How to raise little men and women

My first baby was a darling little girl.

I should probably mention that when people asked me what I wanted during my pregnancy with Pearyn, I wasn't one of those polished mothers who replied with a "as long as the baby's healthy I'll be happy" remarks. Sure, I wanted my baby to be healthy, but I also really, really wanted that baby to have a vagina. 

It wasn't just the cute clothes (although, they are absolutely adorable) or the idea that I'd be able to paint her nails and make her into a little lady; it was quite the opposite actually.

I wanted a baby girl because in this world, it's easy for women to be pushed around. It's easy for us to be told we're too fat, we're too skinny, we're not pretty enough, we're too pretty, we should just have babies, shut our mouths and stay at home. No, wait, we should have babies and then work high-power, executive jobs so we can show people we really can "have it all." But while we have it all, we also need to clean the bathroom, shop for groceries and make the dinner. We should be sensitive and gentle for our men, but strong and stable for the other women out there.

In this world, it's easy as women to feel like we should be everything for everyone else. In this world, it's especially easy for little girls to try to BE like everyone else.

My mother is one of the strongest women I know -- sometimes, to a fault. And never once was I limited in believing all I was meant to do was have babies and care for a husband. Now, there's absolutely nothing wrong with this either - it's an incredibly noble cause - but only if you CHOOSE this, only if you WANT it. No woman should be forced into believing it's her only calling.

So simply put, I wanted a little girl because I think our world could use more strong women. And I'll be damned if my little girl doesn't feel empowered to do whatever her little heart wants her to do - whether it's rocket science, being a garbage woman or getting married and having a dozen adorable babies - it's her choice and I want her to feel that way.

And over the last three years, we really have had our share of sugar and spice and everything nice. We've also realized our daughter, much to our dismay at times, is already a force to be reckoned with.

So when I found out I was having a little man this time around, fear took over my body. How do you raise a little man? What if I royally screwed him up? I am familiar with the struggles of women and being a teenage girl, but I don't have the slightest clue what it means to be a little boy growing into a man. 

Sure, I've got a wonderful husband to help me with this task, but I'm the kind of obnoxious person who needs to do things for herself, or at the very least, needs to know HOW to do them. 

So naturally  I did what I always do when I want to learn something - I searched for books. And so far, I've found a few that show promise. But in addition to finding that I could benefit from, I've found some that show me exactly what can be so hard about being a little boy.

For the good part of the last century, women were supposed to be pretty, delicate things. What I didn't realize in turn, is that little boys were supposed to be strong, unemotional things. 

Boys shouldn't cry. Boys shouldn't talk about their feelings, that will make them appear weak and no one wants to hear about them anyway. Boys should be protectors, fearless leaders and are responsible for all the people around them. They grow up being pruned to be the "head of the house" one day. And as a result of this training, we take a tiny piece of frivolousness, carefree, magical, be-whatever-you-want-to-be from them. 

In our world, even with the strives we've made, little boys are allowed to be whatever they want to be as long as it means they'll make a ton of money, support a wife and umpteen children and be the strong, sturdy stone of the family that never, ever breaks. 

Our world so needed these gender roles for men and women because it seemed like that was the only way it could keep spinning round. The big strong man, detached from his family and feelings, went off to work jaded and repressed. While the little woman stayed at home, repressing her own feelings and raising little men and women to follow into the same pattern. 

I think that's the most beautiful thing of all about our modern world, about America.

We don't NEED those gender roles anymore. Men and women can be equally strong and can rule the roost together. The man can enjoy the hell out of his family, change a few dirty diapers along the way and head off to work knowing he's definitely a provider, but that he doesn't always have to be big and strong.

And women, we can stay at home and raise little men and women, but also we can work, we can work from home, we can work on the side, we can provide for our family in ways other than just nurturing, if that's what we want. It doesn't mean we have to be little anymore. 

I'm not convinced that our society has yet embraced these ideas, as there are still mommy wars between stay-at-home moms who swear working moms are just jealous and working moms telling stay-at-home moms that they're doing an injustice to the women's rights movement. We still have men in severe depressions who can't talk about that sadness and ones who only feel it's acceptable to cry at their daughter's wedding or when watching Brian's Song

So I guess that's the trick about raising little men and women. We shouldn't be raising them to be what we want them to be. We should be encouraging them to be whatever THEY want to be, whether that means a little girl who wants to play football and be the President of the United States, or a little man who wants to write poetry, cries at sad movies or hell, wants to stay at home with the kids. 

I guess in the end, what I hope for my children, is that they live in a world without definition. A world where we don't congratulate a father who plays an equal role in raising his children, because it would be out of the norm to NOT. A world where a woman isn't labeled by mother or wife, not because she isn't those things, but because she's SO much more.

There's nothing wrong with gender roles, I just don't particularly believe that one gender has to buy into a single one. 

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