While at Disney World last month a comment from a grandmother to her granddaughter got me thinking about gender roles society too often forces on children. Before I discuss what was said, let me state that I saw no evidence the grandmother was trying to harm the child with her words. In fact, based on other conversations overheard, it was clear the grandmother clearly loves her granddaughter and wants the best for her. The point of this post is that we just need to be careful at times choosing the right words. We all makes mistakes regarding gender and children but if we can learn from them we can make the world a better place for our children.
So what was said? While waiting for the Beauty and Beast show to start at Hollywood Studios the grandmother was talking to another family about their trip thus far. Their conversation got into the kids' hobbies. It was at this point the grandmother said the she really hoped her granddaughter would be a princess but she's turned out to be a tom boy. She then said that she realizes she just has to settle for what her granddaughter wants. Again, the grandmother was not malicious in any way but the word 'settle' bothered me. It was just a poor choice of words, but why should any parent ever have to 'settle' for what their child wants/likes? As parents we teach our children, but we must accept who they are and what they want to be. Accepting our children for who they are is how we love them.
Take my kids for example. At the Kennedy Space Center we each bought a 3-pack of NASA T-shirts. For kids there were 'boys' labeled shirts that were white, red, and blue. Then there were 'girl' labeled shirts that were lighter, neonish colors. First of all, shame on the KSC for labeling these shirts boys and girls. That was my one and only disappointment with the KSC trip. My oldest daughter went for the 'girls' shirts because they glow in the dark and she liked the colors. Fine with me. My youngest wanted nothing to do with those shirts and wanted the 'boys' shirts. Fine with me. NOTHING about the shirts differed other than the colors. Those weren't boys shirts and girls shirts. They were shirts at the appropriate size for kids. That's it.
Again, I don't blame the grandmother. Society has had gender roles hammered in for generations and it's easy to let something slip when not carefully thinking. We've all done it, but we need, as a society, to watch our words in an effort to not put undue pressure on our children when it comes to gender roles. They are not born in to gender roles. They are taught gender roles. Society is improving, but there's much work still to be done.