Monday, January 1, 2018

That Moment You Realize You're Sexist

A few weeks ago I visited with my cousin, Clair, and shared the following story. I entitled it "You know you're raising your tween in the Seattle Area When...":

Daniel was in the car with Maddie and her friend, Isabelle. He couldn't remember what Isabelle said to Maddie, but Maddie's response was, "Isabelle! Are you making assumptions about my gender identity?!" As a good little Pacific Northwester, Isabelle was quick to assure Maddie that she would never make such an assumption!

After a good chuckle, Clair mentioned that she often struggles when she's with fellow parents of infants (she has a toddler boy and infant twin boys - she's a busy girl!). She said that when she walks up to someone holding their baby girl, she doesn't want to feed into gender stereotypes with comments like, "Oh, such a beautiful girl!" or "What a adorable dress she has on!", but she's at a loss for what she could possibly say..."My, how intellectual she looks!" "Amazing; she's such an independent thinker!"

I returned home from that visit, immediately having to do damage control, and - in the process - had to think about how I address gender as a parent. Maddie (our ADHD/dyslexic 11-year-old) had gone to a sleepover at Isabelle's while I was away and it went completely off the rails. Here's the apology letter Maddie wrote to Isabelle and her family:

Dear Isabelle and her family,

Sorry I told you I didn't believe in Santa anymore, that wasn't a good thing to say. Sorry I swore. I know that was rude and not very lady like. Sorry I poked your butt that one time. It was weird and inappropriate. It's never ok to touch someone in that way. Sorry that we cut up [your] Ken [doll]. You must think I like to cut things up now! And yes at the party [you have invited me to this weekend] I will say "please" and "thank you". I'm sorry if I've ever forgotten to say that in the past. Sorry I did all these things and thank you for giving me another chance.


Yep. That was know, the witty, care-free, adorable little social butterfly who everyone loves. [sigh]

I can hardly count the number of apology letters I have sat James (our ADHD/dyslexic 14-year-old) down to write. I definitely can't count the number of discussions I've had with him about inappropriate behaviors. What struck me, when I talked with Maddie about her behavior and sat her down to write her apology letter, was how much more disappointed I was in her behavior. It's par for the course to have to work on appropriate social behaviors with ADHD children, but while James acting like a typical ADHD child [with a nanosecond of attention span, no filter and little to no impulse control] has embarrassed me and frustrated me in the past, I've expected it. I've accepted it. I haven't been disappointed by it like I have been when Maddie acts like a typical ADHD child. I realize now that I have higher standards for her, and that's not fair to her...and it's even less fair to James.

Shame on me. Gotta work on this. 


  1. Oh goodness, what a minefield we walk in these days. I've only had daughters, so haven't been faced with that kind of problem, but discussion about it is a lot more prevalent now than it used to be anyway. Good luck with 'working on this'! I think it's much harder to be a parent now than it was at the end of the last century when my kids were in their teens!

    1. Thank you very much for taking the time to read my post and for sharing your thoughts! I don't know that it's any more difficult raising girls now than it was then, but I think the priority has shifted, forcing us to rethink how we go about it. It used to be that girls were taught to be lady-like, which essentially breaks down to "behave yourself". Now girls are taught to be strong, independent thinkers, which means they need time to explore their boundaries, chances to speak their minds and opportunities to spread their wings. I think that approach can just be a little more tiring and stressful than the "act like a lady" approach. I don't even know that one approach is better or worse than the other; they're just different. I was brought up "the old-fashioned way" and I feel I'm relatively successful at life. Maddie has never seemed to fit the "lady-like" mold, though, and she has the potential to absolutely SOAR as she gets older. So we'll see what the future brings! Thanks again, take care, and have yourself a healthy, safe and festive 2018! :) ~Stephanie

  2. Great writing of Stephanie. I enjoyed reading it. Wish her a very best of luck.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read my post, Mandal! Take care, enjoy the rest of your weekend, and I'll see you back over on LinkedIn again soon! :)