Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Birds and Bees (and Flowers Too)

For a week the Lawyer refused to practice for his school's end-of-the-year dance performance until his teacher agreed to let him play a bee, not a flower. He stood his ground for five school days, refusing to take part with the other flowers until he got his way. Unbelievable. And this is only kindergarten. What stunts will he pull in junior high and high school?

The Lawyer's realization that perhaps being a dancing flower isn't the most macho role for a boy to play surprised me. He's only six. I suppose this is the age when gender really starts to count for something.

"Boys, they don't make good flowers," he informed me, crossing his arms for added authority. "Flowers are too girly. Bees, now that's what boys are good at being. Bees sting. They're brave."

I see. Somehow it's tougher and more boyish to play a buzzing drone who caters to the queen bee, allowing her demand him around at her beck and call, right?

"'You really want to be a flower?" I asked him on the way home from an urgent flower vs. bee meeting with his concerned teachers. "Go ahead and be a flower. Who cares what the other boys think!" Next I thoroughly bored him with my sheep vs. shepherd speech. I think he stopped listening at my first bleet.

"At first I thought I wanted to be a flower but then my guy friends laughed at me," The Lawyer said. "They said it's cooler to be a bee."

Who cares? Well, he does, that's who. And he's the one who has to perform in front of all the other kids in his school, from his fellow kindergartners all the way up to the eighth graders. Not to mention all the factulty, parents, siblings and extended family. Truth is, I would've cared at that age too. Hell, I still care too much what everyone thinks. Maybe that's where he gets it from.

All this talk about "coolness" and flora versus fauna has me pondering peer pressure, gender stereotypes and our first introductions to both.

What if we told boys it's okay to cry and girls it's okay not to be pretty? What if we told our children that other peoples' opinions of them mean nothing in the end?

I wish I had time to delve deeper into these cans of worms. This post isn't even a surface scratch but you get the idea.

Would you let your son be a dancing flower if he wanted to be one?

When and how did you first realized that boys are "supposed" to act and look a certain way, and girls another? What was your first encounter with peer pressure? How did you react?

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At 11:43 PM, Blogger Cammy said...

I don't remember when I realized that boys/girls are supposed to act and look a certain way but when my son was 3 I remember being devastated when he came home from daycare and started telling me things boys should/could do and things girls should/could do. I wish I could remember examples but it seems to me it was one of those things that I thought a school-aged kid had told him. Despite my constantly correcting him about just what each can do if they please, I'm sad to say there are things he is still adamant about (though to his credit he has stayed in gymnastics so far, pretended to be pregnant with his monkey stuffy, and wants to take dance because it's cool). He's four now. As for peer pressure, my earliest recollection is grade four when I started not wanting to get the best marks in class because it was embarrassing and uncool.

At 8:30 AM, Blogger Charlotte said...

My five-year-old daughter is very into the gender divide. Luckily she has the example of her seven-year-old sister who loathes pink, Barbies and princesses and her two-year-old brother who likes to wear a crown and call himself a "queen". There are always going to be enough people around who like trouncing the stereotypes.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger gmcountrymama said...

I have always tried to be a little gender non-specific with my kids toys. But my girl gravitated to Barbies and Bratz and my son to cars and trains. I do catch my son playing with his sisters toys sometimes and her with his. That sounded weird, you know what I mean.
I asked my son if he wanted to take dance like his sister. He almost started crying... "your kidden right? KIDDEN RIGHT!?" He was horrified at the thought.

At 8:57 PM, Blogger Lara said...

a boy i used to nanny for shocked me one day by answering my "do you want to dance with me and dylan [his brother]?" with "dancing is for girls!" i worked hard to explain that this was not at all true, and that many men were great dancers. his comment - at the age of five - just plain made me sad.

i remember in seventh grade my "boyfriend" broke up with me after a week because i was in the "smart" classes and he wasn't, and his friends were making fun of him. that was when i "figured out" that girls apparently aren't supposed to be smart.

a little more than a decade and two degrees from stanford later, i've decided this isn't true. :-P

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Kind of Crunchy Mama said...

I remember being around 6 or 7 and taking my top off on a hot summer day. My boy cousins that were 3 years older than me were all "Girls can't take their tops off". I didn't get it at all.

I was picking my husband up from work the other day and my 3 yr old was watching a group of men and women walking into the building. She asked me why those mommies were going to work because mommies don't go to work. I asked her what mommies do, and she said she didn't know.

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