Friday, November 19, 2010

Our American baby

If you asked me a few years ago, the idea of having a baby in Boise, Idaho would have been not only inconceivable but laughable. In fact, it wasn't so long ago that the thought of giving birth in the United States would have been dismissed as crazy. Yet here we are.

You see, even after it became clear that we would be in the US for a few years waiting for Adam to finish Med school, etc. I held out hope that we would have moved to Canada before we would start a family. Not only is Canada my home and where we ultimately want to end up, but I really wanted to raise our kids in Canada's educational system and with their health care, not to mention other things that I value so deeply about the way of life, and thinking there.

Let me make this clear, this is not a criticism of the United States or a political statement, so please do not misinterpret it as such. We will certainly apply for dual citizenship for all our kids and no matter where they are raised, we will do our best to instill a love, respect and pride for BOTH countries.

But I'd be lying if I said it isn't hard for me to realize that this child and perhaps the rest will be born (at least they can run for President of the United States!), and raised here because my fear is that their Canadian heritage will become to them nothing more than "where mom is from." Can we really find a way, no matter where we live, to raise our kids with an ownership of both their countries of citizenship?? Can they be raised in the US and still share Canadian values and ways of thinking or vice verse?

Well of course they can. Ultimately, it's not where you are raised, it's HOW you are raised. I believe that environment and context are very influential indeed, but at the end of the day, it's up to Adam and I and certainly not our country of residence to raise our kids. Moreover, country-specific values are something that we want to rise above and not default to.
Among other things, we desire for our kids to love God, love others, be compassionate, respect all others, seek justice and righteousness, think for themselves, stand strong in their convictions and live lives with character, honesty and integrity. The great burden and responsibility of parenthood is now upon us, and we are humbled by it. It will take hard work, intentionality and most of all, God's great grace - not a specific mailing address or country.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Baby clothes and gender roles...

If you are looking for some insight into where our socialization into gender roles begins, look no further than the baby clothes aisle.

Since we opted not to find out the sex of our baby we are in the unenviable position of finding 'gender neutral' clothes for newborns. This has left me less than enamoured with the offering of yellow/brown/mint green clothes, and so I have resorted to shopping for boy clothes that I'd dress a little girl in (because 'gasp' I think that girls can wear blue too). And this is where my real issue comes to light - not the lack of 'gender neutral' clothes, but what constitutes gender appropriateness.

When you walk into the clothing section of any baby store you will likely see a very clear divide. For newborns it's pale pink on one side, pale blue on the other. End of story. Then when babies are a little older, you are allowed to dress the girls in fuschia, purple and brighter shades. Boys are now permitted to wear dark blues, browns, red and oranges. Your options are expanding rapidly! But good luck trying to find an article of clothing not adorned with either a truck, football or catcher's mitt for boys, or hearts, flowers or crowns for girls. Your little son is 'daddy's little MVP' goshdarnit, and your daughter surely is a 'princess', or even better, a 'diva.' Might as well embrace it for it has been written.

There are surely clear genetic differences between the two sexes, and there is no shame in celebrating them. However, you don't have to look very far to see where certain aspects of our adopted gender roles break down and can create problems down the line. How many people struggle with self-image when they don't fit into the roles prescribed for them? How many are belittled and bullied because they don't fit in a box? I cringe everytime I hear the term 'ballsy' used to describe courage and gumption - suggesting that men have a monopoly on these characteristics. Furthermore, I am weary of the stigma that surrounds a little boy who shows interests in anything 'effeminate' (read this article,0,7874609.column for more insight).

My sister, Kristi, introduced me to an author (and friend of hers) Shauna Niequist. I'd like to share this excerpt from her book Bittersweet:

"My friends Brannon and Chris have a little girl named Emme, and before she was born, Brannon and Chris declared their house a princess-free zone. There could be pink, there could be dresses and lace and babies galore, but no tiaras, no wands, and no princes coming to rescue any little princesses.

I love this. I think maybe we should all live in a princess-free zone. I think the current cultural messaging that tells women it’s attractive to play dumb and fragile and hope that they’re saved by their beauty is incredibly destructive.

I’m not anti-feminine. I operate, in many ways, within squarely traditional gender roles. I love to cook, I hate to drive, and I’m terrible with technology of all kinds. I fit squarely within the stereotypes, and then also not, largely because I was raised by a strong leader who recognized aspects of himself in me. I wasn’t raised to play dumb, or play cute, or play princess. I learned to work hard, to develop my skills, to contribute on a team and in society, and it drives me bonkers when women depend instead on their sexuality or their fragility. I think there’s a better way."

There is a better way, indeed. For all of us. Instead of trying so hard to make a square peg fit in a round hole, let's take another look at the pigeonholes to begin with. Starting with baby clothes.