Monday, 24 September 2018

Raising The Future - Why I "Make A Big Deal" Out Of Equality

Whenever I first meet people, and they find out that I have 3 sons their reactions are usually along the same lines.

 "Oh you poor thing, 3 rough and tumble boys!! You must be exhausted!"

I usually smile politely and nod along while they rattle off some more tired old generalisations as elevator music plays inside my head and I silently count down the minutes until it's socially acceptable for me to make my excuses and walk away.

Because the truth is, hearing these same generalisations again and again is boring and, to be totally honest, it's borderline offensive. Particularly when the statements are made IN FRONT of my boys.

And not only that...but they're also untrue.

Yes my 3 children are all the same sex, but the truth is... these 3 boys of mine could NOT be more different from each other.

And although yes life can be chaotic with them (much as it can with children of any sex), they're not even particularly rough and tumble. There's not a sports fan among them, one of them in particular goes hysterical any time his hands get even slightly dirty...they just don't fit the stereotypes.

And it saddens me to think that people automatically assume exactly what a child's interests and personality traits are going to be based purely on their sex.

If you've read my blog for a while, then no doubt you'll be familiar with my son Noah. He's quite possibly the most self-assured 3 year old I've ever come across - he knows exactly who he is, what he likes and what he wants! And, right now at least, he doesn't give a hoot if it's not what society deems suitable for him based on his sex.

Noah is all about Disney Princesses, he has a collection of dresses and handbags to rival my own, he wears my make up and nail varnish more often than I do (And is probably better at applying it, too!) and he loves nothing more than to make up dance routines, do living room "shows" for us and help to pick out outfits for me.

I'm very laid back when it comes to my children's hobbies and interests - I've always been determined that they be allowed to truly be themselves no matter what. That they're never put into certain pigeon holes based purely on their sex.

My eldest fits just about all of the "Boy" stereotypes going - he loves ninjas, and (much to my dismay!) nerf guns, video games, and superheroes.

My youngest is all about Pirates and spends most of his life wearing a Captain Jack Sparrow hat and pretending that my poor sofa is his ship. He's probably the most "rough and tumble" of all of them and never sits still for more than 30 seconds, but he's also incredibly affectionate and he has quite a thing for dresses and make up too!

And then there's Noah....with his glitz and glamour, and his sashaying, and his general fabulous-ness.

I love the fact that my boys are all so confident in expressing themselves and their interests. I love that they feel free to explore their own likes and dislikes, and free to be themselves without fear of judgement.

Because to me, one of the most important jobs a parent has is to let their child know that they are always loved and always respected no matter what.

I try to show my boys this by not limiting the types of toys, tv shows, movies or media they're exposed to - I make sure that I don't gender things unnecessarily.

I choose reading materials that demonstrate different types of families and relationships in a child friendly manner wherever possible, so that they know that the "1 Mum, 1 Dad" make up of our own family is not the only one there is in society - that some children have 2 mums, or 2 dads, or 1 dad, or 1 mum, or no parents at all.

And it's not always easy to raise children this way, even in 2018 when we're supposed to be living in enlightened and progressive times.

There are so few TV shows and movies that show family structures outside of the "Norm", and there is still so much opposition to them when they are there.

I find myself constantly having to correct other children when they point out to my son that a toy he's playing with is "for girls".

Recently, another parent asked me why I "Make such a big deal" out of this "stuff" as they called it.

Why I buy the books I do, why it's so important to me to make sure they understand that not everybody's life looks the same way, and why I try so hard to expose them to things that are "different".

And the reason is this...

One of the people I love most in my life is a guy that I became friends with in my 20s. He's gay.  We don't keep in touch as much anymore as we used to, but he'll always be someone I love very much and hold dear.

When I first met him, he wasn't "out" yet...I wasn't supposed to know that he was gay. And I remember how difficult it was for him to come out, and in particular how difficult it was for him to tell his parents.

And I knew then that I wanted to do everything I could to make sure that any children I had would always know that they were completely free to be themselves and that they would be loved and supported and respected. I wanted to be confident that they always knew that and never feared telling me something like that.

And even if it turns out that all of my children are heterosexual, I also want to be absolutely SURE that I'm not raising people who will ever see fit to be cruel or phobic of anybody else.

I want them to know from a young age that there is no need to fear anything or anyone that is different to you, and that really...we're all the same deep down.

I want to know that I'm raising people who are going to make the future a better and easier place to live, for everybody. Not people who are going to contribute any more hate or darkness to the world.

So that's why I "make such a big deal" out of this stuff...because honestly, I feel it's my responsibility to raise well educated, non-phobic, tolerant people.

As a parent, I feel it's the least I can do.

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