These last few weeks of summer are shaping up to be quite the challenge here in my house. While the month of July was filled with family visits, camping trips, and summer camps, the last three weeks of August are filled with… nothing. Part of this lack of planning was that summer camps need to be booked way back in March and at that point, I imagined the boys wanting some freesom to play, to see their friends, to have some downtime before school starts again. What I hadn’t counted on was Mini Me with his butt fused to the couch playing Minecraft and Monkey being ostrasized from the posse of 4-9 year olds on our street. Welcome to the end of summer at Vi’s house.
It was the situation with Monkey that really got me thinking these last several days about boys and girls, their differences and similarities, and how rigid society can still be about these rolls. My little guy is very much what you come to expect from a 7 year old boy (7 and 1/4 he would want you to know). He has a lot of energy, he is loud, he likes to run and play and get dirty. He loves superheroes, particularly the Hulk, who he has adored since he was 4. He likes Avatar (the Air Bender, not the weird blue aliens) and light sabre battles and wrestling with other kids.
He also loves to dance and sing and draw elaborate pictures. He learned to do stop motion mini movies with plastercine figures he made himself and our digital camera (thanks Artzooka!). He and his best friend dress up in the old costumes that make up our own Tickle Trunk and play out elaborate storylines involving Hulk, Wolverine, Spiderman or Harry Potter. He loves the planet and can tell you all kinds of facts about every planet in our solar system. He and his dad made a fully illustrated book about the solar system for everybody in our family last Christmas which involved his own computer drawings and text (big shout out to http://www.shutterfly.com/ who did an amazing job of printing them).
My little Monkey is a Renaissance man, for sure. I love him for it. Lots of people adore him, find him an amazing kid. Problem is, when it comes to other kids his age, he’s having a difficult time finding his niche and sometimes it just breaks my heart.
There is a group of kids on the street, let’s call them the Posse, who are always outside playing and Monkey wants to be a part of it all. What 7 year old wouldn’t? They dig for snails and get dirty and run around and wrestle and ride bikes. It’s all stuff that he loves to do. Problem is, he likes to sing and dance when he gets outside, he likes to stage elaborate play scenarios, he likes to have a say in what the group will do next. The Posse don’t give him the time of day. In fact, it would seem that they have developed an ability to push all of his buttons which means he will inevitably fly off the handle and come stomping inside in a fit of frustration. Cue mummy who has to talk him down for the next 30 minutes.
Of course, we have given him dance lessons, musical theatre, and anything else that he has asked to try. I have wonderful memories of him performing in grass skirts or with a western bandana around his little neck. He picks up choreography well and has a great sense of moving to the music.
He is usually the only boy in his class. He is the loudest, the rowdiest, the most rambunctious. When he was really little the other kids would sit in a circle jiggling their tambourines and Monkey would be running laps around the perimeter of the room. This summer at dance camp, he ended up befriending one of the boys from the neighbouring camp over shared lunches because none of the little girls in the class could be bothered with him. He wanted to talk about the Avengers and Spiderman. He is prone to break-dancing whenever a good beat comes on the radio. He was too rowdy for a group of 7-10 year old girls.
I guess what I have concluded is that we have a long way to go with gender stereotyping. I have known a fair share of girls who are ‘tomboys’ and a lesser number of boys who identify with many thing typically ‘girlish’, even dressing in girl’s clothes – the parents of those kids are my heroes for how they stand up for and defend their children’s right to be whatever they want. But what do you do with a rowdy boy who also wants to dance? Or a sensitive boy who wants to get dirty and hunt snails? You spend a lot of time wiping tears and quelling tantrums, it would seem.