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Motherhood and Breaking Gender Stereotypes


I stood at the doorway of my oldest child's bedroom on his first birthday and grinned. You could not tell from his bedroom what gender he was. The colors were neutral, bright and bold and chosen for their psychological good – yellow for remembering and learning, blue for peace, red for energy. His toys were blocks and puzzles. Look what a fine job I was doing raising a child who would make his own way, not stymied by the labels and expectations of his gender! I was glowing with the self-praise. Then everything changed.


Before his brother was born (they are 2 and a half years apart), he discovered that even if mommy didn't buy him guns and swords, he could make his own out of his seemingly innocent, neutral, gender-free Legos. Oh my goodness.


He discovered that it is really, really fun to pee outside. And in fact, taught his brother that fine art when he was a year old, making him the earliest potty-trained child in the universe, all because it was such fun to pee outdoors.


He would build entire cities and forts against the rest of us, and bomb us with socks as we would pass.


If he discovered a treasure such as an empty box, that box became a truck, complete with a steering wheel, windows and his little chairs moved inside for a smooth ride. He would situate his hand-made vehicle in front of the television and pretend he was at the drive-in movie theater.


Still in the hopes that I would have some success of raising label-free children, my second child was born. He was born at home and always a peaceful little fellow, but he wanted to emulate his big brother in every way that he could. Even though he carried around what became known as the ugliest doll in the world, he was still a boy, through and through.  I could not get around it.


Every afternoon, when I would pick him up from kindergarten, he would march up and down in front of our house, “protecting” me from the bad guys.  I certainly did not feel like a maiden in distress, in need of a 5 year old's protection, but that was something that he had in his mind and heart to do. So I let him make his peanut butter and jelly sandwich and head out to do his duty.


Then I had a daughter. Here's my chance! I thought. Well... almost. Once again, starting out with gender-free ambitions, my daughter showed me she had her own mind. I still look back on the days that I could pick out her clothes, comb her hair and take her to work with me, with longing. Those days did not last very long. Very quickly, she was swiping her brother's old clothes, donning their baseball caps and running. Yes, this child ran before she could walk – at 8 months old. I had no choice but to try to keep up. My nightmares were filled with her stubborn streak taking hold at a busy intersection and me running after her as her little legs carried her into traffic. I would wake up in a sweat every time.


She disliked dolls. Said their eyes were watching her in her bedroom and scaring her. She had one Barbie in her life. A short-lived life that Barbie had, as she became an experiment called, “How Long Can You Microwave Barbie Before She Melts?” Not very long.


My daughter was interviewed by a friends local, childrens' newspaper (photo from the story above), because when people would ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would say, without batting an eye, “A football coach.” He brothers would laugh, but I stopped them in their tracks saying, if anyone could do it, wouldn't it be your sister? They agreed.


I learned one huge lesson in bringing up my children and that is this – they are who they are. The best gift we can give them is to love them and accept them for who they are. I am absolutely positive that I learned more from my children than they learned from me. We can't box people. We can't program them to be something that they aren't. We can only be here for them. The true them.

Note: The photo is my daughter, Joli, at five years old, in her football uniform with a male cheerleader from the University of Arizona,   Both of them showcasing their ability to break gender stereotypes.

Ana Lewis
Women on the

AnaLewis · 2772 days ago
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  •  hookedonwdw: 
    Fantastic post and pic! So much rings true in my own home. My oldest daughter (first grandchild) was showered with gifts of dress up, dolls, barbies, etc., yet the first halloween I let her pick her own costume (almost 3) she choose Buzz Lightyear. I giggled to the grandmas' dismay. ". . they are who they are." Well said!
     2756 days ago 
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  •  Queenie: 
    This is a terrific story, Ana. And I love to photo too!
     2765 days ago·1 replies1 replies 
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  •  Karen-Monroy: 
    Ana! LOL. I love this.....AMEN to loving and accepting who are children are. A Beautiful way to end the gender wars--or at least not feed them. XOXO
     2769 days ago·1 replies1 replies 
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  •  Elle: 
    Great post Ana.
    Let them be who they are, that's the key.
     2771 days ago·1 replies1 replies 
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  •  Marta: 
    What a wonderful story Ana, reminds me of my mother telling her friend who was is horror that my brother was doing the dishes. She said "boys are every bit as bright as girls and can learn how to cook and clean."
    Thank you.
     2772 days ago·1 replies1 replies 
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Motherhood and Breaking Gender Stereotypes