Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What are we really saying?

I must confess.
I love(d) school.
I enjoy learning and reading and even writing.
I got my Masters in education a month and a half after Mo and have yet to really use the degree for monetary gains, however I do find myself reflecting a lot on the things I learned now as a parent.
I had a wonderful professor in graduate school who challenged me to think. She offered extensive opportunities to read viewpoints from across the spectrum in dealing with race, ethnicity, and gender. She was a tough grader but made her students push themselves. I liked her, I liked what she stood for, and I liked the way she made me excel.
I find myself often thinking about my gender studies now as a mom of two little girls. We debated in class the idea of nature versus nurture. How much does a parent affect their child in terms of identity? How much do they explicitly do? How much do they unknowingly push gender roles on their child?
Heavy, I know, but I find myself thinking about this often.
I have been told by quite a few people that "little girls are easy when they're younger, but a pain once they're in high school." Bry has even joked that once our girls hit their teens he's going to start drinking.
Why do teenage girls or rather my girls as teens already have a stigma attached?
They don't have to be difficult. They don't have to emotional, or do they? Will my girls succumb to peer pressure and think they're too fat or not pretty enough? What can I do to try and prevent them from becoming that girl?
I don't know but I sure as hell am going to try my best to raise strong, independent girls.
Bryan often tells Mo she's beautiful and I agree. However, I don't stop there. I tell her that she's strong and smart too and that she is capable of doing anything she wants as long as she works hard.
Will this make a difference in who she becomes?
I hope so.
I mentioned it before in this post about my feelings of conflict over whether I am being a good female role model for Mo & Maeve.
While I am still conflicted at times, I do realize that being home with them all the time gives me a really unique perspective. Raising little girls is difficult. I am first hand witness as they interact in different situations with a different types of people. I am trying to help navigate the world with them. They come in contact with a variety of messages throughout the day both from me and from their environment- media, peers, television. All these things play a part in molding their personalities.
Maeve is still too little, however I can see Mo's personality more. One she is comfortable she is outgoing. She plays and speaks and uses her manners as best as she can remember. She goes out of her way to talk to other kids and adults and often will make sure Maeve is okay too. I am proud and hopeful that I am giving her the right foundation for later in life. So that Mo will remain not only beautiful, but strong and smart and kind.
If my professor were to ask me today about the roles of nature versus nurture and the role of parents in child development, I would definitely posit that nurture plays a greater role then nature in determining success. I believe it's not my DNA that is hopefully creating a great kid, it's my daily interactions with her that make the bigger difference.

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