Friday, December 2, 2011

Marriage, Periods & Peeing Parts

1. “Gay Marriage” ~ 5 years old

Simone: Hey, Alexey…something really important happened when you were away Upstate over the weekend? You know how usually a man and a woman get married? Well, it was decided that it is now legal for two men to get married or two women…it wasn’t like that before.

Alexey: Why not?

Simone: Because some people believe that it’s not right.

Alexey: Oh oh! Because it should just be a boy and a girl.

Simone: That’s not how it should be. It could be a boy and a boy or a girl and a girl or a boy and a girl and many other combinations.

Alexey (and this is why I love kids): What about three people? Why can’t three people get married?

Simone (chuckling): Well, that’s for your generation to work out. But they should be able to, if they love each other.

Alexey: At pre-school, we get paired together in threes sometimes.

Simone: This stuff is a bit different from pre-school groups. But not much. Anyway, gay marriage being legal in NY is really great.

Alexey: When I was upstate, we saw another country. Canada. It had trains that looked like our trains.

2. “Hair, Again” ~ 5 years old

As I was putting his wet hair into a ponytail after swimming, Alexey squirmed and said: your aunt doesn’t let me wear braids around her, she says it’s not for boys and that’s it and tells me it’s ridiculous.

Simone: It’s not ridiculous, it’s perfectly fine – I know she doesn’t get it but that’s how some people are. The only thing that matters is that you are happy wearing your braids.

Alexey: I tried not to listen to her

Simone: You know what? Next time she tells you boys don’t wear braids, ask her ‘why?’

Alexey: Why?

Simone: Because when people tell you something, you should always question why and if they don’t have a good reason to support their beliefs, you can ignore what they say and do what you feel is right. Because I know she doesn’t have a good reason for not liking braids on you other than that’s how she was raised and how many people are raised.

Alexey: Okay, and if you get me Oreo cookies, I will cover my ears and tell her I can’t hear her, just get me Oreos.


3. On Diva Cups and Periods ~5 ½ years old

Alexey (on seeing my Diva Cup): I want this..

Simone: No, that’s Mommie’s.

Alexey: Why do you have it?

Simone: It’s for my period.

Alexey: Because you have blood coming out?

Simone: Yes, every month.

Alexey: Why do you have blood coming out?

Simone: Because some people have blood coming out every month. It means I’m not pregnant. If I didn’t have blood coming out, it would mean it was contributing to a new baby inside me, a new person would be growing inside mommy.

Alexey: Let’s brush teeth together!

4. On ‘peeing parts’ ~ 5 ½ years old

Alexey (peeing): Why don’t you have this (as he looks at my crotch)

Simone: Have what? A peeing part?

Alexey: Yeah…

Simone: I do, it just doesn’t look like yours. I mean it is shaped differently. Yours looks like a tube, mine is more flat, it’s a hole. Some people have tubes, some people have holes. Other people call these people women if you want to categorize things. Do you want to see what mine looks like?

Alexey: Yeah!

Simone: Well, brush your teeth first (Lessons happen when life doesn’t stop)

Simone (once he was done): Do you still want to see it?

Alexey: Yeah

(We went to the living room, I took off my underwear and showed him my urethra)

Simone (pointing): This right here is where I pee from and this hole is where you came out of, okay?

Alexey: okay

Simone (after putting underwear back on): …So some people have tubes

Alexey: It’s not a tube, it’s a peeing place.

Simone: Yes, but it’s shaped like a tube.

Alexey: And men have it, not boys

Simone: No, you always had it. You have one now. Just when you’re older, it will grow with the rest of your body.

Reflection: I find it important to show kids exactly what bodies look like, not just in pictures but in real life. That is why I choose to show my children what my genitals and that of their father look like so that they may understand what our sexual organs are like, as well as any other organs. It is imperative that we, as parents, drop the discomfort around this topic and treat facts like facts. I believe that at 5 years old, Alexey understands more about female anatomy and its functions (like menstruation) than some men 6x his age. This knowledge will be invaluable for him regardless of his choice of partner in the future - not the least because he might some day father daughters.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spoons, Snakes & Hair Wars

1. Spring 2011 (4 1/2 years old)

Topic: Vapidity

Simone: Hey Alexey, why are girls always pictured showing off clothes and make up?

