Monday, April 10, 2017

Way Ahead Of The Rest Of Us

On Friday, a girl arrived at school to announce that she has a new baby at her house. This wasn't the first time she had announced it, but you know, big news deserves multiple announcements.

I replied, "That's so exciting. Have you taught your baby to walk yet?"

"Yes I have!"

I was not expecting that answer.

"Wow, what a terrific big sister! Have you taught your baby to talk yet?"

"I have!"

Typically, the kids inform me that the baby cannot walk, nor talk, nor eat food. In fact, the only things babies can do is drink mommy milk, cry, and fill diapers, which leads to a conversation about how they, as a big kid, can walk, talk, eat, jump, run, sing, dance, put on their own coats, and so forth. For some newly-minted older siblings, the advent of a baby is unsettling, especially as everyone is fawning over it, so I do what I can during those first few days to make sure that at least some part of the spotlight continues to shine on them and their "big kid" accomplishments.

In other words, I know some kids really appreciate the chance to talk about something other than baby, but this wasn't the case on Friday. She was just answering "yes" by way of brushing off my questions in order to get to her own agenda. She was with her father. "My baby is a baby boy so he has a penis. Daddy has a penis too, right daddy?" When he confirmed her assertion, she added, "And I'm a girl so I have a vulva."

I said, "That's right, boys have penises and girls have vulvas . . . " That's when it hit me that we are probably going to have to start working on a new way to talk about gender now that we're coming to understand, as a society, that it's not necessarily an either-or thing. I said, more to myself than anything else, "Of course, I know a boy who was born with a vulva and he's now a grown man with a penis."

It went over her head, but it started a conversation amongst the adults in the room. We agreed that we're going to have to develop new ways to talk about gender, even if none of us are yet sure how that will look.

Later in the day, our new big sister was attempting to dress one of our classroom baby dolls, half of which have penises and and half of which have vulvas. A friend objected, "You can't put a dress on your doll, silly. It has a penis." She turned the doll upside down for a better view, pausing to study it. "She does have a penis." She then proceeded to pull the dress over the doll's head anyway. Maybe preschoolers are already way ahead of the rest of us.

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Chris said...

:-) nice that dolls are anatomical and a child is open minded about what is possible.

Tricia said...

We generally go with, "As a general rule..." because that leaves things open for variation.