Sitting in the cool silence this morning, I find myself already attempting to plan out the day ahead of me. Attempting to think of ideas that might motivate the kids to play and love and learn. Being a parent takes so much effort. It takes constant self-checking, planning, and the recognition that all of this is for the greater good of raising children who will one day be confident and capable adults. Being a parent is exhausting, often discouraging, and even more often frustrating. (pictures by cousin Kendra)
Trying to keep the kids active and to somehow encourage their energy in the direction of some sort of creativity and/or imaginative play is much more difficult when I’m focused on packing. Realistically, the only thing in the world they seem to want this summer is to have the complete freedom to watch TV and play on their computers without silly time boundaries. I recognize that it would make my own situation so much easier- to just give into these electronically hypnotizing whims and let them sit for hours, but there’s this part of me that absolutely hates all things media driven – Games – computer and console - and especially television programs which seem to just instill in my children the exact ideas about growing up that I had hoped to avoid.
It seems that in order to counteract these false narratives about gender and growing up, I would need to sit with them while they watch, pause the show constantly and say things like: “No, girls don’t have to wear makeup and glitter and heels, yes, boys can like pink and not be chastised, don’t be prissy – as much as the shows make it out to be, it’s not cute. Boys do not have to play sports or be “tough” to fit in or prove their masculinity.” Sitting and constant commentary does not sound at all appealing or productive, so I often choose the harder fight – the fight where I say “no” to computers an T.V. and then they look at me with big doe eyes and whine about the injustice of it all. I tell them to read a book and sometimes this works – or to go outside and play – or by all means, pack their rooms (this is the lesser chosen option).
I took a class this past semester in which we discussed the difficulty of gender stereotyping and how the gender stereotypes have so pervaded our culture that they are taken as truth without questioning – even unconsciously – by most of our society. I sat in that class – Saturdays for 8 hours at a time – recognizing stereotypes which have already begun to work on my children – I sat wondering how in the world to change the influence that stereotypes might have on my kids, while still raising capable, confident children who could stand up for themselves and their friends, and still fit in.
There is no instruction manual for how to do this well. There is also the constant push back from peers and media and society in general that will teach them that stereotypes are so much easier to just embrace – but I want them to be different.
I want them to believe that anything is possible and then to take steps to achieving those possibilities. Most of all though, I want them to believe in themselves as people perfectly made for the purpose God had in mind for them. Perfect in their imperfections and Beloved beyond all understanding.