Deep Thoughts with My Kids

I’m stalling today. I desperately want to do a dozen things, all of which are distractions from the novel I’m supposed to be working on. I’ve also charged myself with writing a blog post a week that isn’t WIPpet Wednesday or a ROW80 check-in, so at least this particular distraction is legitimate.

I played around with several topics, including throwing in my two cents on the whole Mark Driscoll fiasco that exploded this week. (I’m rejecting that one on the grounds that I have no real dog in that fight and there are much, much better people to listen to on that subject. Here and here are two of my favorites, if you care to find out what I’m talking about.)

I mentioned needing to write a post to a friend in an exchange that went like this:

Me: I need to do a blog post some time. But I need a topic first. LOL!

She: Why open conversations with children are necessary to the betterment of their lives and yours.

I did chuckle a little at that because yesterday, I had one such conversation with my kids over lunch. I had just come back from J’s appointment with his ADHD doctor. At the appointment, I mentioned that the bullying J experienced at school was largely of the “you’re not boy enough” variety. What was sad to me was how unsurprised his doctor was, although I was pleased when he said, “That should bother us on so many levels.”

When we returned home, J brought it up again, and he, S, and I started talking about what makes a person a girl or a boy. It’s interesting to me that people feel we can’t talk to kids about gender identity because they’re “too young to understand.” Let me assure you that my kids have a very good idea about gender identity, and talking with them was not difficult.

We talked about a lot of things, including how girls can often get away with being “tomboys” and wearing their brothers’ clothes but it doesn’t go the other way. I suggested that needs to change, and both kids said, “Yeah! That’s not fair!” We continued talking about the full range of identity and expression, and at no point did either of them act confused or upset.

Throughout the conversation, they were at the helm. I did very little other than answer questions and let them say what they wanted. Interestingly, both of them said they truly feel—inside and out—like a boy and like a girl, respectively. But apparently they already know kids who don’t feel the same.

This is why we need to talk about it. I am one hundred percent happy to talk with my own kids, to reassure them that whoever they are, they are loved by their dad and me. They are free to express themselves any way they choose. But that’s not the only reason to open that conversation. Surely over time, they will have friends who defy what society says is acceptable—not just gender or sexuality but many other things that are part of a person as a whole.

When that happens, I want my kids to be the sort of people who are loving, open, and understanding with all people. I want them to be able to tell their friends that if they don’t feel accepted in other places, they are always welcome in our house. Here, they will find people who don’t merely “tolerate” or even “accept” them but who actively take an interest and care about them.

Having these conversations with our children is absolutely not just about us or our kids. It’s about making a better world for everyone.

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8 thoughts on “Deep Thoughts with My Kids

  1. Yes, yes, yes! My son, who is also not the rough-and-tumble kind of boy, and I just had a talk about this same subject last week. All his life, he’s looked like one of those Raphael angels – he’s blonde, blue-eyed, and very fair. Until very recently, when his face suddenly matured literally overnight, he also had apple cheeks.

    All his life, no matter how he was dressed, whether he was wearing his hair in golden curls or a crew cut, people have confused him for a girl. Mostly, he takes it in stride, but a few people have argued even when he corrected him (this has also happened to a friend of ours of a similar age).

    Anyway, we got talking about why this might be – and I said that maybe it was that he didn’t act like a boy in the way many people define it. He asked about that, and so we talked about things like wrestling, playing with cars, and other stereotypes. He’s a guy who loves gaming (but not so much first person shooter games), puzzles,cooking, physics, inventing, reading, writing, and his sister.

    He’s been a Brony for the last year or so, and proudly wore his Pinkie Pie necklace for many months, until it broke beyond his ability to prepare.

    To him, and to us, he’s just himself. A person with preferences, and beliefs, and talents. It never occurred to him, really, that others might see him differently (because he hasn’t gone to school, he hasn’t been inundated by peer taunting) because of these things about himself.

    Like you, we’ve always made it very clear to both children that we love them – not our idea of them or who they are – but THEM.

    And my daughter? For about three years, she wore her brother’s old clothes nearly exclusively. For the last year or so, she’s worn only dresses – the prettier she finds them, the better. I have many, many pictures of her in both stages of her life, and I find them all precious memories of instants of her living.

    I agree. In talking openly with our children, in accepting them as they are, we do create a better world, one accepted and accepting child at a time. =)

    • It’s always good to know that we’re not alone. My daughter has gone through phases of dresses-only, phases of her brother’s outgrown clothes, and (currently) a phase where she wants to wear his t-shirts with skirts. Meanwhile, he likes to have long hair and wear nail polish. I don’t think anyone’s ever asked if he was a girl, but he does have exceptionally “pretty” features. He fascinates me because he seems to reject any and all labels anyone else wants to apply to him—and chooses none for himself other than occasionally saying he’s a “gaming geek.” His doctor asked yesterday if he was a brony, and he wouldn’t answer. He said he likes MLP, but again, he chooses not to identify himself as anything. Whereas my daughter wants to choose as many labels for herself as possible and then wear them proudly. They have such different philosophies! It fascinates me watching them grow.

  2. What an interesting post! I’ve got two boys who are so incredibly different – the 2 year-old is “all boy,” rough and tumble, obsessed with cars and tractors, just as likely to punch you as he is kiss you and he does both frequently. My other son is 10 and so sensitive, sweet and caring, also a gamer, and artist, and an incredibly-talented writer. Skinny arms that won’t let him do a pull-up to save his life. He tells me that he’s caught flak from friends at school for not being “manly” enough. For real, kids? You’re in fifth grade. Come on. Thankfully, he’s secure in who he is–also a self-proclaimed geek and proud future Eagle Scout–and mostly lets the comments roll off his back. As parents, we all have to support our kids so much, because sadly, they can’t even count on their friends to do it. Really great post.

    • I had that exact thought about my kid—why are 5th graders already talking about not being “manly” enough? Sheesh. J would sometimes tell us it was annoying and that one particular kid in his class was his “nemesis,” but he didn’t get too upset until it had gone on for several months and had escalated.

      It’s funny to me how there’s all this pressure to be a certain kind of boy (or girl), yet the vast majority of kids I know don’t really fit that mold at least on some level. So strange how we as a society create such insecurity in kids over something that doesn’t even really matter in terms of how happy or fulfilled they’ll be.

  3. Pingback: Welcome to My Sunday Post for August 3, 2014 ! | shanjeniah

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