Yesterday, my three-year old brings home her Social Studies home work. It states:

Children invited to bring a toy to school. They are also requested to learn the following lines for their social studies class tomorrow. The lines are:

For Girls: I am a girl and I like to play with dolls and doll houses.

For Boys: I am a boy and I like to play with cars, kites, trains and aeroplanes.

Imagine my horror! I was so upset at this homework that I wanted to call the principal and give her a piece of my mind. But I did not do that. I spoke to my child about toys and she tells me rather sadly that she can not play with cars because she is a girl. I remind her of her Dora Van and she jumps with joy. I tell her, girls can play with anything they like. I teach her this line so many times she gets annoyed with me.

The next morning, she takes her talking (and pooping) doll to school along with the van. I march into the principal’s office and give her a lecture and show her my strongly worded application. She agrees with me and on further exploration we discover that this homework was the class teacher’s idea.

If I had a son, would I want him playing with dolls? Maybe not, but if he chose to, should I stop him? I can not. It would be his choice. One of my sweetest friends is an artist. He collects dolls… or as he call them, action figures. Transformers or some other thingies. I don’t know. He is one of the most creative people I know. Not only that, he is a loving son, brother and husband. I have known him in all these roles. When I was expecting, he threw me a baby shower. The day before my C-Section he calls up my husband and concerned for my stress level, goes out for dinner with us. There are countless examples of his sweetness and I think, if at some point, his creativity and imagination had been thwarted, he would not have been as good a friend and as good a human being.

One of my friends wants her daughter to grow up to be a housewife, the way she is. Live in a comfortable home, with a lavish lifestyle and not have to work. As a working mother, I disagree with that, but what I disagree with is that we decide for our children. You see, we have no choice, for children will always end up doing what they wanted to do anyway. She wants comfort for her child, we all do. I understand how she feels, as a mother. I know this, because I know, in her heart this is what my mother wants for me, but she has come to accept me as I am and supports me in every way. What else can a mother do?

At around 16 years of age, my father sat me down for a serious heart to heart. He asked me what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to work or would I choose to be a housewife? He told me the pros and cons of both… and the additional responsibilities that being a working woman brought on women. Not just being financially responsible, twice as tired and having to take decisions that most women could leave on their husbands, but also the additional understanding and compassion such wives show to their husband’s line of work. Actually relating to his work problems, finding solutions, whilst continuing to manage running the household with the same level of finesse we have come to expect from all women. On top of that, add the additional guilt of being a working mother, looking after your children and always being looked down upon by other women who choose not to work.

At 16, these problems sounded far too theoretical but I remember him explaining everything. He told me he would be proud if I chose this path but he would worry for me, always. It’s harder than I imagined. I still remember this conversation. I remember it everyday as I struggle through my life, of wanting to balance my multiple roles, and setting an example for my child where she must grab every single opportunity and not be compartmentalized into becoming a certain way because she is a girl. She is a person, first and foremost. I suspect she is going to be far more independent than her mother and father combined, and I worry for her, and yet, all I can do is give her wings.

The mother in me is haunted already by the limitations our society puts on women, and I can fight for my child, as much as I can… or I can teach her to fight for herself. Needless to say the teacher was told to change her lesson for the day. Today my daughter will tell the sixteen girls in her class that girls can play with anything they want to. And contrary to what anyone says, boys can play with dolls too. It makes them better men!

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