Monthly Archives: November 2017

Toxic Masculinity

So, we all know toxic masculinity is a problem. If you are unsure about that I’m not sure how you made it this far following me. For the sake of this post I am moving forward with the assumption that my lovely readers are all nodding their head in agreement.

I hate the way people talk about boys. I have been seeing this regularly, mainly around the disappointment people feel when they find out they will be having sons and raising them in our current culture that, let’s be honest, is a total and complete shit show. The latest one to push me over the edge was a woman saying that she is sad to find out they are having a boy because boys are aggressive and violent and all the other stereotypes you can think of. This woman is both queer and an educator so it hurt my heart triple.

I struggle with this because I also felt a bit like this before having a kid. I worried that a boy would be too much or that I couldn’t raise a good man. We didn’t know Gus’ sex until he was born but I have never felt a moment of disappointment. Raising him has made me realize how unique kids can be. Watching him with his peers really drives that home. There is no one way to be a boy or a girl and our kids are out there living their individual lives. I wish I better understood that ten years ago. I wish a woman working with children better understood that now.

Raising Gus is a fascinating process. Yes, I worry about toxic masculinity. I would imagine most parents of boys and girls have concerns about it at this point. We do our best to combat it at home. We do limit screen time and what type of shows he watches. We work hard to diversify our books. We talk about consent. A LOT. We read and research and put a lot of thought into our parenting and hope it will pay off.

I’ve been struggling a lot lately with watching how people react to boys who don’t fit stereotypical boy molds. I’ve seen a lot of talk in queer family forums about preparing for kids around Gus’ age or a bit older to transition because they are gender nonconforming. I support people supporting their children, yes. But I struggle so much with seeing people talk about how their babies can wear anything or it being cute when their toddler boy loves his older sister’s dressed and then it reaching a point, almost predictably around 3-4, where kids are labeled gender nonconforming and parents wonder how to help them moving forward.

Again, I am all for parents supporting their kids but I feel like there is a point where we are dropping the “You can be any kind of boy/girl you want” line and instead are trying to fit our kids into the right box. A bigger box is still a box. Gus is 3 years and 13 days old and has been asked by people what his pronouns are. I understand the desire to be accepting and loving towards our children but I worry that we are still equating a skirt and long hair with girlhood. I worry so much that we are reinforcing the very ideas that we want to move away from.

I can’t speak for every parent and goodness knows I can’t speak for any child. And again, to be clear, I want all kids to be loved and supported so they are happy and healthy. But I feel like in progressive circles the older Gus gets the less acceptable it is for him to be just a boy who is free to like what he likes. He is different from some other boys, yes. But we have spent the last three years working hard to support him being anything he wants. Why would we stop doing that now? Gus is very clear that he is a boy. He has no reason to believe he cannot be any kind of boy he wants. But I am feeling the side eyes and conversations danced around by well meaning people who think that because he is his own kind of boy he may not be a boy at all. And while I suppose time will tell on that one I am so alarmed by the contrast that comes around three when people stop being accepting of free spirited kids and start needing to see how the kids conform to their adult ideas of gender.

I worry about how growing up surrounded by toxic masculinity will affect him. I worry that by not forcing him to fall in line with societal gender norms it may him him harder, either internally in how he sees himself or externally and his treatment of other people. Like all of parenting I never know if we are doing the right thing.

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Memory

I have a terrible memory. I remember snippets from my childhood but not a lot. This is not because I had a bad childhood – it was totally fine and normal – I just have a bad memory. My wife, on the other hand, does not. She remembers a lot and from a young age. It was something I never thought about much beyond a way people are different. There are so many things you don’t consider until you have a three year old, right?

Gus remembers a lot. He will talk about things that happened a year ago. You can’t trick him with “maybe we will do that later” stuff because he will remember and bring it up constantly. We have gotten comments from his teachers about what he retains and talks about (hahaha, not bad, just that it is noteworthy to them) and have always thought he remembers a bit more than some.

Suddenly it occurred to me that he is now three. He turned three on 10/2. And people remember things from when they were three. Mostly people remember big things but they remember things and something in that really strikes a cord with me. Our kid, as we speak, is making memories.

There are times where this causes me immense guilt. He has been, uh, spirited lately. It’s been a lot. Last weekend was just fucking terrible. When we are not at our best is he making memories of that? Is this how he will think of his moms and his childhood? Logically, I know that a bad day does not make a bad life and that he’s fine but the memory aspect is really not great for mom guilt.

Other times this brings me a lot of joy. There are things we have put off doing because it doesn’t seem worth it and that is getting more fun. Train rides, aquarium visits, dance class. We threw a pool party for his birthday and he loved it in a way I don’t think he would have a year ago. He experiences things differently because they build on his memories and it’s cool to watch how that works.

As we move into holidays I am thinking a lot about what that means. As a small family living far from extended family it is important to me that we create good traditions. Holidays are spent just the three of us and I feel like this is the first year he will really start building memories of them. Lesley and I have things we have done for years so I don’t feel at a loss for what to do, I only feel excited about watching him experience it as a kid, not as a baby or toddler. It takes a time that is normally really lonely and sad for me and gives it a more positive spin.

Three has been rough so far, I am not going to lie. But there is such much wonder and joy, too.