How to bust a stereotype

Diane Cassells
A lot has been said, over time, about the differences between raising boys and girls. It’s my belief that we should work to transcend gender stereotypes when we look to the upbringing of our babies but, it can seem difficult in a world that appears to be dominated by Disney Princesses for girls, and Bob the Builder for boys.

That's what little girls are made of... (or not!)

As I tussled with myself about a year ago, I wondered if I was doing my daughter a disservice by letting her dream about becoming Ariel or Cinderella, or if I was merely conforming to what she was experiencing at school and by what she saw on television.

And then – because this is how it is with parenting – just as I thought I needed to do something to bust those stereotypes in our home – she bust them for both of us.

During a recent trip to the stores, she fell in love with a set of cars. Not just any cars, but a set with the full loop-de-loop and racing stripes adorned all over them. I bought them, and told her we’d play with them the moment we got home.

As we spent the afternoon together, zooming cars around and trying to see who could spin them the best, I realised I worried too much and lived too little. While I’d been worrying about how she seemed to live in a world of fairy castles and fancy princes, she was already way ahead of me, thinking far beyond the turrets and tinsel.

I’ve watched her, especially over the last year, as she sees things for herself, and not in terms of girl/boy specificity. She has a keen interest in learning to fix computers, and is extremely excited to learn about the why and wherefore of how screwdrivers are an essential tool for every day life.

Through the book she’s reading at the moment, I see a healthy mix of typical (or atypical) boy and girl protagonists, and she doesn’t seem to battle to resonate with any of them – and I thank those great writers for making that possible.

As we near the end of this school year, the dinnertime conversation has often turned to “what do you want to do when you finish school?” In my usual paranoid manner, I’ve loaded my questions with stereotypes to see if she rails against them…

Her responses have given me hope, and steeled me as I think about the future. I accidentally-on-purpose asked her if becoming a Mathematician (her first choice for a career at some point) wasn’t a very “girl” thing to do and her response got me, right in the eye…

“Mom, Maths doesn’t know I’m a girl when I’m doing it. I don’t really think it cares either”.

Dear Stereotypes, it was nice knowing you. And then busting you.

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

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