Wednesday, October 28, 2009

K & O on Gender: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Our humanity rests upon a series of learned behaviors, woven together into patterns that are infinitely fragile and never directly inherited. --Margaret Mead

There is so much I could say here. But after pondering this long and hard I've decided to just let the quotes and stories speak for themselves. Here it is folks... some of our most memorable recent moments with Kyle and Owen regarding the subject of gender. The good. The bad. And the ugly. You can decide for yourself which is which (depending, of course, on your own leanings with these subjects). I will say, however, that anyone who has read here for any length of time will be able to guess where I stand on these things. I AM MORTIFIED ABOUT A LOT OF THIS---- but for the sake of memory, for better or for worse, I am putting this down here. It is what it is. It is real. So, here we go...

In the car one day early this Fall~~~
K: Mom, what are you going to be when you grow up?
H: Well, I'm kind of already a grown up. And I am a professor. You know that. That is what I am for my work-- that is what I do for my work. I am a professor.
O: I'm definitely not going to be a professor when I grow up.
H: O.k. That's great! I think it is great if you do something different than what I do.
O: I'm definitely not going to be a professor when I grow up because I'm not a girl.
H: Oh. Well, there are lots of professors who are men. Professors aren't just women.
K: Like who?
H: Like Ben! You know, the Ben of 'Ben and Ruth.'
O: The Ben that visited us?
H: Yes, he's a professor. You know that! And there are lots of other men professors too. You've met lots of men professors. Like at my work. You know, like all the people at my office who are men. They are all professors. You know that.
O: Papi, are you a professor?
B: No, I'm not a professor. But there are lots of men who are professors.
K: What is Papi?
H: Umm... umm... Papi is an executive.
B: Yeah, I'm an executive.
K: An executive. Oh.
O: Well I'm going to be a pilot when I grow up.
H: Whatever you want to be there are men and women who do it. Boys and girls can all do all of the different jobs. There is no job that women aren't allowed to do. And there is no job that men aren't allowed to do. There are men and women professors. There are men and women executives. And there are men and women pilots.
K: I never saw a pilot that was a lady.
B: Yes you did! The first time you ever sat in the pilot's seat in a plane cockpit! That pilot that let you do that was a woman! You've definitely seen a woman pilot before!
K: Oh. Really?
B: Yes, do you remember that?
K: Oh, yes, I do remember that.
B: So, there are pilots that are women and pilots that are men.
O: Well, I'm going to be a pilot. I'm not going to be a professor because I'm not a girl.

One day, playing "Mailman" in the playroom (a common theme of play with K & O).... They make "mail" (i.e., write on paper and make letters and envelopes, packages, etc.), and then they "deliver it" to other parts of the house (via riding on their toy train), and this goes on and on for hours. Talking to each other, while deep in their imaginative play~~
K: I am a mailman and you are a mailman. Right Owen?
O: Right.
K: Are we kid mailmans or are we growned up mailmans?
O: We're grown up. Definitely. We are grown up. Kids can't really be mailmans.
K: O.k. That's right. Are we married?
O: Yes. Definitely.
K: To women or to men?
O: Um, I think to women.
K: O.k.
O: What is your wife doing?
K: She is a mailman too I think. But no. It is just you and me. We are the mailmans.
O: Right. It is just us.
K: Right.
O: I will tell my wife to stay here and take care of our kids.

Another day, during dinner, we were talking about marriage (this is a consistent theme for K & O ever since school started this fall). Despite the fact that we have gay and lesbian friends and family members who are legally married and many of whom have children of their own together, and despite the fact that in their own classrooms Kyle and Owen have friends whose families represent such family structures, they continue to be challenged by the fact that some kids at school tell them outright that "men can't marry men and women can't marry women." Apparently, according to K & O and their teachers, K & O duke this out (words, not fists, at least so far, thank God!), on the playground on a regular basis. Anyway, one night at dinner~~~
O: Well, I know this for sure-- I am going to marry Stella and Kyle is going to marry Emily and we are going to live in a house together and we are going to sleep together in a giant bunkbed and we are all going to be together in the top bunk.
H: Oh?!
K: Yes, that is how it is going to be. Right Owen?
O: Right.
H: Well, if you decide to get married when you're grown-up, that is still a long way away, and you have plenty of time to figure out who you will want to marry.
K: How far away? How old do you have to be to get married?
H: Well, I think you have to be, I don't know, maybe like something like 30 years old when you decide to get married. It is a big decision!
O: Well, I know I am going to do it and I am going to marry Stella.
H: Maybe. Or maybe it will be someone else. Maybe a different girl. Or maybe a boy.
K: I will marry a lady.
H: Why?
K: Because then she will cook for me.

Lastly, a head's up regarding the soon-to-happen-Halloween-extravaganza!!! (just 48 hours away now and the countdown is on!)~~~
The boys are very excited for Halloween. We have their costumes and everything is all set. They've known for months (well, basically, since last Halloween) what they want to be for Halloween this year. Prepare yourselves for what you will see on this blog in the coming days..... for disdain or delight (again, depending, of course, on how you lean on these things)... my Boy-boys (the same ones quoted above) are going to be butterflies. Glittery, fluttery, winged, butterflies. They were insistent. INSISTENT. Not that I fought it. But still. They were determined about it. Nothing else would do. Note: they have absolutely NO IDEA WHATSOEVER that butterflies are considered, by the vast majority of the U.S. mainstream population, to be 'girl costumes' (etc etc etc). So, like I said, it is what it is. All mixed up. And real.


