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

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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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.

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.

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!

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.”

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.

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***

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.

Daycare decision

When we found our home daycare (that we love), we also got on a waiting list for a daycare centre at the university I’m a student at. My wife really wanted to get our daughter into the centre because a) it’s well known as an amazing centre, and b) she liked the idea of more structure and more kids to prepare Avery for kindergarten. I’m more of the mindset that there’s enough structure in school and early childhood should be reserved for free play.

We got the email yesterday that a spot had opened up at the centre. It was part time like we are now, but instead of 4 half days, it would be two full days. It would cost three times as much money.

My stomach lurched. I thought for a brief second about not showing the email to my wife. I love our daycare situation so much. Avery loves it. We’ve NEVER had to deal with tears over drop off. She has an actual best friend whom she’s learning lots of valuable life lessons with. Our provider truly loves our daughter. The half days work perfectly for us because she gets to come home to nap so I still get 6 hours in a workday but we pay half the cost. It is dirt cheap. We pay $25 a day, and if we give a heads up about days we’ll be away, we only pay half. Avery can go even if she’s sick (unless it’s a fever or vomiting) because it’s such a small group of kids that they will all have been exposed to the same bugs by the time it presents in one sick kid (some parents wouldn’t like this, but Avery has had a snotty nose and congestion literally every day since November, which would have meant a lot of missed daycare).

Our provider also takes them to a large playgroup once or twice a week where they interact with a lot of other kids. They learn songs and dance moves. They get as much outside time as possible. Avery comes home with art or a craft every other day. Our provider and i have become friends and we text about parenting things, she gives us her kids’ hand-me-down clothes, and she loves our daughter. I know I already said that last point, but it’s the most important thing to me in a daycare. It’s a dream daycare as far as I’m concerned.

So I was really nervous showing that email to my wife, knowing that she wants Avery to experience a centre. But thankfully, she sighed a hard sigh, and agreed that she’s probably best where she is.

Toddler Talk

Avery’s not forming sentences yet at 19 months old (well she is, but they’re in baby-gibberish), but she’s beginning to say some pretty cute things. Here are my top 5 favourite cute things she’s saying these days:

1. “Ay-ah, teet!” (Which means Anna, treat!). She loves giving the cats treats, but one hides upstairs while the other tries taking them out of her hand. So she runs to the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs holding one reserved treat above her head away from the greedy cat, and yells for Anna to come down and get her treat.

2. “No”. It’s not the fact that she’s saying it that’s cute – it’s how. The upward and then downward inflection makes her sound desperate to be listened to. Also cute, we heard her talking in her sleep over the baby monitor the other night: “nOo. nOo. nOo.” I think she was probably having an innocent dream that we were making her put her shoes on or something.

3. She says whale like, “way-oo.”

4. She says mommy like “muh-yee.”

5. And a truly classic in toddler talk, she says please like “pwease.”

Just another post about weaning from breastfeeding and #sleep.

Sorry to those followers who like to hear new stories about my goings-on. This is old news. We’re trudging through the challenging and sad territory of weaning from breastfeeding with a toddler who has only ever been able to sleep through breastfeeding.

It’s been about a month since we night weaned again (I say again because we night weaned a few months ago but that attempt only lasted two weeks). There have been two – maybe three – nights where I’ve broken down after hours of middle-of-the-night wakefulness and nursed my toddler back to sleep. Other than that, she only nurses twice a day – to sleep for nap, and to sleep at bedtime. She has handled the night weaning well for the most part, and doesn’t ask for milk through the night anymore. Thankfully, there really weren’t very many tears over the change. Occasionally when she’s having a rough time with a cough or congestion, an itchy rash, or being overtired she’ll ask politely for milk, but when I calmly say “no milk until bedtime” she doesn’t ask again. She has unlimited access to hugs, kisses and cuddles, as well as warm mint tea for that belly-warming feeling.

The first time we tried night weaning, she ended up sleeping through the night for the first time ever. I thought night weaning was our golden ticket to better sleep. I thought she was only waking so much at night because she had become conditioned to get milk at those times, and by de-conditioning her, she’d no longer wake. But last night, not unlike every other night this month, she woke up 5 times and stayed awake from 1am until 3am. And then she was up for the day at 4:30. She’s at daycare right now, but I’m just waiting for the call that she needs to come home early to sleep (she does half days and has her nap at home with me after lunch).

