I love guardian and child swimming classes – my weekly try and tuck no matter unfastened flesh and stray clumps of hair my physique has sprouted that week right into a lycra one-piece, velcro my youngster into sufficient neoprene to insulate a boiler and sing “Right here We Go Spherical The Mulberry Bush” in a circle of adults all attempting valiantly to fake that their youngster isn’t pissing in opposition to their hip.
This week, as we ignored the frantic chewing of eight teething infants bobbing round on polystyrene floats like sharks, the trainer ordered us to push the infants beneath the water, let go, then catch them just a few seconds later. “Doing a Nevermind”, if you’ll. Nicely, in fact, I didn’t thoughts – I’m nothing if not aggressive – and as my poor spluttering son rose to the floor like a torpedo with blonde eyebrows I observed one thing which will, years in the past, have handed un-noticed. I, together with the dad and mom of the boys, was congratulating my son on being massive, and courageous and intelligent. The dad and mom of daughters have been all reassuring their ladies how good and intelligent they have been – and the way a lot enjoyable we have been having. My child was in a turquoise swimming nappy, the ladies have been in frilly pink costumes.
It’s, in fact, a tiny factor, such a sliver of distinction as to be nearly definitely coincidence however I did marvel: from their garments to our speech, have been we already implementing onto our kids an concept of how little boys and little ladies must be? As somebody introduced up by two politically engaged, feminist dad and mom I used to be all the time inspired to inhabit the so-called masculine world as simply as its female counterpart. However whereas the large, tangible, material, plastic and dirt expressions of gender have been handled headlong – I went mountaineering, I wore pink attire, I had toy ponies, I wore dungarees, I reduce my hair off, I pretended to be a witch – it took till my twenties to ever actually take into consideration gender as something extra nuanced. I used to be conscious of, and reared in opposition to stereotypes, however had these stereotypes nonetheless settled into my language like silt in a river? Am I as thick with unconscious bias and arcane assumptions as my foremothers? I’m conscious of them now, however does that make any distinction to how I’m mothering my son?
Is it even a query of gender that I hope he’ll like trains, assume he needs to kick a ball, that he is flirting with girls on the practice, that he likes toys he can bang slightly than the large fluffy rabbit somebody gained us at a funfair? I by no means had dolls as a toddler, however do I’ve to purchase him them simply to show a degree? Ought to I put him in a costume when it is sizzling to raised let the air get to his teflon thighs? Ought to I cowl his nipples too? They’re issues new dad and mom wouldn’t essentially have even thought-about just a few years in the past; however what’s “regular” and “proper” and “wholesome” is a query that’s now abruptly wriggling throughout my carpet on its knees, a breadstick in its hand.
Nearly as good previous Auntie Gloria Steinem stated, “We have begun to lift daughters extra like sons… however few have the braveness to lift our sons extra like our daughters.” Though, from his honking, splashing, hairlessness and large moist eyes, I appear to be elevating mine as a seal.