Stop Stereotyping My Children

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When your daughter was born, what were your wishes for her? Were they different than your hopes for your son?

Soon after finding out I was carrying boy/girl twins, a stranger approached me and asked me what I was having. I answered matter-of-factly, expecting a simple “Congratulations”. Instead she exclaimed, eyes wide with excitement, “Oh! He’ll take such good care of her!” Wait, what? Did I miss something? Was my daughter going to need to be taken care of?

When they were born five weeks early, my son was able to return to us after only 12 hours in the NICU, while my daughter stayed there for 12 days. People commented that my son was “sturdy” and “tough” because he came to us so soon and that my daughter was “angelic” and “fragile”. So sleep deprived and emotional, I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was being told. My daughter and son were both fragile and tough because they were born prematurely. They were twins, they were preemies – they were the same.

Over the course of their first year of life, my twins swapped personalities multiple times. A once calm and light-hearted baby, my son changed into a strong-willed, passionate toddler. My daughter was the opposite. Fussy and easily irritated as an infant, she grew to be all smiles, easy-going, the life of any party. And yet, I was told, “Boys are so much easier than girls. You’ll find out when she’s a teenager.” Will I? Are all daughters doomed to be door-slamming drama queens who talk back to their mothers? (How’s that for a stereotype?) What if my daughter is different?

I heard, “Boys can’t stop moving. They’re so physical. They’ll jump, climb and keep you on your toes. They’re hyper. Little girls sit so nicely and behave.” Is that true? My daughter is currently the “active” one. She yearns to be upside down, thrown into the air, and she’s learning to stand on her head. My son will sit with a bucket of blocks for a half hour and read a pile of books five times in a row. What if he’s different?

I don’t know that they are, because my twins are also the same. They both love pink, wearing sunglasses, and kissing dogs. They both love running and yelling, banging pots and pans, and throwing balls.

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My husband and I know that with boy/girl twins, we’ve been given the chance to raise them as stereotypically as we want them to be. We know that in some ways, they’ll fit those stereotypes and confirm people’s opinions. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, we dress our daughter in pastels and our son in vibrant colors sometimes. Yes, my daughter is super social and yes, my son loves to shout “vroom, vroom” when he pushes his trucks. But my daughter also loves to wear blue, play rough and throw herself to the ground. My son asks for his hair in a ponytail, loves stuffed animals and kisses anything that stands still for more than two seconds.

Their second birthday is coming up. There’s no need for them to have separate gifts. Princesses and dolls for her, animal books and cars for him – it’s not necessary. In fact, it’s ridiculous, outdated, and just plain wrong. They share everything. That means you’ll find my daughter riding a toy fire truck down the driveway and my son cradling his pink lovey. At the same time, there’s no need to fight the stereotypes either. My daughter doesn’t need “girl” colored blocks and cars. My son doesn’t need dolls made specifically for boys. They’re going to play with whatever we put out for them. Balance is key. We hope to offer them a variety of toys and games in all sorts of colors and materials. They shouldn’t be limited to any one type.

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The coolest thing about being parents is that my husband and I get to mold our children with the values we believe in. We know we’re not going to feed the stereotypes. At the same time, we aren’t out to prove something to the world either.

We’re going to treat them the same, because they are the same. They’re both toddlers. Soon, they’ll both be just kids. Later, they’ll both be just teenagers.

We’re going to treat them differently, because they are different. Their individual characteristics (not gender specific) should be noted and respected.

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So to whoever told me that my son will grow up protecting my daughter solely because he’s a boy and she’s a girl – I ask that you stop stereotyping my children. They’re still just babies. We have no idea what kind of adults they will turn out to be. Until they’re grown, we’ll be treating them just as they are. Different, but the same.