On boys and girls

I am terrified of raising a boy.

Boys pee fountains.

Boys are expected to run and play. Boys are supposed to be active and noisy. They’re expected to wrestle, fall, take risks, hurt themselves. They’re expected to make messes, to build and destroy.

Boys are expected to be good at math. They aren’t supposed to like to read. There’s something wrong with a boy who likes to dance, or draw, or write, or sing. They’re supposed to run. They’re supposed to become big and strong.

Boys are supposed to fight. Boys are supposed to stand up for themselves alone and take the punches life gives them without emotion or tears. Boys are supposed to be strong and distant, but if they’re not, angry is better than cheerful.

I am terrified of raising a girl.

Girls should wear pink.

Girls should practice motherhood early, by playing with dolls and little fake kitchens. They are always cute, never smart. They must go on their first diet the day after their 10th birthday.

Girls are expected to be caring and nurturing. It’s ok if they like to read, but preferably, they should only read books that are for girls. They can be good at sports, but only if they’re not too competitive. They should never be faster or stronger than the boys.

Girls should be thin. Ribs are good. Long legs and thigh gaps are better than fat ankles and round knees. Girls’ arms don’t need muscle. Girls should be physically weak and needy. Girls should care about their appearance above all else.

Girls should always be cheerful. Never angry. Angry is not feminine.

Boys are supposed to grow up into some sick, twisted version of manhood.

Girls are supposed to grow up into some sick, twisted version of womanhood. 

I want my children to grow up confident. I want them to know who they are. I want them to be able to resist the way the world wants them to be. I want my boys to be able to play with fake kitchens and lego indiscriminately. I want my girls to have tea parties during the afternoon and play hockey in the evening. I want my children to devour books and discover new worlds in stories. 
I want my children to feel united in this world, like they belong regardless of the sex organs between their legs or the gender in their heads. I want them to feel loved and safe and valued. I want them to grow up to be themselves. 
I am terrified of raising a child. 

For many years, I will hold my baby’s life in my hands. I will be the one molding my baby’s character, doing my best to pave the way for a future full of happiness and joy. But I know the day will come too soon when other influences and experiences will begin to have an impact on that young life. Am I capable of teaching him or her to be herself, himself, despite society’s constant sorting, valuing, degrading? Am I capable of raising a child into a strong adult who can stand against the pull of a culture that can be so misguided and dangerous?

I’m not afraid of labour. I’m not afraid of those first few weeks, learning all about my new baby. I’m not afraid of learning to change diapers, or colic, or breastfeeding, or long nights of a mysteriously crying baby. I’m not afraid of the sacrifices I will make for that beautiful life.

I am afraid of the world into which I am bringing that beautiful life.

(I wrote this post weeks ago. I’ve been sitting on it, a little nervous that it doesn’t quite articulate my thoughts perfectly. Baby-brain is a real thing; whenever I sit down to write something, I’ve felt fuzzy and slow, like my creativity and my technical ability to string words together have misaligned themselves. Today, I’ll admit I can’t aim for perfection in this; it’s time to post.)

0 thoughts on “On boys and girls

  1. A beautifully honest post, Jeanette. I think you've articulated yourself very well – and expressed what many mothers feel when getting closer to bringing a life into this world.

  2. LOVE your honesty in this post. I have no kids yet, but many of the things you wrote above are many fears I feel like I would have as well.

  3. Well, you've perfectly captured the questions swirling in my pregnancy brain. I think too about how reactive I am against the terrible gendersisms I've encountered, especially in the church, and how to offer our kids a more redemptive vision of gender and sexuality that isn't so tainted with my cynicism. One that truly hopes for what can and will be.

    How can parenting seem so hard already?

  4. Another echo here. This is exactly how I already feel, and I'm still years away from having kids.

    And though it's important to think these things, I take some comfort in the fact that perhaps when you are dealing with the day-to-day of a kid, these thoughts might recede. And if you have a strong grounding in your beliefs about the ability of your kids to do anything they want, and you express and act out that support for them, your kids will get it.

    And that to a certain extent, there's nothing you can do.
    Someone is going to tell your little boy that dolls are for girls, or tell your little girl that she can't play hockey. And it's important to remember that if he hates that doll and she hates hockey because of it, no matter how much you encourage them to like what they like, and other people be damned, it's not because you didn't do your part. It's that other person, or that other person's parents not doing their part, and you can't internalise that, and you can't protect your kids from that.
    And it's sad and it hurts, but there's nothing you can do about it, so, really, that's one less thing to worry about.

  5. Wow. You have written into words the exact feelings I have toward my own decision (if we have children). It isn't raising a beautiful child, it's what I'm bringing that child into. Thank you for writing this.

  6. I think about this all the time, and worry about what kind of world L. will grow up in, and be an adult in. It's so easy to think that we're heading down a dark path, where people are apathetic and uncaring. But I try to remind myself how many good changes society has made over time and hope they continue, that it will get better, that good will prosper and that the future will be brighter.

  7. I'm raising a girl (almost 5) and a boy (8 months). And it is hard. It is hard for me to accept that Zombie dolls are the norm, that she's all about pink. I"M NOT all about pink. I stopped wearing makeup (not that I wear that much makeup). I stopped painting my nails. Every time we to go to someone's house, no you're not allowed coke, and sugar is BAD, and please oh please don't fall for the cereal commercials because I'm having a hard time summoning energy to explain why cereal is bad.
    I can't wait to meet the challenges of boy-hood, because right now he's just my baby. He's such a BOY baby, hitting every stereotype of baby boys, that's I"m half afraid of what another year will bring.

    For me it doesn't matter girl or boy. What matters is the little human being who I would like to raise as a kind and curious soul, who thinks for themselves and contributes in a positive way. Who doesn't take their lifestyle for granted. Who understand that everything must be earned, but that mom and dad will always be there for them.

    It is scary, but so amazing.

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