thoughts on “Until It Isn’t

  1. I cringe at the things I say to my son about gender types but what I think is even worse is I don't put any parameters around the girls. You want a monster truck or only gym shoes. Sure. I keep trying to do better

    Like

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