This morning I was playing with my two year old son. He’s obsessed with anything that moves, cars and trucks in particular. He has access to plenty of toys, he even has a dolly that he loves but cars and trucks are his go tos. He’s been like that since he could make choices, I tried to be even-handed in what I offered him, so as not to push him in a particular direction. Anyway, his favourite car is Lightning McQueen, he has even referred to him as his best friend (all together now: awwwwwww).
So, we were racing Lightning McQueen and some of the other race cars from the Cars movie, one of which happened to be a female car. I was racing the female car, he knows the difference between boys and girls but not enough to assign that one to me because I too am female, I just was never getting my hands on Lightning McQueen while he was around. While zooming them backwards and forwards, I picked up the female car and started examining her decidedly more elaborate paint job. The next words out of my mouth were about to be ‘isn’t she pretty?’. I literally gasped in shock and caught myself before I said it. Without even thinking, I almost passed on a gender stereotype to my little boy. I’m not sure what gave me the realisation. It seems like a microscopic thing but it had never occurred to me how something so innocent lays the foundation for how our children respond to things. He copies so much of what I say, when we see little puppies he says they’re cute because that’s what he hears me say. Children learn how to be people from us. Yes, there’s the whole nature vs nurture debate and I don’t doubt that nature plays a part in developing who we are but nurture is so direct.
I went to an International Women’s Day breakfast a couple of weeks ago. One of the speakers said it was going to take another 100 years to reach gender parity in society. At the time I wondered if it would realistically ever happen, sometimes I feel like men and women are chalk and cheese; that’s a topic for another day. Its in the hands people like you and me to make it happen. As parents it’s our job to lead by example if we ever want to reach gender parity. Instead of saying she was pretty I said ‘isn’t she fast and strong’ with a smug look on my face. I love a bit of self satisfaction, it goes a long way.
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