I love this picture of my granddaughter in her pink skirt filling the oil in her daddy’s truck. She seems to embrace and ignore many of the stereotypes we have of girls. She loves wearing frilly pink dresses, as well as pink trimmed camouflage gear. She loves playing with dolls and dishes, as well as trucks and Lincoln logs. When she comes to visit us she enjoys working in the kitchen with her uncle (my youngest son who is studying culinary arts). Looking at her I see a little girl exploring her world, testing her boundaries and capabilities. I’m struck by the differences between us at the same age.
I was what was commonly called a “tom boy”, preferring jeans, t-shirts, and “tennis” shoes, climbing trees, building tree forts, swimming, and playing basketball. My mother kept my hair cut short because I wouldn’t stand still to have it brushed. I hated being forced to wear dresses and “behave” as my mother would tell me. Like most parents, she had many stereotypes of how a girl should dress and act.
Even though many stereotypes have blurred, some parents today continue to hold narrow views of what it means to be a girl or boy. We may be shocked and disgusted by stories from the #Metoo movement but perhaps such actions are the result of stereotypes that encourage boys to be dominant and girls to be submissive. Maybe it was because of the constraints imposed on me that I wanted to be a different kind of parent. Although I never had a daughter, I have three sons. I’ve encouraged them to be free thinkers, to express their own opinion (even when it differs from my own), to ignore other people’s ideas of who they should be, and to respect other’s differences.
I never really thought about how my son’s upbringing would pass on to the next generation. I think I was just trying to do the best I could as a parent. If I had had to think about how my choices would effect my grandchildren I’d have worried even more about my decisions.
As I watched my granddaughter during their recent Christmas visit I saw a wonderful little girl who happily embraces and ignores all the stereotypes of being a “girl”. It’s been rewarding to see what a good father my oldest son has become, encouraging his smart, vibrant daughter to explore the world and develop her talents and imagination. She understands perfectly well that she is a girl, but she doesn’t seem to be limited to being a “girl”. And no one would ever call her a “tomboy”!
I think I see some hope for progress in this.