There is a lot of talk lately about gender fluidity – which is great, but somehow it doesn’t seem to have made its way to the baby and toddler realm…or at least not where I live.
So here is a list of some simple things we as parents can try to stop our kids feeling pushed towards what society tells them a boy or girl should act, play and dress like.
What’s in a name? Lots! If you are expecting, have you considered a gender neutral name? Harper, Bailey, Drew and Sage are some examples of a name that can suit a boy or a girl or anything in between. In our family we have two boys and we went with Cary and Blyth. It does confuse some people but I figure it leaves their options open for the future.
Mix it up with colours. Boys can wear pink too! And girls of course can and do wear blue. For some reason it seems less common in babies though – so rather than label your child a girl by sticking her in a pink hat, why not opt for blue and challenge the stranger on the bus’s assumptions. Or opt for greys, neutrals and other brights in patterns that don’t have any connotations – for example not going for dinosaurs for a boy and butterflies for a girl, but go for bunny rabbits or a forest theme for both.
Shop in both toy aisles. For your own kids and for your friend’s. Buy a doll for a boy or a rubbish truck for a girl or buy them both books about cooking. It’s simple stuff but we often get stuck in the boy’s toys/girl’s toys rut without even realising we are doing it. This is one we need to work on more in our family as we get so many gifts that are often cars, trains and books about pirates or dinosaurs! Our older son does have a baby buggy and a kitchen but we could do more to give him a balance.
Choices. As in let your kids make them as much as possible. Sometimes we can’t because we need to keep them safe but a lot of times we can and we don’t. Food, clothes, toys, playmates – most of these it would be safe to give our kids more choices about. If we set the boundaries of what is safe and make sure they aren’t hurting anyone then letting them practice making their own decisions will help them feel more confident later on in defining who they are and being comfortable in their own skin.
Obviously we all live in the real world and none of us can totally avoid stereotypes but we can try our hardest to remember to step back for a moment every now and again and pay attention to the messages we are sending our kids.
"It's a big wild world out there - Let's make our kids feel cuddled."