Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue

I read this book for last month’s parenting book club. It’s a parenting guide for the gender-typical parent of gender-typical kids, who want to learn to be aware of, and to minimize, the impact of limiting stereotypes on their sons and daughters. Stereotypes that are limiting include boys being unemotional or un-nurturing, and girls being bad at math (among MANY others). My wife and is somewhat gender-atypical (i.e., she doesn’t adhere to many feminine-stereotypes), so a lot of the warnings in this book around boxing girls into a female-stereotype box weren’t issues for us – our kid gets lots of stereotype-myth-busting experiences in our family. However, the book is also just so chock full of information that even we got some useful stuff from it, and I enjoyed reading it.


Parenting Beyond Pink & Blue: How to Raise Your Kids Free of Gender Stereotypes
*I’m an amazon affiliate, so if you click to purchase this book I get a small commission.

In a nutshell, this book is about parenting with an awareness of gender stereotypes. The title suggests that it’s about raising kids without gender stereotypes, but the author acknowledges that this scenario isn’t often practical (this is why I say it’s a book for gender-typical parents and children, for whom breaking gender norms is optional). Using a lot of statistics, the author gives you some really solid, well defended, reasons why yours kids are better off without being forced into a set of gender expectations. You won’t feel judged for letting your daughter wear pink or for enrolling your son in sports over music, but you will be reminded (or enlightened) of the very reasonable reasons for also enrolling your daughter in sports and letting your son have a doll.

The statistics are presented in an easy to comprehend way, but there’s also an entire chapter for the more technically inclined reader which describes effect sizes and experimental method. This chapter allows readers with and without a background in research and statistics to understand why the research can be trusted over the myths and misconceptions.

One criticism I have for the book is that the author uses the term gender where sex would be more appropriate. Gender is a social construct that develops as children gain a sense of identity, but Brown refers to gender as something you know about your newborn. I think this label was just used to assuage the masses – many people seem more comfortable using the term gender, rather than sex, for their little ones. There also isn’t much discussion about gender non-conforming or non-binary kids, but these kids do get an honourary mention in several chapters.

I’ll leave you with one big take-home message that I personally got from reading this book. As a society and as parents, we place too much importance on gender as a category. Kids (and adults) are already aware that males and females are different from one another, and there’s no need to highlight that as parents. Although I’m extremely conscious of gender stereotypes and of problems with dividing people into us-vs-them groups, the book reminded me that I point out my daughter’s gender on a regular basis when I say things like “you’re such a strong girl!” Yeah, I’m saying something feminist, challenging gender stereotypes that girls aren’t strong, but I’m highlighting her gender. Since reading, I’ve been calling her a kid rather than a girl. She will know her gender without me repeating it to her in every other address. When I read her books that include pictures of children, I’ve also stopped describing them as girls or boys, and instead say, “see the kid there playing with the ball?” It’s perhaps a subtle gesture, but by removing some of the importance on sex differences, we can open doors to our children to create, or at least see, a world less focused on the differences between men and women. We’ll make the world a better place by raising young people who interact like one group rather than divide themselves into unnecessary categories that compete and clash and foster such evils as toxic masculinity and violence toward women and non-binary folks.

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The parent preference

Bedtimes are pretty lovely now when it’s my night to put Avery to bed. She’s agreeable, and she loves to flop on her bed and read the agreed-upon number of books together, and then cuddle in close to fall asleep. I listen to her singing songs quietly to herself, and I get lots of kisses and hugs.

But when my wife puts her to bed, it’s still cause for an emotional breakdown. My wife does bedtime for 2 nights on, 2 nights off. We take turns, and keep that pattern consistent. But on the nights my wife is on, Avery screams and cries that she doesn’t want her Mo – she wants to sleep with mommy. She won’t let her Mo hold her books and instead piles them up at her bedroom door saying they’re for mommy. She pleads with her Mo that mommy is right on the other side of the door (“mommy right there!”) and that she wants mommy instead. Eventually, after about 10 minutes of crying and pleading, she gives in and lets her Mo read her books and then cuddles up with her to fall asleep. But if she so much as hears a floorboard creak outside her door, she gets upset again, asking for mommy. I take off as soon as I’ve said goodnight and get as far away from her room as possible because I hate hearing her cry for me when I can’t go to her.

It’s so hard on my wife. I don’t know what to do to change the situation, if there’s even anything we can do. I hope she comes around to her Mo soon.

