When we enter the world on our glorious birth day we are a biological complex group of cells. After we leave the womb, what was created at conception begins to function together to become a living organism. Our bodies do that naturally for us. We just have to sit and feel the magic. However, after birth we also enter a society and as social beings we are helpless, blank canvases, in need of serious development.
Aside natural pieces of us that tell us our sex, we can pretty much be taught exactly who to be and how to behave. For the most part, the first person that we ever see will be in charge of this lesson. Whether it be a mother or father, there is a mutual understanding between us and them in the first moment that we open our eyes. But, in an ever changing society, where the extraordinary is starting to become normality, could there more to socialisation than our parents advise us? Could it be that the newest generations are breaking down traditional gender roles and creating a blurred line without any guidance? Is the concept of nurturing starting to become obsolete?
In the past, it was generally accepted that boys would be boys and girls would be a handful. Whilst boys were taught to be chivalrous, sharp and fearless, their female counterparts were taught to be helpless, pretty and as far from serious as they could be. As babies we assessed our boy’s prowess by what kind of mess they would make and whether they cried after an injury. We looked at our girls and would spend hours deliberating if she would be pretty or what kind fortune she will cost when she gets older. But why do we do this? And what kind of tools do we use to help us along? We do it because we were fearful our children wouldn’t ‘fit’ in to their gender group. And our first set of tools are quite simply, yet very expensively, our children’s toys.
Remember that first time you went to buy your child a toy? You walk into the shop and your eyes automatically look for colour. For girls, you’re drawn to the obvious pinks and lilacs, but for boys you walk down to the dark side acknowledging the blues and greys. You assume that your daughter will prefer a frilly teddy bear that has delicate stripes or flashes of sparkle, but your son, well he has to make do with something manly that is only one step away from inducing horror. Whether you recognise it or not, you are already starting to develop your child into society’s rigid gender roles.
As they grow, you will probably find yourself encouraging these gender assumptions. Girls will be given dolls and equipment that starts to train them to be a mother. Boys will be led into a world where weapons and fast cars are quite acceptable. Outrageously in the case of the boys, it gives them the impression than anything less that exhilarating isn’t really what little boys should be into. The only area in any toy store that is completely safe is the arts and crafts, but even then you stand agonising over whether you can buy your girl a collage set of an airplane, or your boy a package that includes glitter dust.
In the current times, if you take your child along with you when you make these decisions about toys, you may be profoundly surprised. In the last ten years, gender roles have become more and more ambiguous. Boys and girls don’t want to be told what they can play with anymore. They want to choose for themselves. Even schools are now teaching children to be proficient in all of life’s skills. No longer will your son be taught sport whilst your daughter learns cooking. Society has changed and whilst this may seem like a good idea, it is certainly affecting how we parent. We can’t actually know for sure how to teach kids to behave anymore. Now we have to go with the flow and see what our child actually wants to do themselves. Nurture is changing, because kids are now nurturing themselves.
As a Mother myself, I have covered most of life to develop my children. I have three boys, ranging in age from seven to twenty one. My eldest son was brought up on a diet of Small Soldiers and Toy Story films and he is now a soldier and masculine as they come. My middle son’s choices were open to interpretation. He tended to go for the less gender specific toys such as books, crafts, arts and music. He is on his way to a Law degree in September. Then my baby, my seven year old son, has totally broken all the rules. He has had and still has a plethora of dolls, hair accessories, feminine teddy bears and even a hair head doll to practice hairdressing on.
Am I worried about this? No, not at all, really. He shows diversity and the ability to connect with all children from either gender, and whilst he plays with his dolls, he also laughs heartily every time he breaks wind. It’s pretty clear in my youngest son’s playground that the gender gap is more streamlined these days and whilst to some, this may be frightening, to me, it has become a useful way to help develop my son’s communication skills. He understands the softer side of the girls and that boys need to be excited, rough and a little bad. He also tells us he wants to be a teacher, albeit of a hairdressing school, but a teacher never the less. For me, it’s clear that he manages situations in such a way that his twenty one year old soldier brother gets really confused about. His older brother struggles to relate to women, but he finds it easy because he often plays make believe as both genders. As a bonus, he also has a keen grasp on how his peers will react at any given event, whether their male or female, making him less vulnerable to bullying etc.
In reflection, I say don’t worry about nurturing your boy or your girl. Let nurture become obsolete. It’s now 2015, so don’t sweat if they don’t seem to fit inside the normal behaviour of their gender. Don’t follow rule books and trust you’re own and your child’s instincts. These kids are creating their own paths and we should stand back, let them get on with it and celebrate them proudly for being individuals. In reality gender roles still exist; we still need males and females. Kids will still always biologically been drawn to specific gender behaviours, but by being divergent and having their own minds, they will start making the world a more interesting place to be.
I can’t wait to see whether my youngest becomes a hairdressing guru. If he does manage to open that school, who knows how big his achievements will be? I will also be pleased that it all started with his dolls, which he chose without any help from society. Though I will also always be grateful that his brothers chose their own toys and paths also. My oldest is his very own version of Buzz from Toy Story and my middle one is set to try and make a difference to the world thanks to his books and creativity. Toys or not, I got something right and I encourage you to relax and do the same. Also if you don’t want to take my word for it, call up Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. They are letting youngster Shiloh live as a boy called John and I am betting she won’t be a failure when she matures. Each to their own we say, so extend that to our kids and everyone will be happy.