I don't think it is in my nature to be confrontational. [Do I hear a snigger?]
Okay, let me rephrase. Unless it is with my parents or people who I know very well, I don't usually pick fights or arguments; even if my opinion about certain things may differ from theirs. Many people call it 'sitting on the fence'. I don't honestly care what it's called, as long as I don't have to confront anyone about things or get into a conflict. Which is where sarcasm usually helps. And like they say, everybody doesn't get sarcasm. So, for me to get involved in something that doesn't concern me or my loved one's wellbeing, isn't really my cup of tea. But the truth is that now and then, I do snap. Although, it's usually in the comfort of my home or through this space on my blog, I do tend to react. And sometimes, on the rarest of occasions, I react in the moment. Like at the playground, a few weeks ago.
The regular readers of this section of the blog may be familiar with my reluctance to go to the playground with my son. While it is often a thoroughly enjoyable experience for my son, it is at times, a very traumatic experience for me. It rarely ever goes as planned, and I end up taking a lot of bruising - physically, emotionally and sometimes even to my ego. But sometimes, I have to. The reason? I call her Karma - and she's a ...well...you know the phrase.
Anyway, on this particular 'playground adventure trip', I came across a parent having a heated discussion with a bunch of kids. Well, it masqueraded as a discussion, but was more of a 'telling-off' session. The person was talking to two young boys (perhaps between 5-8 years old) and almost berating them for something. Naturally curious, I leaned in to find out why while pretending to fiddle with my phone. What I heard, both shocked and amused me.
The two little boys had been playing with a group of girls. Initially, I thought it was the 'playing with girls' thing that had gotten them scolded. But, soon it was evident that the reason was something else. In fact, the parent seemed to be telling them off for having played with the toys that the girls had brought - dolls and a kitchen tea set. From what I gathered, they were all role-playing together and having a 'high-tea' party. Which I suppose is a 'fancier' version of the game that I've played as a child - coincidentally titled 'House'.
So, what's the problem I hear you ask? Exactly. That's what was going through my mind as well. I'm sure this 'parent' too had played 'house' with cousins, friends and the rest of the gang. While I was pondering over this, I heard the remaining part of the conversation. Apparently, this particular parent was bugged because the boys had continued to play 'house' with each other, when the girls disappeared. In fact, I heard them say to the kids : 'Go and ride your bikes. Or bring down your trucks and cars. That's what boys play with. Not with kitchen sets and dolls'.
And at that moment, I reacted. I chuckled. Not one of those dismissive, almost-quiet ones. But a guffaw of sorts, which soon turned into a snorting sound. In fact, I kept laughing for a few seconds until this particular parent turned around and saw me giggling away. As their eyes met mine, I stopped laughing and stood up. Before the parent could react, I pointed towards another end of the playground, where two girls were racing remote-controlled monster trucks with a bunch of boys. I mustered all the courage I could gather and look the parent straight in the eye and said:
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Boys playing with dolls is as normal as girls playing with trucks. Stop #stereotyping!
Now, if this was a scene from a movie, THIS would be the point where I walked in slow motion, holding my son's hand while a kick-ass theme song played in the background. At least, I like to picture it that way. :P But it isn't. What really happened was that I held on tightly to my son's hand and walked away, pink sand pail and multicoloured platic animals in tow, completely conscious of the fact that the parent was giving me a stare that threatened to curse me back to whatever land I had come from. I'm sure if they hadn't been shocked by the fact that some strange man gave them a mini-lesson on gender parity, they would have probably asked me to sod off and poke my chubby nose in someone else's business.
Of course, if they'd known that I'm a Stay-at-home-Dad, they would have probably shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders and said, 'See! This is what happens when boys play with dolls'. Agreed that I'm assuming this, but based on the general reactions that I often get when I introduce myself as a SAHD, nothing really surprises me about what people are capable of.
The other day, my son insisted on getting a play kitchen set. He said he wants to cook like those 'uncles' on TV. (For the uninitiated, he was referring to Masterchef Australia.) We went to a shop nearby to buy it, and the salesman tried his hardest to distract him from buying the set and entice him with a remote-controlled helicopter. A stare from me put him back in his place. But that's the thing - we shouldn't have to get into arguments for things like these in the first place.
Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys. Women can't be the primary wage earner in a family. Men can't do household work. A working mother is evil for choosing career over her kids. A stay-at-home father is stigma to society. A single-parent isn't enough. A divorced woman is a shame to the family. But a woman must want to have kids. The list just goes on and on. The ugly truth remains that we are still miles away from breaking these silly stereotypes and unwritten rules that our minds seem to be stuck on.
[tweetbox design="default" float="none"]It will do all of us some good to realise that the quest for #genderequality always begins at home. #Parenting[/tweetbox]