Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why I need Feminism: Kindergarten concerns

Bean dressed as Link from Legend of Zelda:  Ocarina of Time.  He was dressed this way for the entirety of our college reunion weekend last month. 

I write this from a place of anxiety.  My life is about to change considerably - by mid-August, we will no longer be a student family, we will live in a a different region of the U.S., my husband will officially start his career, and Bean will start kindergarten.  So, as I write this, I also know that my own husband came through school and adolescence with a lot of these traits still intact.  That gives me a bit of comfort, except that Bean is an extrovert and The Beast is an introvert who always kept to himself.  Mostly, I'm just starting to feel the winds of major change picking up.

Also, yesterday this Cambridge Needs Feminism campaign started making the rounds.  Immediately, I thought "I need feminism because...I get congratulated and/or questioned about my son wearing a skirt."

Bean has grown into a compassionate, considerate little boy with clear aesthetic opinions.  He takes pride in caring for his brother and in working out conflicts with his peers (though the flip side of that is immense frustration when his brother or his peers don't want his help or suggestions).

The other night, he was asking what I wanted for my birthday (he asks this frequently for everyone in the family).  His suggestion: "you know that mug you really love that got chipped?  We could get you a new one at our new house."  I was amazed that he has taken note of how much I love this mug (it is, in fact, my favorite mug), remembered the single mention I had made of the chip in it, and then formulated this birthday gift idea on his own!  (Oh, and the "new house?"  Yeah, we're moving.  To New Mexico!)

First thing this morning, as I made him breakfast, we had this exchange:
B: "I like those pajamas, Mom."
Me: "thanks!  They are very comfortable, so I like them too!"
B: "even though I know you don't like purple, I really like those pajamas."
Me: "yeah, I don't think his color looks too good on me, but they're comfortable!"
B: "I think that color looks REALLY nice on you!"

Yesterday A-Train was crying in frustration over Lego building and Lego Pro B ran to him saying "Bean to the rescue!"
Last week at camp, a fellow camper was in trouble every day.  Bean told me every day what a "hard time" the child had had that day, and after one incident said "I think we should invite him over and show him how to shoot a bow and arrow.  Then maybe he will shoot a bow and arrow instead of sunscreen."  I had picked this kiddo out as a challenge from the moment I laid eyes on him, and was sad to hear I was right.  But, wow, was I ever proud of my son thinking about ways to help his peer out.  (We have also talked about there sometimes being people who you simply don't like, and that's ok as long as you aren't mean to them.)

And, of course, there's the fact that Bean loves to wear a skirt to feel tough!

Some of these things are encouraged in boys, but not with the same expression.  Is he someday going to call a girl hot or say he wants to bang her instead of being able to comment on what he likes about her earrings?  Or would a comment about her earrings be heard as him thinking she's hot?  Will his verbal, problem-solving approach to conflict be met with physical aggression down the road?

And the skirt.  Bean is a bit of a people pleaser in school/camp situations.  He loves to show off his new clothes, but I haven't seen him have the confidence/words to explain the skirts himself when asked.  Up until now, I have generally been with him in new situations to answer these questions.  And where we live now, we have only gotten positive responses to the skirts...but I fear the culture shock of a new place and public school.  Kids can be cruel.  My kid can be sensitive. 

I'm reminded of the line in the Jewel song:  "Please be careful with me.  I'm sensitive, and I'd like to stay that way."

My son is sensitive.  He is sweet and caring and compassionate and creative and strong and rough and smart.  Please be careful with him.  I'd like him to stay that way.
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