Raising a child in 2018 presents so many challenges. The recent rise of the #metoo movement, the discussion around the support of Trump and only this week the case of Christine Blasey Ford in the US, is just one of the issues as parents we have to contemplate tackling with our children. I have never shyed away from any sort of conversation with Finley and always try and explain things, even difficult subjects, in an age appropriate way.
I was really heartened when Finley was at Nursery they did a Peer Massage session, which included having to check with your friend that it was ok to touch them before you started your massage. I really welcomed this natural, informal way of introducing the issue of consent into their minds. We spoke afterwards about why this was important and if one of his friends didn’t want a cuddle (we are big cuddlers in the Maynes house!) then that was OK and he had to respect that.
It’s really hard to get the balance right. Even as adults the lines between consent, male and female banter, what is ok and what is not ok is difficult, so how do we get it right with our children?! I do really think though, that the younger we start talking about things and making things ‘normal’ the better it is in the long run for our young men and women.
I have also always prided myself on instilling messages of equality with Finley, offering him choices over the toys he plays with, colours that he wears and activities he takes part in. And even though we are a fairly ‘traditional’ household in terms of Daddy being the breadwinner and me doing the majority of the childcare and housework, I am always careful of the vocabulary used around him. Daddy gets a glare if he refers to household items – ie the hoover – as ‘Mommy’s hoover’. I encourage Finley to help me with smaller household chores, putting his own clothes in the washing, laying the table and tidying his toys away. I have spoken before about the collection of books we have bought him – Little People, Big Dreams, detailing stories of strong women such as Emmeline Pankhurst and Amelia Earhart. I was chuffed to bits when he fell in love with these tales, asked questions about them and chose to read them again and again. I am absolutely determined that he should grow up believing that men and women are equal and I thought I was succeeding in my goal!
Imagine my horror then, when a few weeks ago when we were (randomly as you do with children!) chatting about his favourite (mixed gender) band and what they were wearing, he referred to a man not needing to iron his shirt, as the woman would do it for him’. After I recoiled in horror I asked him why he thought that the woman would iron the shirt.
This week he has asked me a few times ‘what can’t girls do’ and ‘what can boys so that girls can’t’. It amazed me how after only a few weeks at school these gender stereotypes are slowly creeping in. This was followed by ‘Can girls run fast?’ ‘Can girls jump?’ I got some videos up on You Tube of female athletes and asked him why he though that girls couldn’t do these things. Of course, I got a shrug of the shoulders but I’d love to know where these ideas started.
How do you tackle these issues with your children? I would love to hear your stories and how you deal with these conversations in the comments below!