Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
If I had to share one parenting philosophy that I follow religiously, it would have to be my unwavering effort in trying to raise my son without any prejudices or biases in his mind. I particularly refrain from making generic statements about gender roles and preferences, not only with him, but also with others who make up his immediate sphere of influence. A lot of issues that we see with boys and girls who are raised with preconceived notions of how the world should be are a result of the clash of their limited ideologies with the limitlessness of reality. We can’t expect children who are raised on the regular fodder of “boys don’t cry” and “girls are soft and weak and shouldn’t go out at night” to become open-minded adults who can express their emotions or assert for equal rights and safer societies. We can’t expect children who always see their parents in stereotypical, siloed roles of “the one who provides” and “the one who nurtures” understand that it is normal to share the roles or even switch. With all these in mind, I try to follow a gender-neutral parenting approach. Yet, despite all these efforts, I still end up failing sometimes!
Just the other day, my son and I were trying our hands at creating some artwork. We sat on the ground with our drawing sheets and color boxes and came on all fours to pour our creativity out. But to my utter shock, my son gave me the pink crayon from his box and said that I should use that, as he wouldn’t. I gulped, hoping against hope that he had a fair justification for it, but to my disappointment, he said matter-of-factly that pink is a girl’s color. Now, I have heard that before, but my mind started racing to remember any instance where I might have accidentally said it to my son as well. I couldn’t think of any such instance, so I prodded him to tell me who told him so. He didn’t answer, and I guess I know why. After all, such remarks are so casually floating around in homes, schools, parks, neighborhoods and cinema that it could be said virtually by anyone. Who can you blame? I replied saying that there is no such thing as a girl’s color or a boy’s color, and even reminded him about how dapper he looks in his pink kurta, but he didn’t seem to want to use the pink crayon anyway. I gave up the battle. A few days later, I was getting ready for a meeting so I put on a buttoned shirt with trousers. My son looked at me and innocently asked me why I had put on papa’s clothes! I’ll be honest, I did find it funny at first and it is quite harmless for a three year old to ask such questions. The problem is not with their queries but rather our response to them. And our own prejudiced thought processes.
Unless we overcome our own limitation, our boys will continue to find it okay to pee by the roadside and our girls will continue to ask for dolls rather than the cricket kit. While our boys will have the wherewithal to go out there and conquer the world, they will continue to be domestically challenged and while our girls will look like a million bucks on any given day, they will not have pushed their limits and nurtured their true inner potential to explore, discover and create. It is because of these prejudices that even today, an employee of the world’s best technology company can blatantly declare that women are not fit for the technology industry. It is because of such ignorance that a politician can justify stalking and harassment of women by simply stating that boys will be boys. As parents, we have to broaden our own thinking and trust and nurture the potential of our sons to be our lifelong friends and the potential of our daughters to bring glory to our lineage. We need to get rid of the age-old tag of “daughters for life” and include our sons as well by calling them “ our children for life”. If we don’t teach our sons to care, how do we expect them to care anyway? Similarly, we need to tell our daughters that they can do anything, and mean it. We must give them the right role models – of women who stood up for themselves, of women who helped others, of women who created their path. We must show them that it is all right to fall down and get hurt, as long as you continue to learn and grow. We must encourage them to follow their hearts and take up challenges that others have not. Children are like plants that automatically grow towards the sunlight. We need to be that support system to help them explore their own, individual potential, without the weight and pressure of unfounded norms.
Sometimes I feel there is such little time and so much to do. I wish parents got 48 hours in a day. After all, raising kids the right way is double the work, isn’t it?
If you like what you read here, please follow my blog on Mycity4kids for more such article - Ritika's Blog