Sunday, July 17, 2011

Raising Men

With two boys and a husband, I am most certainly outnumbered in this house. It's not usually a big deal - trucks and Legos are a-okay with me, getting dirty is no big deal and not having to buy into or struggle against the princess thing is a total plus.

There are some issues, of course, mostly related to privacy. The Y family changing room is a bit of a challenge after pool time and women's public restrooms are nearing awkward as Peanut closes in on 5.

I am also conscious of stereotypes, particularly when it comes to reading and the creative arts. I don't want my boys to ever hear that it's okay that he doesn't try in English because reading is just not a guy thing. Instead, I do my best to encourage books and storytelling, the craft cabinet is always available to Peanut and no task or job has ever been labeled just for boys or girls in this house.

Surprisingly, the toy catalogs that arrived at Christmas time posed a bit more of a challenge. The traditionally labeled boy and girl toys were designated by blue or pink tabs on the page layout. Sure, most boys would probably pick a Thomas toy over a Barbie doll, but the play kitchens or building sets? Who is to say that a boy can't whip up some pretend cookies or that a girl can't design a fabulous house out of an erector set? I hated Peanut flipping over to the play house pages and saying "That kitchen is a girl's toy. See, it's on the pink page." That took some explaining, but the fact of the matter is I can't monitor every message that enters his world.

Peanut is still at that happy age when all things are equal, when society and history and cultural influences haven't colored his thoughts about the opposite sex or skin pigmentation. I want him to hold onto that as long as possible, to see the soul, the good, the person and not the trappings of a society that so often decides who can be good enough. I struggle with this when he says things like, "Daddy's work and mommy's stay home" simply because that is what I'm doing now. We talk a lot about mommy "working" on the computer (when I'm actually writing, not when I'm sneaking a Facebook status). The pressure of raising future men that will respect women as equals in their classrooms, relationships and workplaces is real to me.

So earlier this week, we watched the USA take on France in the World Cup. He cheered, he chanted USA, he was thrilled that we won. Today, we sat down as a family to watch the finals. We talked about how fast the women were. How much time they must practice. How hard they were playing. We cheered them on and were disappointed when they came up short.

Although it was a heartbreaking loss, for a moment, the US was focused on women's achievements, and we weren't surprised to be doing so. We marveled at their skill, their physicality, their teamwork. The game was remarkably respectful with fantastic sportsmanship on both sides and little evidence of personal ego. It was a joy to watch.

Yes, I am glad that girls around the country have strong, female, athlete role models to look up to. I just hope that it's okay if my boys look up to you, too.

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