Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In Which God Speaks More Loudly Than "The Bachelor"

A little more than a year ago, I showed up at the home of my in-laws to pick up my 2-year-old son from a day of play with the grandparents. My mother-in-law had a somewhat sheepish look on her face and after I was greeted by my son yelling "Mommy, I have a penis!", I figured some kind of interesting discussion must have taken place while I was away. Oh, the joys and trials of gender discovery! Earlier that day during a diaper change, he had commented that he had a tail and my mother-in-law, straightforward woman that she is, chose to set the record straight. Little boys do not have tails.

You can imagine that this was much the topic of conversation around our house for weeks. After all, self-discovery is a pretty important thing and apparently even more so for little boys. After much confusion over who and who did not have a certain male appendage in our home, he made his final pronouncement on gender. "Zekey has a tail, Josh has a penis and Mommy has earrings." Right.

Now while the actual biological differences are easier to explain to him, I've always been unsure what I would teach my children about gender. My husband and I have had myriad arguments over who gets to teach which sport to our kids. We finally decided that whoever is the best at it gets to teach it and for the ones we both play equally well, we'll just take turns.(I am fairly certain my husband did not foresee this particular argument when he dreamt of his future wife.) We've also argued over who would have to play dolls if we ever have a daughter who likes them. "That's easy", is my typical comment, "we just won't buy her any." Obviously, that wouldn't really be loving parenting, but I'm genuinely plagued by how to raise a child in a world that has gender so confused so much of the time and where, personally, I have not felt like I identify with much of what has been deemed "feminine" by our society or even, often, by the church. One flick through reality television (and it's a quick flick, for me) reveals to me a world of juvenile, selfish, lustful men and shameless, promiscuous, petty women who treat each other like objects to be manipulated and tossed away at will. This is not a world I understand nor want to see perpetuated as normal.

Turning to books written by people in the church on gender has rarely helped clarify things for me. In fact, there were dents we had to patch over in the walls of our home in Richmond from books that I actually flung across the room in frustration. There is the occasional rare gem that seeks to define masculinity or femininity in a Godly way that does not pronounce itself the only way, but they are few and far between as far as I'm concerned. Just weeks ago I had a heated debate about how awful I felt one book in particular was with a guest we had in our home. In all fairness, my husband warned said guest NOT to bring up the fact that he liked this book in my presence; I blame him entirely for the brouhaha.

So, we now have a little boy who is slowly but surely identifying himself with the male gender in more ways than how he looks. He says he's going to grow up big and strong "like Mommy AND Daddy", which I like, but more and more I see him copying the mannerisms of his dad or saying things that my husband has said or trying to pee standing up. Incidentally, his words to me during that last endeavor were "Mommy, you can't do that, don't try." On this particular limiting gender pronouncement, I do agree.

I'm thankful to be married to a Godly man who is deeply involved in child-rearing, unashamedly himself and totally supportive of a wife who will fiercely defend her right to teach his children volleyball. I don't think there is a quick solution or a three step plan to teaching my children gender. As with many things, I'm learning that this aspect of parenting, too, is fraught with humor and challenges but is best met one moment at a time. I can only hope that our voices and that of God's is much louder in those moments than "The Bachelor's" and that my little man will slowly grow in wisdom and stature into a man who finds his identity firmly and solely in a God who loves him and has created him to bear His image.

No comments:

Post a Comment