M and M said...

This is why these boys are so lovely - beautiful butterfly boys. What a wonderful record of their awareness, their curiosity, and their efforts to put it all together.
I remember when I was looking for a job (just before a divorce) "you can fold laundry momma, you're very good at that." I was so crushed by his image. Working it out...that's what they do. Thank goodness they speak this stuff, so we can work on our own deliberate models and verbalizations of what wo do/how things work/ who does what...and on and on. Precious. Thanks for this post.

Katie said...

I can't WAIT to see butterfly costumes! Yay for open mindedness!

J & A said...

Ooh, what if your boys grow up to marry women who want to stay at home with children?! Or, or...GASP!...are REPUBLICANS!?!??! The horror...

Heather said...

My dear, dear "J&A" (whoever you are): I would be o.k. with it if they were to marry women who want to stay home with children (or if they themselves wanted to stay home with their children someday), but I would surely be GREATLY DISTURBED if I were to raise boys who grew up to be men who (as Owen said) "*tell* their wives to stay home and take care of our kids"! Eeeks!!! Um, "*tell*" their wives to stay home???? Heaven help us! The horror is right! I'm hoping, and trying hard, to raise feminist men (i.e., men who value equal rights, treatment, and opportunities for males and females). It sure is a tough, tough parenting challenge-- given all that we're up against (socially, politically, economically) encouraging the opposite in them.

Lisa said...


Your boys have the best spirit! As a preschool teacher I LOVE their imaginative play, that is awesome that they are encouraged and allowed to speak what ever is on their mind at the time! This is how kids work it all out and find where their fit in life is. Your boys having parents that don't stomp on that kind of "fit" finding is exactly why they have the confidence to be beautiful butterflies for Halloween, I LOVE IT!

Double Double Happiness said...

Your boys are absolutely precious and hilarious! I LOVE boys. They are both sugar and spice and all things bad and nice. Thank you for sharing. It really made me laugh!

Holli said...

I can't wait to see the butterflies!!! LOVE IT!
I have to admit that I wanted my daughter to be a nurse this halloween (It is a proper English Nurse costume- cape and all) and thought oh it would be cute if my son was a doctor.
I have to admit that after reading this I am a little ashamed of myself..... not to much though.... I LOVE that nurse costume!;)

I do have to say that is what I wanted them to be and THEY DID NOT! My daughter wants to be a ballerina and my son want to be batman..... They were both these 2 years ago but this is what they want- so that is what they will be.


Jenn said...

I love it! Like you, I would be thrilled with whomever my children marry as long as they are happy and treated well. Finding long lasting, respectful love is not an easy task...boy, girl, it doesn't matter in the least to me. If my sons or daughters choose to work inside or outside the home is their choice but being told that is their role simply because of some antiquated way of thiniking?? Not cool.

Emmers said...

Can't wait to see the butterfly costumes - I bet they are going to be awesome!!

Shannon- said...

First- I'm cracking up just imagining the adults faces at kyles "I'll marry a lady so she can cook for me" comment. I'm sure you deserve praises regardless!

Second- it is because of what you've shared here that has given me practical plans on how to raise my son. To expose him to all options, colors, etc- so that when the decision is his- he is comfortable and confident in making them. ( i fear I'm, trivializing the example but... it's not the intent). I mean this to say, bravo and THANKYOU!! Again.

Haitian-American Family of Three said...

Last night I threw a pillow at the TV because there is a new commerical for a fisher price toy set-a car racing kit for BOYS and a homemaking set for GIRLS, they did not even try to show any variance, it was a 100% divided line and its so stupid. My girl and sisters loved race tracks-they are cool! Lots and lots of little boys love to play house, shopping and cooking. Why deny the reality we live in just to extend this idea of gender and place in society? I think your stories and beautiful because they are true.

Ani said...

I can't wait for the Halloween post! I love these tiny insights into their minds :-)

lff said...

Simply precious. These stories capture so perfectly just how hard it is to figure all this stuff out. Thanks, as always, for your honesty in sharing.

Stacey said...

too funny what kids say, no matter what they see at home, they have their own minds. lol

love their costume idea! so far jackson is wearing riley's hand-me-down costumes...a turtle this year, mickey mouse next year. not sure if he'll want the cinderella costume from this year.

Candis said...

Hahahahaha! Those boys... The Peanut prefers blue toenail polish, but there ARE times when he points out ('cuz I'm too dumb to understand) certain colors that "only girls can wear."
Ironically, the pilot for our American Airlines flight back to the U.S. from Haiti was female.
Ahh, it all works out in the end. Kids really model how they see their parents work out the everyday details, and you and the B-man are strong models of equality in a relationship. But it Is a fun ride, isn't it?
Happy Halloween, K, O, & M, from Colin's mom.

My said...

Hilarious!! I LOVE this blog and your kids are AWESOME! :)