“Boys are more competitive than girls.”
“Boys play more sports than girls.”
These are comments made by my son (Monkey) last Friday while we were having lunch with his sister (Princess Daisy). I know my son said these things because I saw his lips moving and the sounds were coming from his mouth. Otherwise, I would not have believed it.
How could Monkey say this when the woman raising him is super competitive and a triathlete? How could he say this when, in our home, I have been consistent that there are no limitations or stereotypes we place on any group of people?
I explained to Monkey that there are boys who are not competitive and who don’t like sports and there are girls who are competitive and compete in many sports. In Monkey’s 7 years of life, he apparently sees things differently. I was making no progress with my argument.
What he said was shocking, but sticking to his position was really upsetting to me. I was concerned because I don’t want Monkey to accept and perpetuate stereotypes. I also didn’t like Princess Daisy hearing from her brother there are limitations on her simply because she was born a girl.
But I knew this was an argument that I would win (note the competitiveness?).
I shouldn’t make a comment that this is a win/lose situation for my son. And, it is important to note that my son was not in trouble for expressing his opinion. Everyone is free to calmly express an opinion in my home and we then have dialog around the particular topic. I approach things more intellectually than emotionally as I think it is a better environment in which to learn life lessons and build core values. To communicate, introspectively explore, and come to an opinion is a healthy approach. That said, I was going to really work through this issue with Monkey. Mother/son time the next day was needed.
Monkey was informed Saturday morning that he would accompany me to packet pick-up and to rack my bike for my upcoming triathlon. He would see all the women preparing, alongside men, for race day. Maybe this would help him understand that competitiveness (or lack thereof) and interest in sports has nothing to do with gender.
I didn’t mean for our outing to actually be a punishment for his comments. It was meant to be a bonding moment where he would also be enlightened. It turned out to be a punishment. It was at least 95 degrees and there was no parking near the transition area, where I needed to rack my bike. If you are a Washingtonian, you will understand what I am about to describe. We ended up parking by the Watergate and Kennedy Center and walked to the Memorial Bridge. In the heat. With my bike. Oh, and I didn’t put any money in my pocket so we couldn’t stop by the 10 ice cream stands we walked by in the 95 degree heat. It was miserable for both of us.
Overall, did my son walk away thinking on his own, “Wow, girls can do anything they set their minds to, just like boys?” No, I think the lesson was that mom is crazy to be competing in the heat. He did seem impressed to see I would be swimming in the Potomac River and we were there in time to see a practice swim. But I don’t think a larger understanding that we should not place limitations on people was reached.
Monkey did ask on the drive home why I wanted him to come with me and I told him. Exhausted from the heat, he answered, “Mom, you are right about girls. Let’s just say there are more professional baseball players that are boys.” I feel I got that response because he was tired and dehydrated, but the door is at least open to discuss. His mind is open to receive. Maybe the field trip wasn’t a huge failure. NOTE: I did buy him an ice cream on the way home too.
Did I make a big deal about this? Probably.
My reaction to my son’s comments is something I have contemplated as well. Why did it bother me so much? Why is it so important to me? Where does this come from in me? I came up with three very good reasons.
The two biggest reasons:
- There were strong female role models in my family.
- My mother raised me as a single mom with little involvement from my father.
The third reason:
- Marlo Thomas
Laugh if you want, but I loved Free to Be you and Me as a kid. I listened to it every day for several years. Maybe it was brainwashing, but if it was, why do we still have these attitudes about women? Am I the only one who listened to this record in the 70’s? Where is the progress?
Here’s an example of lack of progress: This season I heard a baseball coach yell at a kid on his team that he “ran like a girl.” With girls on the team listening. With an irate avid running mom listening. It was so frustrating, knowing I could outrun the coach in pace and distance.
Why are people continuing, in 2010, to instill this backwards thinking in kids? These limitations placed on certain groups are never factually based and there is no need to place a limitation on anyone for any reason. We should be building people up, not tearing them down.
I will get down off my soapbox and let you enjoy something from the past. Maybe someone reading this will keep their thoughts in check about someone based on age, gender, physical ability, or race as a result of this story. More important, maybe my kids will grow up believing what I still believe. That William can play with a doll, we can like each other regardless of our physical appearance, that gender difference isn’t a handicap, that we are all free to be you and me.
Didn’t I say I was getting off the soap box?