#GenderEqualityIs not limiting my kids

By Ann Wang Ryan
February 14, 2019

#GenderEqualityIs …

… not limiting my kids. I remember thinking when I gave birth to my daughter, “What am I going to do with a girl?” I immediately succumbed to all my pre-conceived notions of what a girl would be like, and I wasn’t sure how I would relate to her, having mostly been a tomboy my whole life — all these thoughts swirling around in my head, and my newborn was barely a day old!

Fast forward a few years and a baby boy later, and I’ve come to realize (duh!) that my two kids are just two little human beings with wide interests, big emotions and sometimes cute/sometimes annoying habits — and that I don’t need to worry constantly about either stereotyping or not stereotyping them. I just need to love them and let them be. Despite the societal pressures that try to define how girls and boys should behave, my hope is that our home is a place where they feel comfortable being themselves and expressing more holistic and healthier notions of childhood, not just “girlhood” or “boyhood.”

My daughter went through a “nothing-but-dresses” phase for almost two years and is still in full-on princess mode, although she now wears pants and sneakers to school because she finally decided dresses are super uncomfortable in car seats. She loves reading, artwork, playing pretend and singing, and she can climb a rock wall and scale monkey bars in those same dresses. She hikes for miles at a time and is pretty fearless when it comes to trying new things, whether dance or skiing or drama … so long as we’re not going crazy and demanding she try a new food (heaven forbid).

My son loves trucks and can point out a “skid steer loader” (huh?!) on the street, and I seriously think “excavator” was one of his first words. His favorite color (for now) is purple, and he often dresses up in his big sister’s fancy princess clothes and heels, while fully decked out in every piece of fake jewelry we own.

As a parent of young children, I feel like I’m constantly being bombarded by posts, stories, ads, books, etc. about how to raise them the “right” way — what to feed them, how to get them to sleep, make sure they’re kind and empathetic, minimize their tantrums … the list goes on. I also get anxious about whether I’m sending them the right messages about gender stereotypes, and I desperately want them to know they don’t need to be confined to how society thinks a girl or boy should behave or what they should be interested in.

So far, turns out they’re forging their own way anyway. Not that I’m not continually mindful of my own words and actions — and we’ll leave the whole nature vs. nurture debate for another time — but for now I think the kids are alright.

Here’s to staying vigilant amidst the haze of parenting the under-fives….