Let’s talk about “normal.”
My daughter loves pink and my son loves ninjas.
Sounds normal? Ok.
My daughter also loves wrestling and my son loves fluffy robes.
My daughter wants to be Batman for Halloween, and my son asked if he could try mascara the other day.
Still sound normal?
Hopefully you nodded, but I know far too many people who would be feverishly shaking their heads, or at least raising an eyebrow.
If I hear one more time, “She should be a little princess!” or “He’ll learn to toughen up,” my head may actually pop off my body in a Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Robots-esque fashion.
For the record, people who keep saying these things- my son is a gentle soul who feels his emotions with a depth I wish more adults could tap into. And my daughter is NOBODY’S princess.
Why am I ranting about something I’ve already addressed? (Please see, “Peacefully & Beautifully Fierce” for the original rant) Because based on current events (globally, nationally, and in my own house), the first rant wasn’t enough.
I had a conversation with a friend this morning about what makes society believe that certain things are “normal” for one gender or the other. What makes us decide that princesses are ok for Grace, but not for Vince? That Vince can play football but Grace shouldn’t?
I’ve read a fair amount of literature that identifies the roots of the problem as gender reveal parties and baby showers. Are we conditioning them from birth?
I honestly don’t know.
At Vince’s baby shower I was gifted shades of blue that I didn’t even know existed. I was given onesies with every sport, dinosaur and fun-looking monster imaginable plastered across the front. I received a bunch of things that said “Tough Guy” and “Fighter.” Fast-forward 6 ½ years and Vince loves The Avengers, dinosaurs, and giant trucks with giant wheels. He also loves mud masks, his new glow-in-the-dark Halloween manicure, and bubble baths because, as he explains, “It’s like relaxing in a cup of warm cocoa.”
We bit into a few cupcakes when I was 12 weeks pregnant and pink frosting came out. Fast-forward 3 ½ years and Grace loves pink, princesses and pedicures…and superheroes, heavy metal, and pulling UFC-style moves on her brother until we have to literally peel her off of him because he’s about to pass out.
We visited a construction-themed amusement park this summer because Grace is obsessed with construction vehicles. A few weeks later, Vince and I did our nails, put on some paper moisturizing masks, and giggled until we cried while watching The Big Bang Theory (I fast-forwarded the adult situations, don’t worry).
At least in my case, I don’t think the baby shower or the gender reveal damaged their perceptions of who they want to be.
So why is some of this “normal” and some of it “wrong?”
Why, in 2018, are we still debating this? (Seriously, my blood pressure is ticking upward just typing this)
In the words of my friend, why can’t people just let them be?
Well, here’s my humble take on the whole thing.
I don’t think pink or blue is the whole root of the problem (but dear God, retailers, vary your advertising- girls like trucks; boys like pink. Explore it.)
I think “normal” is the problem.
“Normal” should be an individual attribute, not a universal measuring stick against which everyone is judged.
For Grace, normal is watching Fancy Nancy while wearing pink unicorn pajamas. Normal is head-banging in the back seat and singing along to the new Bullet for My Valentine song (I bleep the bad words, don’t worry). Normal is wearing her brother’s Captain America shield and racing his trucks (until he finds her and an epic sibling battle erupts).
And that’s all ok, and we honor it.
For Vince, normal is enjoying a few episodes of Elena of Avalor because he thinks it’s a great show (I agree- the way she keeps taking down Shuriki is the kind of badass we all wish we were). Normal is wearing his favorite Pokemon shirt and swinging his light-up sword all over my living room (and narrowly missing all the glass things). Normal is also trying on my shoes, jewelry, and lip gloss because he likes “being fancy.”
And that’s all ok, and we honor it.
We remind our children that they are loved; they are perfect just as they are; and they are free to choose their own normal.
We remind our children that everyone they encounter in life should also be free to choose their own normal, and that they need to respect that, and honor it.
We also remind our children that when they are not respected or honored, they have the choice to gently educate the other person, or respectfully walk away.
Vince has had to do both several times- he handles himself with a gentle confidence that I’m not sure I even possess yet.
Grace, at the wee age of 3, handles ridicule by announcing, “You are NOT my best friend right now,” flipping her head around, putting her hands on her hips, and marching in the other direction. I also don’t have that kind of confidence, and that’s ok because I’m not sure I’d look as adorable if I tried that. But she owns it.
We are not extraordinary parents who have created a perfect home.
HAHAHAHAHAAAAA…..not even close.
We don’t dance around them all day singing, “You sneeze rainbows and you are perfect in every wayyyy!” On the contrary, we constantly remind them that what comes out when they sneeze should never be treated as a snack or pre-meal appetizer (and then mouth “that is so f***ing gross” to each other as we gag).
We just try to promote expression and douse any little flame of intolerance or ignorance that they may unwillingly spark.
If a situation arises, we explain why you don’t make fun of someone for cheering for a different football team, having a certain kind of backpack, celebrating different holidays, or having religious beliefs that may not line up 100% with what we discuss when we take out our Bible at night. We tell them that whatever other people’s normal is, it is to be respected.
And if someone is not tolerant of their normal, we assure them that the actions of others do not ever mean they have to abandon any part of who they are.
Then we send them into the world to hopefully do the same for others.
We also never watch the news in front of them, because all of those things I just said? It doesn’t really seem like many people in charge (on either side) have a solid understanding of any of it right now.
I really think that’s it- ok, maybe not all of it, but a large part of it- give them respect, and remind them to give it to others. And when they forget, remind them again and again and again…and again…until they get it.
It seems so simple.
It seems like something that should be so…dare I say…normal.
Hopefully someday, it will be everyone’s normal.