Parenting Without Gender Expectations Means Accepting All Outcomes
Aly Windsor realizes that “He’s all boy” is OK with her.
By Aly Windsor
Recently, I took my two-and-a-half-year-old, Avie, to a Toddler Music and Movement class that, thanks to him, devolved into something more like Toddler Music and Mosh Pit. Most of the other kids were girls who twirled or held hands in groups of three or four and happily, dreamily, skipped around in circles while music played. Avie stomped, put his hands on the floor and kicked one foot up in his classic “trick” pose, ran around in his own circles wind-milling his arms, and finally, purposefully, crashed into one of the girl groups and knocked them down. Too far away to intervene in time, I watched in horror as I recognized the following flicker of cognition in Avie’s eyes. He saw the girl pile on the floor as a perfect opportunity for a pile-on. So, without further ado, he flopped right on top. You can imagine how well this went over with the girls and their mothers.
I want to preface the rest of this by saying that I’m a parenting agnostic. After three years of poring over “expert” opinions, searching online forums, reading mommy blogs, chatting tentatively with other parents in real life, joining and fleeing a parenting cult or two, engaging in fierce Facebook battles, and amassing thousands of hours of personal experience, I’m done. For me, there is no right way and no infallible guru or philosophy. There are plenty of theories and plenty of critics. Every day I realize more and more how much of what I do as a parent is experimental. What worked yesterday might not work today or next week. I’ve got my guiding principles but, otherwise, it’s all improv, and sometimes, oftentimes, a whole lot of flailing.
One of the guiding principles my partner and I are committed to is raising our kids with as few gender limits as possible. Our intent is not to make them genderless or feminine. We only hope that by giving Avie and his little brother, Izzy, the space and support to grow and explore who they are or want to be without oppressive expectations, gender and otherwise, we will promote a foundation of emotional health for them. (This does not mean we’re raising them without any expectations, just that we’re trying to refrain from…