Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gender politics kindergarten style

There is this boy in kindergarten that my son never stops talking about. Every day after school it is "Ben this" and "Ben that" and "when can I have a play date with Ben?" It is as if the other ten boys in his class don't exist.

Ben has white blonde hair and big blue eyes. He is a little on the dramatic side. And going on my own son's personality, and previous friendships he has formed, I would never have picked him as a likely friend. This is not because there is anything wrong with Ben. It just feels like a mismatch.

At the parent teacher meeting we talked about my son's progress, the usual stuff. And then I said "So, my boy really likes Ben."

And the teacher laughed. "It is funny you should say that because all the boys mothers are telling me the same thing. They all love Ben."

Then came the interesting bit. "It is as if he is the Alpha Male."

And it really is. But then I thought about how complimentary the term Alpha Male sounds, like the confident kid, the one who will one day wield power in the board room or on the football field.

Flip the gender and this Alpha Male in a 6-year-old's body would be labelled something far less complimentary. In the form of a girl the Alpha Male is instead a Queen Bee.

When we think Queen Bee we think powerful, but also manipulative and Mean Girl. We think problem more than we think future leader. We think about somebody we really don't like very much at all.

So, does it start as early as Kindergarten or even pre-school? Have we already decided that girls who are socially powerful are problematic whereas boys who exude the same set of qualities are charismatic leaders? Is the whole "Queen Bee" construct sending a message to our daughters that power is pathological?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Turning Points

Moving countries hasn't been easy. I don't think it ever is, although maybe there are stages in life or personalities types that make these sorts of transitions easier. But we are now at the year and a half mark and I am definitely seeing the light.

Our weeks are busy, busier than they have ever been, as my kids glide (and stumble) from one activity to another. And as I drop and collect I can see that they are each individually finding their feet, that this is now truly home. 

This afternoon I collected my daughter and two extras for a play date; my 8-year-old went home with a friend; and my teen walked to Starbucks with a classmate to "chat". Somehow I still ended up with four children but without the usual fights.

There will be at least one more play date this weekend, squeezed in between music lessons, coffee and farmer's markets. And on Sunday we will go on our weekly family adventure, a new ritual which we treat as every bit as sacred as others might consider a weekly religious service.

This morning I was out the door at 5:45am, taking myself and the dog for a walk. Last year, I doubt I would have greeted any day with quite that degree of enthusiasm.

A shot from one of our Sunday adventures