You may be thinking, “Wait a minute! She’s got two little boys. No girls! What’s she doing writing for a women’s blog?” And… you’re right. I do have two sons, no little girls, but I believe conscientiously raising my boys to 1) be respectful of all persons regardless of gender and race and 2) embrace their own individuality regardless of gender stereotypes will result in the overall forward movement of their generation in the journey towards gender equality. So, while I do what I can in my own life and my own generation to champion women and their worth and accomplishments, I’m also equipping my sons with the tools to continue to be champions for the cause after me. ‘Cause, honey, we need some good men on our side and if we can’t turn ‘em, I’m gonna raise ‘em! Now to step down off my soapbox a bit.
As I write this, we’re about two weeks away from the start of a new school year with the older one going into Middle School. Remember Middle School? The experts tell us, Middle School and Early Adolescence is when “social cruelty gets worse: Come early adolescence both boys and girls become more socially aggressive with each other as they jostle for a place to socially belong among their independent community of peers.” As a parent, I struggle with giving my boys the space to explore and express their individuality and the desire to shield them from peer (and adult) ridicule. This struggle was real last night as we ordered a case for the Middle Schooler’s laptop for school. We love Amazon in this house and as you are probably aware, Amazon has EVERYTHING in EVERY COLOR! Again, in an effort to let the kids express their individuality, we let the kids pick which color case they want.
My older son is not your stereotypical “boy.” His close circle of friends includes a disproportionate number of girls that has led to some awkward conversations about “why girls bleed” that I wasn’t prepared to have with my 11-year-old boy. Sure, I can handle the “why is there hair down there?” question. I’ve got that! But I WAS an 11-year-old girl and I NEVER would have been open enough with my girlfriends, let alone my guyfriends, about my monthly cycle and how “I’m going to be grouchy from this day to this day every month” because of it! Needless to say, these kids are just different and much more open about biological differences than I ever was. And I think this has had a profound effect on my son. He’s more open to talking about the biological differences and much more accepting of people’s individuality and how each person expresses that individuality.
He chose a pink case. My 11 (almost 12) year-old BOY chose to place a pink case on his school issued laptop that he will carry with him every day for the year (and possibly beyond, because I’m
cheap thrifty). His dad, my awesome husband, initially tried to talk him out of this decision. He’s been the 11-year-old boy. He knows how hateful and alienating Middle School boys can be. So, what do you do? Here’s that tension I find myself in. The desire to buck the stereotype, to cheer and encourage my son to choose his own path pitted against the desire to protect him from what others might say and think. I sometimes let my fear get the better of me, but this time I chose to cheer and encourage. I stood up for his decision to carry a pink laptop to school this year in the hopes that others will see his bravery and will accept that pink isn’t just for girls or “sissy boys.” That pink is a color in a broad spectrum of colors to be appreciated for it’s pinkness. I may not be fond of pink, but he likes it, and I want him to understand that it’s OK to go against the flow, to be his own person. That I’ll support him, no matter what. Now, we did tell him, if he gets into the school year and decides that carrying a pink laptop isn’t what he wants to do, well, he is able to change and get a new case… At his expense!
Hey! Did you see Plaid’s latest press release about the launch of #NoMeanGirls@school?
Other articles you may be interested in: