Special guest: Cathy Cassani Adams. This podcast will focus on how we can stay curious about ourselves and ensure that we are growing and learning so that we can encourage our children to do the same. There are many areas of life that are being questioned and evolving right now- from questions about race, gender, sex and identity. How can we engage in conversations with our kids about these topics that engages curiosity instead of fear? Dr. Robyn Silverman interviews Cathy Cassani Adams for answers and insight.
Special guest: Abbie Goldberg, Ph.D. This podcast will focus on the range of different types of families there are—especially families that were built through adoption and families that are headed up by two-dads or two-moms or a range of others who love them (grandparents, single parents). What makes a family? It’s about process not structure—it’s who loves and takes care of you, not their gender or biology! Thank you to Professor Abbie Goldberg, recognized scholar, speaker and author, for all her amazing eye-opening information.
As a parent, I often wonder about how the toys and role models in my children’s lives translate to behavior. I tend to be the kind of mother who encourages a wide range of toys, games and books. I am less about banning (unless it is truly counter to our family’s core character-based values) and more about providing a continuum of options so that my children gain experience, choice and understanding.
That means that we have everything from princess dress up and dolls to blocks, science kits, dump trucks and dinosaurs. And both of my children play with whatever they choose to that day. Yes, my son has put on a tutu while bouncing and laughing in our basement bounce house and my daughter has crashed Batman and Wonder Woman action figures into a tower of blocks, saving the “little people” trapped inside from disaster. I’ve played race cars with my son while crawling around on the kitchen floor and my husband has played dolls with my daughter while cuddling in the den. To me, it’s all good.
But I sometimes see that a range is not provided or accepted in households around America and elsewhere. Boys play with “boy things” and girls play with “girl things” exclusively. What do our children miss out on when toys, books and games are selected for them rather than allowing them to gravitate naturally to what interests and intrigues them? What do they gain when they are the masters of the toys, games and books they see?
While it may not be obvious, my feeling is, quite a bit. When our children are masters of their own toy rooms, they learn what they love. They gain a more complex understanding about history, empathy, technology, language, engineering, art and science. They learn that their personal passions are valid and imagination or play of many kinds are fun.
I asked my 2 ½ year old son what he liked about wearing a tutu in the bounce house a few weeks back and he told me; “It’s funnyyyy! And I yike how it goes up and down when I jump!” Yes, yes, that makes sense. He likes the science of it—a piece of clothing that catches air when you jump is cool! Isn’t that…awesome?! And here some might be stressing out about what wearing a tutu in a bounce house can do to a boy’s “future masculinity” but truthfully, he couldn’t care less. He’s having a blast! Can’t we just let children play?
Skip to the cars as I asked the same question; “What do you like about racing cars in the kitchen?” My son answered; “they go weally, weally fast and woooooh they cwash!” Yup. Physics. Mechanics. Cause and effect. Good for every gender!
My daughter has been known to “acquire” my son’s Batman figure as well as his Spiderman book. She asked for a Superhero book of her own for her most recent birthday that features Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman all together. She’s even going as Wonder Woman to a Superhero/Princess birthday party this weekend. When I asked Tallie what she likes about Wonder Woman, she told me; “She’s cool! She fights cwime!” Justice. Power. Self reliance. Good for every gender!
And the lessons generalize to other areas of life. I saw something pretty remarkable the other day at the playground. As Tallie was climbing up a steep slide, she struggled to reach the top. Her brother, already at the top put out his hand and exclaimed; “Tawwie! I’wl save you!” I saw her stop for a moment and look at her brother. Then she just kept climbing as she called back; “I don’t need saving! I can do it myself!” These words are rooted in countless conversations we’ve had while playing both princesses and Superheroes. Don’t wait to be saved; save yourself.
This morning, Wonder Woman single-handedly stopped an oncoming train from crashing into the building of blocks that we all built together– and Batman rescued the people off the train. Unfortunately, there was a casualty. The Wonder Woman action figure was decapitated. Who makes a Superhero with such a flimsy neck? She’s an Amazon Princess Warrior for cripes sake– not a runway model! Ah, well, off to the store to invest in a Wonder Woman toy that can hold her ground…and keep up with my kids!
The first thing my daughter, Tallie, wanted to do this morning was go downstairs and have me read her two Spiderman stories from her brother’s new Adventures of Spiderman book he received for Hanukkah last night. So that’s what I did. It was from that book that I read her a good night story before bed last night (because nothing says sleep like Spidey against “Lizardman”). She has also taken a liking to her brother’s new Hess helicopter and truck (so we got her one too that she’ll get for Hanukkah one night).
Tallie loves to climb, tickle-wrestle, play with cars, play baseball, roll in leaves, make snow angels and run. She also loves to play dress up, play dolls, play pretend and get her nails done with Mommy.
My point is that she is beautifully complicated and multi-faceted. She is not one-note. And my guess is, neither is your daughter.
As parents we must be careful. Society tells us that girls are meant to love princesses and pink—and some of them do—but not all of them—and for those who do, that’s not all they love. And it’s vital to our girls’ healthy development that we nurture all sides of them.
The side that likes to pretend. The side that likes to build. The side that likes to do puzzles. The side that likes to run, jump and get dirty. And the side that likes to read about everything from superheroes to bugs (a current interest of Tallie’s) to space to princesses and whatever else perks their curiosity from one week to the next.
My point it; we can’t let society dictate what our daughters love. We must let our girls do that. I’m currently coaching one mom who said to me on a recent coaching call; “I’m really not a fan of swimming so I’m not all that excited about it. But my daughter is.” Yup. Sometimes we are not “in” to what our daughters like.
Tallie asked me for a book on caterpillars last week— not exactly one of my top interests but we got one out from the library. I so want my daughter to be curious, ask to learn more and have a way of delving in. Each time she does this, she acquires knowledge. But she also learns how to learn and how to nurture her own curiosity. The byproduct is probably more important than the immediate learning.
It would be so easy to create a child who is a reflection of our own image. But is that really the goal? As parents, we are charged with the job of bringing out the best in our children—the best version of themselves that they can be rather than the most convenient version of them that we would like to see. There is typically a difference. And while it takes courage to open our eyes and work to help them achieve the goals that light them up inside, as parents, we can help them discover who they truly are, the gifts they can bestow on the world and the people they were always meant to become.
Girls will continue to span a beautiful and diverse continuum of what it means to be a girl. Some will feel best enveloped in pink, frilly dresses playing with dolls and drawing rainbows. Others will feel most at home digging in the dirt, playing sports and reading about Superman and Wonderwoman. But my guess, is that while many will fall somewhere in between, most are destined to jump around that continuum surprising us all. And that’s one of the best parts, isn’t it?
On Sunday morning, Tallie, dressed in her “Dora the Explorer” nightgown, sequestered herself in her room, playing with her “animal hospital” she helped build with her Daddy the night before. On line to be “checked out” were several horses, a tiny kitten, a goat, a sheep and an alien. At the “reception desk” was one of the new “Lottie dolls” dressed in a blue sparkly shirt and a faux fur vest while another Lottie doll, dressed in a frilly purple dance dress, played nurse to her “Dr. Tallie.”
She asked me to play with her as she got her doctor tools ready for x-rays and surgery. “Dr. Mommy,” she explained confidently, “this goat has a fwog in its fwoat. He needs a hug and to take medicine fah 10 days.” She dispensed her pretend medicine and then carefully laid him down on her favorite soft purple blanket in her bed. We went on to diagnose a sick pig, a dog with a broken leg and a feverish cow. I find it fascinating what her mind comes up with while she’s engrossed in play.
After 45 minutes or so, she hugged me and smiled a huge smile. “I yuv you, Mommy. I yuv you the whole world!” To which I responded, “And I love you my sweet love…every single side of you.”
And I do. I really do.