Why We Need To Stop Separating Boys and Girls

Two amazing parents I follow on social media have recently shared their child’s struggles with finding a place in varying daily childhood activities. Personally, I have been struggling with the same concepts as I prepare for my twins to enter kindergarten this fall.

Again and again I see children split into two categories, whether in school, for activity groups, sports, you name it. These categories, more often than not, are “boys” and “girls”. If we stop to think, what are we telling young children?  Separating boys and girls at such a young age is the equivalent of screaming at them “you are different and should be treated that way!”  When I think about this I think about my own son Michael.

While Michael does identify as a boy he relates more to girls and enjoys more “girl” activities.  Telling a gender creative child  like Michael that he must be with the boys is like a giant slap in the face; telling him he shouldn’t like to hang out with the girls and it’s not ok that he relates more to the opposite sex.  The issue is further compounded by having to be around boys that he may not relate well to and who very well may be teasing him.

Gender Split

Splitting children into boy groups and girl groups are not setting our children up for effectively co-existing with the other sex later in life.  Society is incredibly diverse, most women work at some point in her life, even if choosing to stay home at one point to raise babies (same goes for dads too!).

In competitive settings such as sports or spelling bees, separating girls and boys implies that only one gender can be better than the other.  Keeping teams or groups mixed implies to children they must work together for better productivity and cohesiveness both in the workplace and at home.

To obtain a culture that eliminates gender biases and inequality then we must start teaching children at a young age to coexist.  We can not set an example that it’s boys vs girls by always dividing them.

If it’s necessary to split children up into smaller groups just get creative!  Who likes ice cream and who likes cake? Who likes to color who likes to paint?  There are many ways to segregate that isn’t based on gender, race, religion, etc.  In the end our children will learn to be more inclusive and work together in life leading to a society that promotes equality between genders.

 

Michael Goes to Therapy

This past week was Michael’s first therapy session.  I was so nervous for like two days before it I couldn’t stand it.  I don’t even know why!  I guess no one thinks it’s quite “normal” to take a 5 year old to therapy and most parents never think they will need to take their young one to therapy but I felt it was best to be proactive rather than reactive.  So what I didn’t envision until the teen years jumped ahead a bit.

I did a lot of research to find someone who has worked with the type of scenarios we are working through and was thankfully able to find someone close to home.  I explained to Michael we were going to talk to a nice person to help us make sure we are doing all we can to ensure his happiness.  I reminded him that Patrick had to go to therapy a lot, which he certainly remembers, so he would realize there are different types of therapy and everyone needs help sometimes.  Mommy and Daddy have been to therapy too!

Donned in his new favorite black sequin jeans and his fave pink zip up hoodie with black cats we entered this new season.  Michael is so perceptive and in tune with things.  I knew that no matter what I said he was going to be nervous and unsure.  Thankfully he was still willing to talk but the fidgeting!  Oh the fidgeting.  He was rubbing the sequins back and forth on his pants so much I’m amazed they didn’t all fall off.  Once he was a little more comfortable he dove into the small toy box in the corner and played with everything no matter what it was.  I wanted so bad just to tell him to be still but I am sure he was so nervous and didn’t need a mom nag on top of it.

After we talked some about our concerns and why we were seeking therapy and the therapist got to know Michael a little we stepped out of the room so she could have one on one time with him.  At first Michael was scared but I was so proud of him for being so brave and willing to let mom and dad leave the room.  When we were invited back in she told us that he certainly opened up more when we were gone.  I was a little sad that he wouldn’t say some of the things to us but I’m so happy that at  least he’s talking to someone!  That’s the whole point of this right?  He started opening up about some kids at school who are not very nice to him.  Our biggest fear come to light.  She didn’t elaborate much and I’m sure it’s because she wants to build up that trust with him, I get it.  As we go we will learn more.  Baby steps.

She is going to work on coping skills with him and keep tabs on what’s going on at school and his feelings.  It’s not a situation where he needs to go every week, probably a couple times a month for now.  We just want him to have a safe space.  We want to be ahead of anything that may come up.  We want to know how to handle things as they do come up.  We want to be guided in the best way to handle family and friends who are less than supportive.  He is my beautiful sparkle boy and I do not want anyone to dull his shine.

 

What color is gender?

