Monday, December 22, 2014

Parenthood – Week 82: High Heels, Blush & Purses

Ollie often gravitates toward Diana's shoes when he looks inside the front closet. After picking them up and carrying them around, he sometimes tries on a tan high heel shoe and attempts to put his own feet in the shoe. He took this a step further in my mom’s house and managed to get both of his feet into a pair of her dress shoes and shuffle around the house.

Ollie usually entertains himself when Diana is getting ready for the day and sometimes he gazes up at her as she does her morning routine. One morning I noticed him pointing up at Diana and saying “blusssh.” Diana looked down at him and gently brushed her make-up brush on Ollie’s cheeks.

The other day when Diana was checking out at Old Navy, I was watching Ollie as he walked around the store. Before I knew it, he had pair of hoop earrings in one hand and a small black purse in the other. I only held him back when he tried to grab four purses off the rack at the same time.

In all of these situations Ollie was overjoyed, almost to the point of giggling. So what do we do during these moments? Smile.

It’s not like all of Ollie’s interests are “feminine.” One of his favorite toys is a small play wooden tool set with little screws, nails, a hammer and a screwdriver. Get him near a toddler basketball hoop and he will spend a good chunk of time trying to get a ball through that hoop. He's obsessed with throwing "baaa" or balls. Did we push these toys on Ollie? Not really, he gravitated to the basketball hoop at my mom's house and learned how to use the tool set when we got it for him.

Diana and I are not on a mission. We are not trying to have Ollie be the person to break down gender roles and stereotypes. Our approach is to nurture Ollie’s interests regardless of the gender normally associated with that interest in our society. If that means that we support Ollie’s interest in fashion as well as his love of power tools, so be it. What is most important to us is not that Ollie subscribe to any gender roles but rather that he feels free to pursue whatever he wants regardless of gender stereotypes.

When I tell people about Ollie doing “girly” things, I often get applauded for being open-minded and progressive in my parenting style. I appreciate the support, but for me allowing Ollie to play with purses isn’t really a tough thing for me. Part of this has to do with the fact that I also enjoyed playing with my mom's things growing up. My mom did nothing to encourage this behavior but she didn’t discourage it, either. Do I question my own masculinity because of this? No, actually I think I have a better sense of what it means to be man and love myself because of these experiences.

The other thing that makes it not a big deal to support Ollie in his exploration is because of the support of our friends and family and the how much society has progressed. Once upon a time, parents were told that if they allowed their sons to engage in activities that weren’t stereotypically male, they would become messed up when they became older and worst of all they would succumb to the perversion and sickness of homosexuality.

Well, since along with Bill Gates, the geeks have inherited the earth and the consequences for letting your son play with make-up are non-existent.

In many ways its easy for me to be accepting of Ollie playing with purses.

Things will change. At a certain point Ollie will begin to see the differences between men and woman more clearly and he will start categorizing things as being things by gender. This is a stage that that is developmentally appropriate and necessary. At other points in his life he will not care of what is identified as being girly. As my students get older I see this go in waves, as it should.

The bottom line for me is what makes Ollie happy.  I'm not going to let anything stand in the of the joy he gets from exploring the world around him. The world is magical to him, there's a spark, a spirit in him that shines through when he pursues something he is interested in.  There is nothing bad that can come from that—only good.

Ollie can choose what he is into, and if other people in the world don't think his choices are right, that's their problem.

No comments:

Post a Comment