30 March 2011

Curbing preferences

Here is my dilemma.  I love my children and accept their choices.  But the world can be an ugly, unaccepting place.  So where do I draw the line?  When do I teach them to make their choices freely and proudly without apology and when do I draw the line to prevent possible [probable] ridicule and redirect those choice to more socially acceptable ones?  I mean, they're 3 and 5 years old--I cannot expect them to initiate social change, can I?

We started ice skating classes through the City thinking it would lead to ice hockey.  It did not.  It merely lead to more skating classes, figure skating to be specific.  The boys absolutely love it and it suits their personalities.  Well...it suits A1's personality and whatever Big Brother wants, Little Brother wants!

We've gotten far enough along that it was time to get A1 his own skates instead of using the rink rentals.  They came with a beginners' package that included lots of accessories.  A1 ran directly to the sparkly purple skate guards and the pink and purple gloves, among other traditionally feminine choices.  His father and I redirected him to the primary colored options.  I could tell he wanted to please us, but didn't genuinely want to switch out his selected items.

I am riddled with guilt.  I have just taught my son that he cannot depend upon his own mind, that his perception of beauty is incorrect.

Marginally related photos of the boys with their amazing coaches (it's hard to tell where A2's hair ends and his Coach's begins!), and one of our narcoleptic pup:


Michelle said...

Look at it like this: you've molded a little person who doesn't see that colors are assigned to gender. That's awesome!

Ivan Chan Studio said...

That's a tough parenting decision to make!

Here are some things I'd consider:

Do you know if he might be red-green color blind? I picked pink and purple often because they looked grey and blue to me.

Do you have an idea of his orientation? He might be picking things according to his gender and not sex. He did like the twirly skirt… (What's the difference now?)

You're trying to protect and socialize your child like any good parent!

Next time, what about considering and fostering their strength to withstand and even respond to ridicule about who they are and their choices? Sometimes it's not about fitting in but about standing out.

You have other opportunities to support and teach that his sense of beauty and perceptions are okay. This way, he may not have to fight so hard later to reclaim it (I started painting again in 2006)!

Lam said...

@Michelle It would be entirely awesome, but society *does* assign gender to colors. That's what tempers the awesomeness of it all.

@Ivan He's not colorblind, red-green or otherwise. There have been recent occasions when he's expressed his wish to be a girl because of the pretty dresses--how much of that is gender identity and how much of that is identifying with me (I've very often witnessed extremely strong bonds between his firstborn male friends and their mothers), I don't know.

He is sensitive and perseverative. He doesn't like standing out--it distresses him. Earlier in the year, he kept trying to slow down his work in class because he would finish first while the others were all still working and it was very difficult for him to be different. (Not like his brother who wouldn't give a hoot whether he were first, last, or anywhere in the middle.)

So the hesitation is partially my response to his personality and not solely to the situation at hand (i.e., I'd be more inclined to encourage A2 to challenge stereotypes at a younger age because his tolerance is different).

Ivan Chan Studio said...

That makes a lot of sense!

Hm. It seems sad to consider your sacrifice; better that you teach your son, rather than a bully or insensitive classmate.

You know, I don't know why I comment when I'm tired. I would have considered that you had already considered what I offered for consideration.

Ivan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ivan Chan Studio said...

Wrong account!

So how's about that J. Crew photo?

Lam said...

Re: J Crew

I don't know much about it other than having seen the photo posted on a friend's FB.

I don't see it as their statement on gender identification/socialization politics. It sounds like fabulous marketing--but you know I'm very jaded about marketing scams in general. It's generated heated discussion and even WE are talking about an apparel brand with which I would have had no interest otherwise.

Lam said...

Your comment prompted further investigation and I've just skimmed a few articles about this campaign. Now I'm pissed! Not about the fiery pro/con statements. But about the mass confusion between SEXUAL identification and GENDER identification.

Ivan Chan Studio said...

People were making it a bigger deal than it never was! :) I'm not so much talking about the brand (which i don't think about, either) as much as people's reactions to breaking some social rule. I can just imagine the mortification you've saved A1!

Ivan Chan Studio said...

Yeah, that's a common confusion. :/

Fundamental attribution error, even!