On a related note, she still asks for milk at every bedtime, even though we weaned almost 2 months ago. She asks, and then remembers, “milk all gone.” She then settles for her water, but will “forget” and ask again a couple of times during each bedtime. It’s wild how hard-wired nursing was in her brain, and how hard it was for her to give it up.

Duty Calls: Balancing work & family

We’ve been away every weekend this summer, we’ve been sick a lot making for a lot of missed daycare, and our daycare provider is on holidays this week. I haven’t been getting work done. Tonight, my wife is primary caregiver while I sit at a restaurant/lounge and do some work over a pint.

It feels different than it used to to sit at this place and work. When you’re a parent, part of your brain is always on your child(ren). I can’t get lost in my work like I used to. I know my wife will be totally fine with the full bedtime routine because she has been doing so well putting Avery to sleep since we weaned, but I feel shitty about the way I had to leave Avery tonight – I had to sneak out. I tried saying goodbye in a casual, non-chalant way – “see ya later, sweetie, I have to go do some work,” but she started screaming and clung to my legs begging to be picked up. So we got her distracted with some fun task and I snuck out.

She has been very sensitive about my absence lately. You can see her get nervous as bedtime approaches, not knowing if she’ll get me or her Mo. We have yet to settle into a new routine regarding which one of us puts her to bed. I’ve put her to sleep twice now, and it has gone fairly well both times. We’re going to settle into a two-nights-on two-nights-off schedule so that bath night (which happens every other night) isn’t always the same parent’s responsibility. The parent who gives her her bath and gets her ready for bed won’t be the same parent who reads her books in bed and lays with her till she falls asleep. She’ll get both of us every night. She just has to get used to the new normal.

I’m still in a “I miss breastfeeding” phase.I feel like I’ve lost a superpower. But I know it’s not a real regret, just nostalgia. And Avery only asks for milk once every other day or so now, and doesn’t get upset when I remind her that it’s all gone. She has been such a strong little person.

I am not a breastfeeding parent.

We had planned for Sunday night to be our last time breastfeeding, but I got cheated out of that one last time, and my sick and vomiting child had to get through the night with no milk earlier than we’d planned. And now there’s no turning back. Let me explain…

Saturday night was my wife’s night to do bedtime. We were at the cottage. Avery seemed to understand what we’d been telling her about the milk supply soon coming to an end. She seemed to be starting to accept the fact that her Mo would be putting her to bed more and more. Usually, when my wife puts her to bed, she cries and calls for mommy for about 5 minutes before giving up and happily reading books and cuddling with her Mo until she falls asleep. The easiest way to get her to settle is for me to say a super quick goodnight and leave. I can’t even hug her goodnight or she’ll cling to me like super glue and it’ll make my departure much harder.

But Saturday night, she sat on her bed next to her Mo and turned red in the face as she held in her tears, and she extended her puckered lips toward me for a goodnight kiss. I got to kiss her goodnight and leave the room and she didn’t cry, for the first time.

While my wife did bedtime, I was watching the sunset over the water and drinking Prosecco (because cottage and no breastfeeding duties). I’d had 3 drinks. My wife rejoined me after Avery had fallen asleep. All was well with the world.

And then we heard a cry. It’s now unusual for Avery to wake up again in the evening, and we knew it was a cry of “something’s wrong.” My wife investigated. Minutes later, I was called to the scene to change her vomit-covered sheets. Avery had a stomach bug (thankfully a mild one). She vomited three times. I quickly changed her sheets while my wife changed Avery’s pajamas and washed the vomit out of her hair and off her face with a damp cloth. Avery reached for me. Because of the situation, my wife and I agreed that I could step in. I hugged her. I sat with her until we knew the vomiting had stopped. I laid down with her. She asked for milk, but I couldn’t give it to her because I’d had three generous glasses of alcohol. I simply said “I’m sorry, I know you want milk because you’re not feeling well, but there’s no more milk.” (She did have water and almond milk right beside her). She didn’t even whimper a protest. She simply wrapped her arm around my neck and snuggled.

She lay there with her eyes open for about 15 minutes, and eventually fell sound asleep, for the first time (with me) not on the boob.

So we decided to take that win and not turn back. If she can fall asleep next to me without freaking out for milk when she has a stomach bug and has just vomited all over herself, she can fall asleep this way every other time.

Theoretically.

