Parenting is a journey. Some days it is like sipping champagne watching fireworks in Paris on New Year’s Eve. Other times it is more like cold dim sims in a Footscray milk bar on a Tuesday night. And interestingly, one situation can become the other in an abrupt knock-your-feet-out-from-underneath-you thump.
I had a quiet few minutes with my six-year-old son at our school bus stop earlier this week. His sister wasn’t going to school, and he was savouring it being ‘just us’. Suddenly he asked why his godmother helps elderly people so much. I felt a profound parenting moment coming on. I explained why it is good to help older people, his godmother’s desire that her work with the elderly was inspired by her hope that her own grandparents overseas were being taken care of by their neighbours. I mentioned the joy of doing things for others. In the three minutes before the bus arrived I had delivered a touching parental sermon, covering everything from love thy neighbour to honour they mother and father, and the dangers of osteoporosis. Yes, I had definitely chalked one up for the parental side. My son’s eyes were active and alive with thought.
“Mum,” he began, “I just want to ask one more thing. (Bravo! The beauty of my explanation has set him alight with wonder.)
“Do you know…if Dad just grew a little more his head would be over the shower screen?”
He dragged his school bag through a milky puddle and jumped merrily on the bus. The bus roared off, belched diesel and left me considering an ancient parenting rule: Don’t get too cocky. The parental soap box is rickety. Thump.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem