I always said if I had a girl I would do everything I could to level the playing field, pun not intended, with regards to gender neutrality but from day one I really was my worst enemy.
As a lover of all things pink, frilly and sparkly I have slowly but surely (and completely unintentionally) aligned her to the thinking that pink is a girls colour, make up is something to be normalised and muddy sports are for boys.
Its ingrained in every aspect of life from the clothes choices we make (and pass on) to the TV we watch and allow our children to. Marketing campaigns brandish bright pink themes and girls playing with dolls adorn our screens followed sharply by boys covered in dirt with SAS style weaponry.
As a teacher I have highlighted this many a time when teaching about gender stereotyping, media, advertising and literacy. We have had critical discussions and swayed even the most ‘boyish’ of boys that gender should not be defined by colour, sport or attitude and the ‘pinkest’ of girls that it’s OK to try new things and take a risk.
As a parent I feel that I have really let my daughter down of late by allowing her to see me put make up on (making comments about how how I need it), negatively comment on my body shape/size as if what’s on the outside is all that counts and not giving her the freedom I should to take risks.
Play based learning isn’t only crucial for cognitive development but also for taking risks and developing resilience. Are we vanquishing this aspect to the darkness to be overshadowed by fear of the unknown?
As a parent our role is not only to love and cherish our children but to also raise them as responsible, resilient and courageous adults. I don’t want my child, regardless of gender, to feel overshadowed by sexism or excluded based on gender. I equally want my children to be respectful of all, kind and cultured. It’s such a pressure and responsibility, the thought of not fulfilling our child’s unlocked potential, of creating someone who is afraid to take risks and be bold.
In the midst of gold glitter shows and pink tutus I lost this. I lost the importance of allowing my child to stamp her own identity. Charlotte is only 2 and by no means a walk over but I want her to know she can be who ever she wants to be, judgement free. I want her to engage in all sports and wear whatever she wants. I want her to climb trees and have scraped knees, not because i’m a negligent Mum but because i’m not. I have a duty of care to protect her and this means allowing her to take (safe) risks, test the boundaries and know her limits.
Luckily Charlotte is only 2 and I have plenty of time to regain my original plan. With that in mind we have been focusing a lot on outdoor play, sports and getting messy.
If you follow me on Instagram @mum_in_the_city you will notice that I have been really diving into outdoor play/ learning and have loved following #150housoutdoors to help keep me motived and inspired. Not only does the fresh air and exercise promote a health body but it promotes a healthy mind and gives us both a great chance to bond without the distraction of our regular toys or electrical devices.
I read and inspiring article from the Telegraph recently about how World Rugby has seen a 60% rise in female rugby players since 2014. In fact, the article went on to say that a quarter of all rugby players world wide were now female. Quite clearly this number is still hugely weighed towards male players but for a sport which is often referred to as the ‘gentlemans game’ is there a door opening for gender equality within the sport?
Based on this new found energy to show my daughter she is equal we have also been enjoying a new Rugby Tots class. Inspired by the rapid rise in woman getting involved in Rugby I thought it would be a great sport to get Charlotte into.
Rugby Tots is great for developing gross motor skills, communication and listening skills. In only a few weeks Charlotte has started to throw and catch the ball (a huge improvement), is confident enough to engage independently, takes (and can actually follow) instruction of more than three pattern exercises and has grown so much in confidence.
We use the skills she learns in class to play in the garden, involving my son Lewis, and have so much fun that its hard to believe this in itself is a learning excercise.
We only do one other baby class so I wasn’t expecting Charlotte to engage so well and, most importantly, have so much fun. I worried initially about the boy to girl ratio in the class and if this would make any difference to Charlotte but again, this was me worrying about gender norms. Charlotte absolutely loves the class and Carl her coach.
I am so proud that we are able to be part of this and as a woman and a Mum I would highly recommend this class to anyone looking to boost their child’s confidence, challenge gender stereotypes and contribute to the equality of women in sport.
Well done Rugby Tots for challenging gender stereotypes, supporting women in Rugby and promoting females in sport!