Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

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My Mom in law wants to gift us a toy clothes line that she had as a child for our unborn son (due in a few weeks) which I think is super sweet and nice, however the issue is Father in law is saying that a boy shouldn’t or wouldn’t want to play with a toy clothes line.
I’ve tried to counter that regardless of gender they/son will still need to learn to wash their clothes at some stage and know how to hang washing on a line. (I’m not going to start on the fact that I will be gifting son dolls so he can play with them)
I just feel like son isn’t even born yet and I am battling the gender stereotypes, and older generation. What can I do with Father in law Jax?
I want to teach my child and any future children life skills like how to wash/hang/fold laundry, how to cook and how to care for babies and other children, how to mow the lawns, and repair a bike etc regardless of what gender the child is.

First of all, congrats on having the right idea from the get go! Yay!

Now for the hard part. There’s not much you can do with your FIL except what you’re doing. Gently tell him where you stand on the things, and then do your thing. Your job isn’t to change everyone’s mind, it’s to give your kid(s) the tools to live in the world. That starts with putting the right ideas in their head from the start and then supporting them as they find out that the world doesn’t necessarily agree with them.

Here’s an example from my own life. I love painting my nails. I love having pretty painted nails. Because I’m also a mother and occasional artist, it never lasts that long, so I end up doing it quite often. My partner does his too, and C (my son) has always loved having his done. He’s about to turn 7. Interestingly, when he was younger it was a non-issue. No one gave him crap about it, and it didn’t matter. But the last time (a week or so ago), he got shit from the boys at school. The girls, it turns out, all thought it was AWESOME that he paints his nails, but some of the boys pulled the predictable “that’s a girl thing” nonsense. So I asked him what he did. And he said, “I just told them that was dumb, and that boys can paint their nails if they want.” I asked him if it bothered him that they said it was a girl thing and he said, nope. He just told them they were wrong. It possibly helped that his male teacher took his side in this. In any case, it seems all my “Do what you want, fuck gender norms” attitude has sunk in. Which pleases me greatly.

I think starting off by exposing kids to a bunch of things and then encouraging whatever interests them (regardless of gender norms) is brilliant. And honestly, is actually the easy part. As they get older and go out into the world, the trick is to give them the tools to handle the inevitable backlash. I do think it’s getting better. Certainly, here in New Zealand, kindies actively let the kids do what they wish and ignore gender norms (or at least the kindies C was at did). I think that shift is happening with younger kids. (I’m not sure where in the world you are, so I can’t speak to your societal space.)

I think the trick with this, and possibly all parenting things, is to do the best you can to arm your kids with effective tools against the dumbasses out there, allow them to develop a strong sense of themselves, and make sure they know that you love them no matter who they turn out to be. And understand that this isn’t a “one conversation” issue. This is an ongoing, live it so they see it, constantly reinforce the idea kind of thing.

Also, dude, boys should know how to do their own damn laundry. C is nearly 7, and he’s already able to operate our washing machine, more or less on his own. He needs a little help with putting the detergent in, but he’s getting there. These are important life skills. Good on you for wanting your kid to have them.

Good luck!


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