If you haven’t read this article called “Facing Gender Stereotypes With My Son”, you must. At least for the sake of reading through my analysis of it.
Here’s the basic part:
A dad describes how his son expressed his liking of the color pink. Dad, thinking he doesn’t want to repeat the type of history he had with his own dad, tells the son that he likes pink, too.
It is perfect.
It is perfect to me because, well, why not? Does pink mean anything about a person or a child? Not really. I mean, a baby dressed in pink is only a symbol in our culture that it’s a girl. I have only come to realize how engrained this is in our society because sometimes I put my daughter in blue, and people seem to be very shaken at the idea of not knowing whether to use “he” or “she” when doting over her. Honestly, I don’t care what they call her, and I am not afraid to just say “it’s a girl” in an upbeat, informational tone. I really only do that to ease their minds and they can carry on with terms like “sweetheart” and “adorable” (the real reasons why I had children.)
But what I REALLY love about this interchange between father and son, is the reaction. He contemplates telling his son to be open to his classmates about it. But rather than turn it into a philosophical “we can all be whatever we want to be” moment, he simply validates his son by saying, “I like pink, too.”
See what he did there? He didn’t reinforce the affinity for pink (the affinity existed before he was even given a chance to react), but he didn’t reject his son’s statement, either. Rejection would more likely make the son feel invalidated and prompt him to seek out acceptance from other people, people who likely wont be very sustainable relationships in his life. The validation of “I like pink, too” told his son “that’s okay, I am on your side.” We are supposed to be our kid’s best allies, right? This statement was a perfect example of how to react to that.
I believe that he told his dad about it because he looks up to and admires his dad. If he then believes that his dad is on his side, that stable relationship is reinforced. Now the son will have someone strong, capable, and kind to learn from. Someone whose objective is to protect his son and teach him to how to accept himself.
These are the moments of clarity that we need to provide our children. They don’t need lessons on “changing the world”- they need allies, friends, and good leaders to look up to. They want to feel confident in themselves and the most stable way to get that is from their own parents, not from internet “likes” and “shares” when they say something dramatic or against the status quo. They need parents who are happy with whatever their children are, and who will provide a safe haven when the outside world is unkind and rejectful. We all face or faced rejection in our lives, the ones who come out better are the ones who had someone there to help them through it. As a parent, I will do my best to be that person in my children’s lives.