I often fret about the influence stereotypes have on my kids. There’s only so much you can do as a parent – only so much you can lecture, only so much you can protect. While your support and love towards them will always be unrelenting, the messages that society puts out are sometimes confidence shattering. There is a certain way you have to be, certain subject you have to study, and certain career paths you have to tread. We’re all proponents of equality across genders and sexes but there are some things that are so ingrained in us, we forget we are gender policing subconsciously.
Getting my little girl into sport was easy in the early days. We are an active family and so playing outdoors, having a casual game in the park is normal for us. She was a natural in whatever activity she picked up and I’m aware I say this with some amount of bias. She started playing football and baseball but one day at dinner announced that she was done. When asked why, she said “Girls are not supposed to play sports”. We tried to investigate where she picked this up from but it didn’t lead us anywhere.
It shouldn’t have shocked us though – a lot of the movies and TV shows show girls who are clumsy at sports and being laughed at by their male peers. It was only a matter of time before the kids picked up on such stereotyping. Kids are more perceptive than we give them credit. As a first step, we had many heart to hearts with her. My wife and I, we didn’t want to be the kind of parents that would force sports or music or theatre on their kids. When we found that her real struggle was with balancing what she loved with what people wanted her to be, we decided we would create an environment where it would be okay for her to be herself and be happy with that.
Apart from taking her events where she could observe women in sports, having family sports days where all her cousins and aunts would also join in the game, I tried to look up books that would also be inspirational. She loves reading and so it was an obvious solution. I found a surprisingly good collection of picture books with girls playing and loving sports. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single football based one. Maybe I’ll write the first one?
In case you’re having the same struggles with your daughter, here are some books I’d recommend. Please feel free to leave a comment with books that are on your list as well.