We’re just as exhausted as we were when she was an infant. It has me aching to spend a night in bed with her, letting her nurse freely through the night, so we all get a good sleep. But we keep hoping that eventually she’ll figure out how to fall back asleep without milk, and we don’t want to drag this process out by taking a step backwards.

This experience has reinforced my decision to not sleep train her using conventional methods – it’s right for some kids, not right for others. She’s the kind of kid who will stay awake ALL NIGHT LONG to get what she wants. In the crib, she would have cried for hours. In her toddler bed, she can get up and get a stuffed animal she wants, she can come and get me from my room without crying for me, she can easily remove or get another blanket… I’m happy we waited to try independent sleeping (without nursing or co-sleeping) until she was actually independent. I think she would have been awake just as much had we done it earlier, but she would have been a lot more distressed about it.

So life now is a waiting game, and we’re just trying to survive while we wait. We’re doing what we can to help her sleep – cuddles, reassuring cheek kisses, lots of rest through the day – but nursing through the night is no longer a tool in our toolbox. We want to see this through.

Wish us luck…

We’ve joined the Paw Patrol fan club [insert eye roll here]

We try to curate what Avery watches on Netflix. We don’t have cable, so it should be easy to make sure she only watches shows we’re on board with. We have nothing against Paw Patrol, really, besides the fact that it’s kind of annoying to the parents… And I suppose we also dislike how the characters always win at everything – losing isn’t an option. We want Avery to see examples of people failing on their first try. We want her to not be afraid of or stunned by failure. Anyway, we’re not against the show, we just prefer that she watch other things.

But somehow we have a Paw Patrol addict on our hands. Her great-aunt got her some Paw Patrol books for Christmas, and while visiting her cousin she was exposed to the show for the first time. When I was scrolling through Netflix to find Llama Llama, Avery was looking over my shoulder and spotted the Paw Patrol icon. We gave it a try. She grabbed one of her Paw Patrol books and excitedly pointed from the book to the TV. And with that, she was hooked. Now whenever she pulls her book off the shelf, she points to the tv and says “Paw? Paw?”

We’ve started watching it every morning before daycare while I make breakfast and feed the cats and fuel up with coffee.

Does anyone else find it kind of annoying for the parents?

Does anyone have good kids show recommendations?

3 Things on Sunday

1. My PhD research proposal was accepted!! I waited a month for my advisory committee to come together for a meeting, and the meeting went amazingly well. I can finally – after 3 years and 2 other proposal attempts that fell through for different reasons – finally, move on to actually DOING THE RESEARCH and finishing this f-ing degree and get a job.

2. I had my first me-time in a long time getting my hair done this weekend, but thoughts of how expensive it was going to be and how much I just wanted to be home with my little family made the whole 2 hour process unenjoyable. It’s funny how you can be at your wit’s end with trying to keep up with your demanding toddler’s needs and then in only 5 minutes of being alone feel like your heart is aching from missing that wonderful, demanding toddler.

3. Night weaning is going really well, but sleep isn’t… It’s complicated. Avery has been sick forever and the cough still keeps her up at night. The doctor assures us it’s normal for kids her age in daycare to be sick for this long, and for things like runny noses and coughs to linger well beyond the duration of the actual bug. She’s also struggling with yet another itchy post-viral rash (apparently she’s prone to them). So she does a lot of crying through the night, and I used to be able to make her feel better by nursing. Now we just put a hand on her back and lay next to her while she fusses, and she doesn’t even ask for milk to help her get through it. She just deals with it. It makes me proud of her, and also sad that the instant comfort phase of her life is over. She makes her own comfort, now. That said, last night she was really upset, and I brought her into our bed to sleep on top of me. Just because we’ve night weaned doesn’t mean we’ll let her suffer all night or go without sleep.

The good news is, she usually goes from 7pm to 4am with only one wake up that we need to go to her bedside for (that one wake up takes 2 minutes for my wife and an hour for me, though). The bad news is, 4am is when she wakes up for the day now… We’ve let her have an earlier nap to compensate, but that just messes with her afternoon energy levels. Can’t wait for her to settle into the new normal without night (and morning) nursing and hopefully find a good rhythm we can all be happy with.