For now, I miss her intensely at bedtime. I ran an errand at bedtime last night just to get out of the house, and I cried in the car.

And although bedtimes have been going well so far, our first nap (not in a car) did not go well. That’s on me because my wife is at work over nap time. I’ll wait out the week before writing about the nap situation.

Children’s Books about Family Diversity

After watching my daughter’s daycare provider fumble and brush off a child’s question about my daughter’s “dad” – and coming to terms with my own lack of having just the right thing to say in the moment – I wanted to get more acquainted with children’s books that broach the subject of diverse families. Reading enough books about others’ lived experiences can solve all the world’s problems. I truly believe that.

So I headed to my local library and found some real gems.

This post contains affiliate links. I could really use your help to secure my place in Amazon’s affiliate program. I still need two more books to be purchase by following one of these links in my blog (on this page or this one) in order to be accepted. Driving amazon sales through my blog won’t bring home the bacon for me, but it will help to offset some of the costs of having this blog.

The Family Book

After my previous post about baby books for raising socially conscious kids, my friend Speck of Awesome recommended this one.

This book is written in a celebratory tone: All families are special. It also paints diversity as the norm, rather than telling a tale about one special family that is “different”. Another thing I like about this book is it’s international applicability. I believe the families represented in the book reflect far more than the typical Western, Colonial family structures we are familiar with. This is more than a book about same-sex parents, adoption, and mixed race families (although those discussions alone would be enough to make me happy at this point); it’s more inclusive than that.

One thing to warn about in this book is that it mentions “all families are sad when they lose someone they love.” I believe this is a great piece to include in a book about families, but I’m also not ready to talk about death with my toddler. I don’t really want to provoke those questions about loss and permanence of loss. The book also seems to leave out polyamorous families (leaves it at, “some families have one parent instead of two”). Otherwise, top notch reading material for kids and their caregivers.

Stella Brings the Family

This book is about a child first realizing that her family looks different from other families in her school. She not only learns that all families actually look a little different from each other, but she also learns to celebrate her family and define them for herself. The book addresses how a mother’s day project at school might impact a child with two dads, but it’s relatable for any kind of family. I really have no qualms with this book. It’s a cute story and it has earned a permanent place on our bookshelf!

We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families

This is a really sweet book about families created through adoption, and in typical Todd Parr style, the families represented in its pages are diverse. The “races” of the family members are ambiguous because Parr uses all colours of the rainbow as skin colours – but, he still mixes the colours within the families because, of course, not all members of a family need to share the same skin colour. Some of the family types represented include a single mom, a single dad, elderly (i.e., grey haired) parents, mixed race parents, two moms, and two dads. The message is sweet and genuine: “We belong together because you needed someone to help you grow up healthy and strong, and I had help to give. Now we can grow up together.”

One Family

This is kind of a counting book, but it does more to represent different types of families than to teach counting. Each page showcases a different family structure. Page one is one person reading to her cat. Page two is a parent or caregiver and one child. Page three is – you guessed it – two parents and a child. The families grow in size and also diversity, some with multiple generations, some with three caregiver-type figures, and of course two moms and two dads are included. What I really like about this book is that the family members are a bit ambiguous, to the point where pretty much anybody could see themselves in one of these families, even though there are only 10 families in the book. I went so far as to imagine that one family was two dads, their baby, their surrogate, their surrogate’s partner and two children, and one grandparent. My wife interpreted this family completely differently. That’s how this book can be so all-encompassing of family types in only 10 pages. And while it doesn’t overtly teach about family diversity in terms of the text, the pictures are inclusive, and most importantly, anyone can see their own family reflected in the pages of this book.

What Makes a Baby

This was on my previous book list about socially conscious baby books. It’s so incredibly relevant to today’s topic, though, that it’s worth including again. What Makes a Baby COULD NOT POSSIBLY be more inclusive. It talks about the three components you need to make a baby: an egg, sperm, and a uterus. It talks about the egg and sperm sharing stories with each other about the body they came from, which I think is a pure genius way to describe to young kids the role of DNA. All family structures, from adoptive to two dads to single mom, will all feel included by this book. And, just as important, kids reading this book will be free from imposed assumptions about family structure. This book opens the mind to the possibilities. And it does so without ever mentioning SEX – so parents who are concerned about discussions of family diversity equalling discussions about sexual activity and sexual preference, fear not. This book is colourful and eye catching with fun graphics and a narrative so clean and simple that I’m pretty sure my <2 year old can understand. Could not recommend this book more.

