Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Boy oh boy

Scooter is a boy.

So yeah, this is news to nobody, but it's become a fact he needs to assert frequently and in the strongest manner possible.

I know that this is all completely age-appropriate. He's defining himself in relation to the world around him and the labels that are most readily available. He's also learning social conventions via his peers.

I have to keep all of this in perspective. It can take a lot of self-monitoring and reminders.

It's a good thing that he's finally paying attention to people and how they differ. More than that, it's impressive he's picked it up without more explicit teaching since this is a typical weakness for people with Asperger's.

But sometimes it's a tiny little dagger in my feminist heart.

He has begun to loudly and insistently classify things--toys, movies, shows, games, books--as "for boys" and "for girls." He proclaims that he "hates" certain movies and characters he loved when he was younger.

I occasionally respond to his announcements with something like, "Anybody, boy or girl, can like that." Not because I expect it to make a difference in his present opinion, not because I'm trying to lecture him. Rather, I hope that when he gets past his current need to assert his gender so strongly, that idea might stick with him and he'll allow himself to like things simply because they appeal to him.

Oh, and to counter the vehement reinforcement of gender many of his classmates have picked up from their parents. Scooter went to one birthday party with a football theme. I suspect that this father heavily emphasizes "boy" activities since his son being gay would be about the worst thing he could imagine. (Should I anonymously pass along articles on gay professional athletes?) Another parent "punished" her son by sending him to school with Disney Princess fruit snacks, instead of the usual Spiderman ones. At the time, I told him that she probably ran out of the others and that they're the same basic fruit snacks anyway--later I found out, directly from the mother, that most of her children's stuff is gender-specific and that giving her son something "girly" is a mild form of punishment.

I wonder how these parents would/do respond to a fairly normal statement from boys at this stage. Scooter has declared recently that he does not want to marry a girl (seeing as they are conveyors of "girl stuff" and all). Sometimes he'll refuse kisses from Trillian and me since we're girls (though sometimes we can win them back by pointing out that they're "mommy kisses," which are a slightly different category). I don't expect this to be predictive of the dates he brings home in high school, but I also don't care how it plays out.


kate said...

Yeah, other parents kind of suck. I was kinda proud when my son announced that he wanted a dress because he wants to be a princess. Also kinda worried about how such a statement would be received at his daycare with his peers or their parents or his teachers. All that said, I still haven't gotten him a dress (the store we were at when he said that didn't have a single dress in his size). Mind you, I also haven't gotten him a plastic sheet or signed up for private speech therapy, so it doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Mouse said...

I LOVED Scooter's preschool in Toronto. They had all kinds of dress-up clothes and didn't make anything of who wore what. And all of the adults who worked there echoed the same sorts of sentiments I said. So sure, the kids would say something about "girl stuff" and "boy stuff," but any adult who heard it would gently assert otherwise. I miss that.

Team Serrins Springfield said...

The fuck? Sending your kid to school with the wrong snacks is punishment? What do they do for big stuff? Call the kid names? Make him run naked through the streets. What an idiotic method of punishment. Even if you're into punishment (which we're not), isn't there supposed to be some relationship between the action and the consequence? I mean was whatever this kid did wrong somehow snack related? Did he throw the spiderman ones on the floor and stomp them for fun? Ok, I'm diatribing but that's just ridiculous.

As far as Scooter, it sounds like he's totally being age-appropriate and that the two of you are handling it just right. I mean, you can't argue with him. All you can do is just let him know that there's a lot more flexibility in the world than "boy things" and "girl things" and love him. So well done on that!

Bea said...

Bub is going through this phase too. He has somehow absorbed the idea that "boys don't like kisses" - probably because of the time he kissed one of the boys in his kindergarten class, who responded with alarm. On the bright side, though, Bub has no clue that boys don't like ballet, and pirouettes with the girls in his Sunday School class like a champ.

True confession: I currently have four boxes of children's Band-Aids in my house: I had one for upstairs and one for downstairs, but then I realized I had to double my stock, so I've got Hello Kitty and Transformers upstairs, Barbie and Spiderman downstairs. And I wouldn't even dare to punish my children by forcing them to wear cross-gender Band-Aids.

Lisa b said...

princess snacks as punishment? lovely.
I am so glad she lives so far away from me.

NotSoSage said...

Yeah, I'm galled by the snack thing, too. I just can't even...imagine what that child would think if he had even the slightest notion of not fitting in squarely with her gender norms...that he was being punished?

I'm sorry, that's just messed up.

Mouse said...

This is an odd town in that there are a lot of families that fit very strict gender norms. I know of many households where the father works at the big company here and mom stays home. A lot of them are well-educated. Some of these simply don't work since their husbands are in lucrative fields and there aren't a lot of jobs available. But some of them really are happy to have sort of a 50s, gender-specific existence.

At least from subbing, I know that the kids end up pretty much as I'd expect by high school--again, it's all developmentally appropriate. In the meantime, I just know I'll be pushing against the hyper-concerned parents for years.