After dinner the other night, one of my sons told me to look at the gold medal around his neck. There wasn’t actually a medal, but I knew what his imagination was referencing. Just one day earlier, I had taken my twin two-year old sons to celebrate the Olympic gold medals won by University of Minnesota Duluth women’s hockey goaltender Maddie Rooney and former Bulldog Sidney Morin. Both boys got to hold their Olympic gold medals, and for that, I am grateful. It allowed me to subtly introduce the notion that gold medals are reserved for the very best among us, and that these two young women are indeed the best at what they do.
I should acknowledge that I have a real, not-so-hidden agenda here. I have spent 18 years and my entire working life coaching young women and girls, and if I didn’t believe in them–if I didn’t believe in how great young women and girls can be–I wouldn’t be in my line of work. In fact, ever since I’ve had my sons, my appreciation for women (and, of course, moms) has grown exponentially. We can do a lot and we can do it well, and it’s pretty incredible. And yet here we are, in 2018, still fighting for equal paychecks and respect in the workforce. We are still questioned whether we can both work and raise our children, and we are still having to defend things such as Title IX.
After I found out that both my twins were going to be boys, I remember one of my friends saying that maybe raising two boys was just as important, if not more, in the wider realm of empowering and respecting girls and women. I would have the opportunity to raise two boys who could be part of the conversation, part of the change, and part of the support system girls and women deserve, and also need.
I loved that idea, and I still do, even though I don’t always know the best way to approach it. Sometimes I worry that all of the time I now spend in the world of little boys makes it easy to forget how important it still is to fight for all of our daughters. I may not tuck your daughters in every night, but I think of them often and hope that my sons will be part of their success and dreams and not a hurdle that impedes them. It is one of the most important parts of my role as a mom and I don’t take it lightly.
I don’t have all the answers to gender inequality and I won’t pretend to. All I have are some ideas that I believe can help. The biggest one I adhere to is normalizing my sons seeing women do what often we think only to send our sons to see men do. I want my sons to grow up watching and knowing that young women are worthy of our time. That they don’t work any less hard in athletics or music or science or politics than their opposite sex peers. I was thrilled when they met both a man and woman firefighter at a Halloween event last fall, and I love that their doctor is a woman. They have literally spent hours upon hours at women’s sporting events since they were eight weeks old. They go to hockey games unfazed by the ponytails under the helmets and more concerned with eating nachos and what to do when they inevitably get cheese on their jerseys. But their normal is seeing women, instead of men, playing hockey, and it is my hope that in a small way this will help them compute that little girls and boys can grow up to do the exact same thing and do it equally as well.
I am well aware we are in the midst of a grand movement that I hope changes so much about our current culture. I want my sons to not only have never known that ugly, formerly somewhat accepted culture, but to be entirely unaware it was ever even an option for boys to participate in. While it may seem overwhelming at times to find even small ways to tackle it, it is my job as their mom to make certain my sons can rise above it. To make sure that, while I want my sons to believe they can be anything they want to be, the same also applies to the girl sitting in front of them in class. My sons will be better men if they understand that gold medals are a standard that can be reached by anyone willing to put in the work, and that is reinforced by having held gold medals that women won.
Here’s to all your daughters and their future golden endeavors. I’m working hard to make sure my sons will be their biggest fans. If my sons learn not to be threatened by your daughters’ successes and take the extra step of embracing it and basking in it, there will be no greater win-win than that for all of us.
Thank you Kelly for sharing. The key is to provide an environment for your sons that is “gender neutral”. They are surrounded by sports, which you and they love. But give them art, dolls, stories and other creative items. Allow them to be exposed to (sorry to say) “girl items” like baking, cooking, drawing etc.
Nancy and I have always felt our contribution toward our society has been raising Stephen and Markus to be gentlemen, compassionate and considerate. So many men are “JERKS” and we have taught our sons that isn’t acceptable.
Well stated! If all men were raised as yours are, we probably wouldn’t have gender equality issues!
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