***Bonus Book***

Hush a Bye, Baby (New Books for Newborns)

This book was a random selection at my local library that I didn’t realize was anything special until my second time reading it. It’s a simple, sweet bedtime book with simple verses that you could read to a newborn or a toddler. Although it doesn’t highlight diverse family types, it does represent a very underrepresented type of parent in children’s books – the DAD (or masculine-presenting parent). Literally all of our children’s books have at least one mom (mommy, mama, etc.). That may be partially due to the fact that we are a dad-less family and we are drawn to books without dads, but I’m quite certain that books highlighting a father’s parenting role are few and far between. Hush a Bye, Baby shows dads of different races solo-parenting their babies at bedtime. Refreshing.

Weaning for good…?

Weaning is on my mind again. Since 18 months we’ve only nursed to sleep at nap and bedtime (with the exception of a couple of bad sicknesses that required extra comfort and hydration). Now Avery’s coming up on 22 months and I’m trying to find the motivation to wean her completely. It’s not that I mind nursing her to sleep still, but the occasional night where someone else puts her to bed is filled with tears and I feel terrible for stepping away for an evening. I figure if she’s fully weaned it’ll be hard for a short time and then infinitely better at bedtime.

But what if it’s not. What if it’s harder for the next however many months because she really, really loves nursing and she’s not ready to have it taken away? Ever since we cut out the 5am nursing when she’d cuddle back to sleep until 7, she has woken for the day at 5am. Unhappy.

And although she often sleeps completely through the night now (from bedtime till 5am), once or twice a week she’ll wake in the middle of the night and be unable to fall back to sleep, constantly asking for milk in a tired haze, whimpering when I say “no milk, let’s cuddle back to sleep.” She usually drinks her water when she’s turned down for milk, so I know she at least has that, but she would still benefit so much from being able to nurse back to sleep when that happens.

So why did we stop offering it through the night? Because night weaning really did change our nights for the better. When she knows milk is an option, she won’t settle for anything else. So I’m wondering, hoping, that completely weaning her will open doors for her in self-soothing (a term I use lightly, recognizing it’s not an ability that all young people should be expected to have). But it’s a hard transition to make, and this may seem silly, but I feel like I don’t know how to wean her. I don’t know how to stop doing something we’ve done for her entire life, and our entire lives together. I feel like it deserves more thought than just deciding to say “no more milk” one night and just expect her to get it and get over it.

Any advice from those who have fully weaned is welcome.

A few of my favourite Avery-isms right now

The way she exclaims, “woooow!” at things that impress her. Example, our new neighbours put up a fence dividing our back yards over a weekend we were away, and when Avery walked into the back yard to see it for the first time, she said, “wooow!” with such a sense of awe and wonder. Seeing me cleaned up and dressed up also gets a “wooow”, which says something about how I usually look…

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How she kisses my “ouchies” so lovingly. Since we started “kissing it better,” she finds any little red mark on our skin, says “ouchie,” and kisses it better. This started in earnest with hand-foot-and-mouth disease when we all had a lot of ouchies 😣

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Just started saying “love you” in response to us saying “I love you.” But she’s also in a repeat-after-me phase where she repeats pretty much everything we say, so she might not know the meaning of it yet.

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Although she knows the word “outside,” she still usually asks to go outside by saying “boot, mit, hat?” Even though we’re in sandal (and definitely not mitten) season right now… She does the gestures of putting on boots and mits and a hat, too. It’s cute.

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She tickles us. She wiggles her fingers all over our bellies and laughs and laughs at the hilarity. I hate being tickled – I freak out and instinctively will punch or kick someone who is tickling me. But when Avery does it, somehow it’s cute.

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Naming her toys. I’ve been waiting for the day when Avery would be into playing with animal figurines. That was always my fave as a kid. Not only is she super into her animal figurines now, but she named one of them, ALL BY HERSELF! She has been really into horses lately (her grandma has horses), so I surprised her at daycare pickup one day with a plastic horse figurine (Tractor Supply Store has great ones), and as she accepted it she said “wow, horsie! Umm, Apple!” Apple is the name of one of the horse’s at her grandma’s place. The toy didn’t really look like the real Apple, but she decided that her toy horse needed the name. When you ask what her horse’s name is, she says Apple.