I went to bed with my soul hurting last night.  Hurt and confused.  Raising a gender non-conforming child is perhaps one of the hardest things a parent can deal with.  I’ve been through so much in the short 5+ years I’ve been a parent, it never seems to end, this one is up there.  I question what I do all the time as a parent.  Am I doing the right thing?  Leading them in the right direction?  Altering the direction too much or not enough?  How much do I let them lead?

Recently, shopping for clothes for my twins has been a personal struggle.  Typically, I do shopping like this without them, parents get that, but more and more I have been finding myself completely unsure of what each will like.  When my boys were born, and ever since, I have dressed them matching or at the very least coordinated.  I said I would always do that until they told me otherwise.  Pat has been good and helpful reminding me of that recently, now that the time has come.

This past weekend armed with my 30% off along with other coupons I went to Kohl’s, with both kids in tow.  I was going to let them guide the shopping process.  Michael was very excited.  Patrick can care less about clothes for the most part and will probably always be that way; I have to laugh about it.  Michael and Patrick both loved a pack of “Hatchimal” socks so we got those.  Michael also picked out a zip up pj with Elsa and Olaf (Frozen, he loves Elsa), a set of Minnie Mouse pjs that were fuzzy and soft (his words) and a pair of black jeans with sequins patches on each leg.  He was so excited and I felt good about these choices.

As we moved to the “boy” department, I was finding items and showing them to Michael and Patrick.  Patrick only liked the character items so we ended up with Mario and whole bunch of Star Wars gear, and of course the beloved Lego Ninjago pjs.  I offered, showed, and tried to coerce Michael into SOMETHING from the boys section.  No go.  I was informed every time that he does not like or want boy things.  I asked.  I did my due-diligence.   I let it be.

As with any child (or adult), Michael was very excited to wear his new gear.  The Frozen pjs went on as soon as we got home and he wanted to wear the jeans and his favorite pink kitty zip up to his Grandma’s birthday party the next day.  Michael was so excited in the morning that he was dressed and ready to go before 9:00 am.  I wish that were always the case!

To my dismay, Pat was upset.  Not with Michael but with me.  Or so he thought.  What he was really upset with was the prospect of his child being bullied.  Being “beat up” or called the derogatory “fag”.  I struggle with this thought.  Half of me wants to believe that we live in a better world than that.  That our children will be growing up in a time when all people are accepted no matter who or what they are.  I’m an optimist.  Pat is not.  He lives in the world that is not nice.  The world that will make fun of and bully someone for being different.  We balance each other in this way.

img_0520

This next part gets hard.  It is hard because your family is supposed to support you and uplift you.  Accept you for who you are.  We do not always have that support with some of our family.  I hate to say it but I was not surprised when we walked into the birthday party and Michael was quickly asked “what is that on your pants?” and I couldn’t have been prouder when Pat chimed right in and said enthusiastically that they are sparkly pants!  I love that man.

Michael’s favorite colors are pink and purple.  Everyone who knows him knows that.  He was very excited when Grandma’s cake had pink icing, as was she because my husband’s family is very boy heavy and there is just not much pink!  All of the girl’s names were being rattled off insinuating they could have pink cakes then too and Michael added he wants pink as well.  Then I heard it, “no you can have blue.”  I’m pretty sure my head lifted off my shoulders, spun around, and steam came out from my ears.  I firmly reminded this person that pink is his favorite color and he could have a pink cake if he wanted.  C’mon people!  It’s a color! A freaking color!  I want to know who it was however many years ago that decided “blue is for boys” and “pink is for girls” because I just do not understand the logic or reasoning. Mental note to research this.

After a number of other comments and conversations, not all regarding Michael, just things in general, I was so happy to leave the toxic “party” environment.  So happy we were heading to Costco where I could get some retail therapy.  That or I was going to need a drink.

The rest of the day was beautiful.  It was family, it was love, and it was everything.  All I need.  I snuggled with my sweet boy in his cozy Frozen jammies and my other sweet boy in his Ninjago jammies as we watched Frozen and I tucked in two happy 5 year olds.

But when I went to bed that night.  When I stopped to think and reflect the emotions came flowing back.  I was so upset with how our own family can be so unaccepting.  Strangers were nicer to Michael.  How do I keep this sweet child happy?  How do I protect him?  How do we know we are guiding him in the right way and doing the right things?  I almost got up to start writing down all of my thoughts but I knew I was too emotional and needed things to digest in my mind overnight.  So today I wrote and I made a counseling appointment.