My first child turned 30 (!) last year. When she was born, I had all kinds of ideas about her identity as a girl, informed in part by my own experience as a first-born daughter, and from classes I took on child development. My husband and I bought no clothes for her that were pink or blue – we stuck with green, purple, and yellow. We encouraged her to play with cars and trucks, build Legos, explore and inquire, in addition to playing with dolls and dress up. When she turned 5, she shocked me by insisting that her favorite color was PINK (!), and spent a few years preferring typical girl things. She was never into sports, largely due to very bad eyesight, until she discovered horses. Her horse mania did (and still does) keep her outside, dirty, and in jeans more often than she wears a dress. She can clean up quite nicely, but she’s definitely not a girly girl now.
My own experience growing up was largely influenced by my father who, I believe, probably wished I’d been born a boy. He inspired my interest in science, and love of math, and pushed me to explore and experiment (I still have two volumes of science experiments for children – one biology and one chemistry – that he and I worked through together). I wasn’t athletic, but I did love watching soccer matches with him (he never liked American football or baseball, so I didn’t develop a passion for those). He liked tinkering with cars, and I treasure my memories of rebuilding carburetors and adjusting the timing on our cars with him. We did carpentry and plumbing together, and lots of other “boy” activities, and I never felt like I had to conform to a notion of femininity, except when I chose to.
I am now raising two boys. S is all boy!! He runs faster, jumps higher, holds his breath longer, and competes at every level with everyone he can get to compete with him. And, yet, he draws, and loves to read (especially now that he is gaining mastery of reading himself), and he loves to cook! Are these latter skills masculine or feminine? Who cares?
J, our younger, is much more the “new-age-sensitive-guy” type. He is musical, and thoughtful, and less adventurous/more cautious than his brother. He does wrestle, and play rough when his brother tackles him, but he often seems to prefer quieter activites. He is our cuddler, while his brother tends to brush off hugs and kisses. Is J a more feminine boy?? Who knows…
All of this pondering on gender identity was prompted by a post written by my friend who blogs at Not Ever Still – Fighting Nature. She writes intensely and personally about her experience raising her wonderful kids, and I encourage you to check out what she has to say.
And, I’d be interested to know – what is your experience of gender identity and growing up, or raising your own kids?