Still forcing gender roles on kids. You know. In case they’re confused.

The girls’ daycare center/preschool is closed every year on Good Friday, which always leaves us scrambling, since, A, we always forget until the day sneaks up on us; and B, neither Joe nor I have the day off of work, obviously. But this year, Good Friday coincided with the first night of Passover, so Joe could easily take off from his (Jewish) law firm after putting in a half day; and because I had a play to review that evening, I was home during the day.

We decided to embrace the chance to get some of the kids’ doctor’s appointments taken care of, so we divided and conquered: Joe took Lily to his office for a half day, fed her lunch, and took her to our dentist; Neve, meanwhile, stayed home with me, and I got rare one-on-one time with the baby (as well as a nap when she nodded off – SCORE FOR MOMMY!!)

Neve was due for her 9 month check-up, so I’d scheduled an appointment at the pediatrician’s late that afternoon. By then, Lily had come home and wanted to tag along – with an old Easter basket in-hand, specially packed for the trip with a couple of Barbies, a necklace of gold plastic beads, and small rubber doll versions of Belle and Ariel.

While sitting in the ped’s waiting room, a boy Lily’s age made a bee-line toward her, and Lily happily laid out the contents of her basket for his consideration. Drawn by the gold Mardi Gras beads, the boy picked them up, only to have his mother, from across the office, say, “That’s for girls. Put that down.”

The boy did so, reluctantly. (Seconds later, he picked up Belle and Ariel, making them face each other and talk. Why THIS was OK with the boy’s mother, and the beads weren’t – I’m a little fuzzy on that.) The irony is that just as the boy’s mother spoke up, I had been thinking how sweet it was to see two kids just start spontaneously playing together without shyness or self-consciousness. The fact that Lily’s white, and the boy was black, wasn’t an issue, nor was the fact that one kid was a girl and one was a boy.

But the mother’s paranoid assertion threw a bucket of freezing cold water on my warm fuzzy moment. I thought, “So this is how we learn to beat ourselves up; how we learn to make judgments about ourselves and others based on difference; how we develop a rigidly inflexible sense of ‘male’ and ‘female’; and how we reinforce a gendered hierarchy. This is how the seeds are planted.” (And God help this poor boy if he’s gay; he’d have a terribly painful and hard road ahead of him.)

This is how I went from feeling charmed and happy in a pediatrician’s waiting area to being depressed – in a matter of seconds. I hate that my daughters will grow up in a time when these stupid, outmoded ideas about gender are STILL being planted in kids’ heads. I thought, in my more optimistic moments, we might be beyond this nonsense.

Ah, well. Hopefully Lily’s playmate will grow up to think for himself. It’s our only hope.

More field notes/blog bites

* At Lily’s two year appointment, last May, the pediatrician issued a warning to me. “Two year olds are notorious for trying to drink their way through meals, with juice or whatever, instead of eating their food. So watch out for that.”

I’ve been on the lookout, but only recently, as Lily’s third birthday came within our sights, has this become an issue. Because, at one point, Lily was having intensely painful bowel movements, she’s indefinitely been prescribed a daily powder that we mix into some juice each night. So we need to supply her with some juice at dinner.

And this wasn’t a problem for a while. But lately, she gulps the juice down to the point of panting, then asks for more. So we’re having to start saying “no,” after her initial cup, until she eats more of her dinner. Hopefully, this will solve the problem. Cross your fingers for us.

* Related to this, Lily has lately become a bit obsessed about drinking just about every beverage she consumes in a small whiskey glass – part of a set we received as a wedding gift. We had, at meals, moved from sippy cups to small juice glasses, but once, when all the juice glasses were in the dishwasher, I offhandedly pulled down one of these whiskey glasses as a substitute. And now she won’t drink from anything else. (This is particularly hilarious to watch when she’s got apple juice in one of the glasses. I’m always tempted to ask, “Nightcap?”)

But of course, it’s not as simple as pouring her a “shot” of milk or juice into one of these glasses. She insists that we initially put the beverage in a sippy cup, which she will pour, mad scientist-style, into the whiskey glass in increments before drinking. So this has become part of our nightly ritual. (That and me saying “Be careful, be careful, watch what you’re doing, please!” ad nauseam as she’s transferring her drink.) One more instance where the oft-repeated (in our house) statement “Food is to eat, no to play with,” seems to hold no water. To a kid who’s nearly three, everything, at all times, is something to play with. Continue reading