I'm pretty sure most of us like to think of ourselves as 'open minded'. Open to change, open to new ideas, liberal, non bias etc? Well...perhaps not.
My eyes were opened a little this morning as I dropped my 6 year old off to school.
Let me set the scene:
He has hair longer than the average male, and he loves it. The first thing he does upon waking is go and brush it (yes, before he even takes a pee!) He washes it regularly and often discuses the different conditioning options. He has it trimmed regularly as well. Sprays it with sea salt and water each day to give it that 'beachy' look, and genuinely struggles if someone touches it. That's cool...it's his thing. He keeps his room tidy, washes, eats cleanly and does his school work well. He plays sport, bikes, trains, laughs, reads, has friends, is warm and friendly, wise and chatty and certainly has no fear! I guess, for a kid, he's well rounded and 'normal' (whatever the heck that is)
Today I was a bit frustrated with his hair. I'd like it all cut off as then it's just less work for me (hehe) less worrying about catching head lice in the class room, and less worrying if its in his eyes at as school and play - causing him to not see properly.
So...I suggested we tie it back (after he gave me 'the look' for suggesting a big hair cut) I explained that it should be out of his eyes at school. I had to have my hair tied up at school and feel he should too, in order to be able to perform and play better. There really is nothing worse than someone fidgeting, sucking on, or constantly playing or flicking their hair.
He was totally into the idea (as all his favourite soccer players have man buns/pony tails as well)
There I was patting myself on the back for being a good parent - aiding all of his learning and playing requirements, whilst allowing him to be himself and keep his hair as he wished. So off we rode to school. Helmets on heads and bike gloves adorn...
We walked into his classroom and the girls giggled and pointed and said "LEVI, you have a ponytail!!!" (as if he was unaware!) He had prepped himself for this already at home (which upset me, watching him have this little self talk, due to the worry of what others would think) This was all off his own cuff, I didn't say a word. He told me how he would explain why he had this hairstyle. (for goodness sake! No girls would be dealing with how to explain, why their hair is in a basic ponytail!)
"Yep, I need it out of my eyes, and I think it will make me play better soccer anyway...just like the famous soccer players" (let's just say, I had a lump in my throat as I witnessed my son being so convincing and 'self managerial')
On it continued, boys asking him "why have you done that?", the girls giggling and even a few adults making comments. A couple suggested firmly that I demand he cut it off, that I was the parent and I should be in charge. This threw me for a loop - I AM his parent, and I AM in charge...I like his hair, so does he! Why do we have to cut it off just because he is a boy???
There are plenty of girls with much longer hair in the classroom, many of them wear it out. So I thought I was actually being pretty awesome, by helping him still be able to have long hair, yet not let it 'get in the way' during class. Ha! Boy was that a slap in the face.
One parent even asked "Levi, did you bike to school? with a ponytail under your helmet? WOW!"
Was she serious???? What about all the girls who bike to school with their hair in ponytails, UNDER THEIR HELMETS! Jeez.
I biked home feeling a little overwhelmed and surprised. We like to tell ourselves that we have come so far, but have we? Really? There was an article in the newspaper yesterday about a school near by that now allows boys to wear kilts and girls to wear trousers, like it is a HUGE deal...its 2016!!! The female principles wear trousers...c'mon team...let's push on!
I often hear parents say "oh, he's SUCH a boy" because he runs around and is messy, or "she's such a princess" because she demands perfection. I know plenty of girls who run around, throw things and are messy...and I know plenty of boys who demand insane perfection.
I wont head down the rabbit hole of gender specification and the question of us raising our children to fit certain moulds (I'll save that one for another day). However, I will just put it out there and let you think on this a bit more. How open are you actually to change, to 'out of the box' moments, to quirkiness and to people being themselves?
Have we really come as close to non gender bias, non discrimination and open mindedness as we think we have?
For those of you wanting to jump outside of the square. GO ON DO IT!
Without you being true to yourself the world will not learn how to be accepting. I've got your back, and I know there are many more that do. Hold your head high, take a deep breath, and do what feels right to be your true self. I know it isn't easy, but you only have one life...
Peace out -xxx-
Written by Jess Eastwood