Alexey looks at the ad and says: Girls typically wear skirts, not jeans.

Simone: No, girls can wear anything. Do you see me wearing a skirt ever? Huh?

Alexey (smiling): No

Simone: I wish boys and men could wear skirts and dresses but other people make it hard for them to do so. Now, why is that? It shouldn’t matter.

Alexey: I don’t know

Simone: Neither do I. That’s why gender is silly.

Alexey: Silly gender.

2. April 19, 2011

Topic: Spoon and Snake

Alexey, when eating with his superhero spoon (superhero gender-neutral body with a spoon for a head), said: I think it’s a boy spoon

Simone: How do you know it’s a boy spoon?

Alexey: Because I see that it’s a boy

Simone: It’s a spoon, child, not a boy. It can be anything, a girl, a unicorn, a trans person but first and foremost it’s a spoon.

Alexey, looking over to our snake Doyle: Is Doyle a boy or a girl?

Simone: Well, they said it’s a male snake but I’m pretty sure Doyle doesn’t know or care about his gender category.

Alexey: Well, maybe it’s a girl then…

Simone: Maybe, but its bio sex category is male

Alexey: Well, then it’s a boy

Simone: Perhaps, for now, you can think that

Process: The difference between sex and gender is hard for many adults to grasp.

3. June 21, 2011

Topic: Hair Styles

Simone: Alexey, I’ve heard you don’t like when your hair falls into your eyes. You have two options: we can grow your hair on the sides until it’s long like the hair in the back and we can pull your hair back with hair pins until it’s long or take you to the salon for a short hair haircut.

Alexey: What are hair pins?

I showed him what they look and feel like and how they look on my hair and feel in his.

Alexey: I want the hair pins in my hair but my bangs are too long

Simone: We can cut your bangs shorter and if your hair bothers you while it’s growing, you can use the hair pins to pin it back and you can let your grandmother and aunt and the people at the pre-school know that you are okay with growing your hair

Alexey: Grandma says she doesn’t know how to braid my hair.

Simone: I’m sure she knows but just doesn’t want to.

Alexey: And Tanya at pre-school won’t braid my hair either. Nor will Papa Eugene (his bio-dad)

Simone (surprised): Why didn’t you ask me or your father? We are excellent at braiding hair

Alexey: I want you to call Tanya at pre-school and tell her to braid my hair.

Simone: Okay, I will but you have to know that some kids might make fun of you for it because they have ideas about what girls and boys should do just like their parents and it might not feel good but you just say ‘Leave me alone, I like my braids’ because, after all, they’re beautiful and you do what makes you happy, okay?

Alexey: Okay, can I talk to Daddy now?

Process: Alexey told Daddy that Tanya said braids are just for girls. Daddy said that Tanya is from a different generation and that if Alexey wants braids, he can have braids. The next morning, I called the pre-school and asked to include Alexey in the hair decorating/braiding experiences. And he came home looking like this, :)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Clowns & Guns

I ended the last post with a conversation w/Alexey about getting him a dress. Since I wasn’t about to pay $40 for a dress he saw in the pricey catalog, I told him he can wear one of mine. It is a dress I wore for his christening (which I was against). When he woke up from his nap, we put it on, took some pictures, he walked a bit around and took it off. As he walked downstairs to my aunt’s, I asked him if he liked his dress and he said “yeah.” This is simple, for now.

1. Age 4 ½ - Topic “Fun with clowns” (look up)

We had a good time with the kids on Purim at the local Jewish center where we worked on creating these super fierce clowns. The one on the left was Alexey's creation and as we walked home, we had the following conversation.

Simone: Alexey, the clowns look awesome, what do you want to name them?

Alexey: I want to name mine Purknetta

Simone: Purknetta?! That's an...interesting name.

Alexey: Well that's his name..You see he's a boy, because he is wearing pants.

Simone: Anyone can wear pants, you see Ark's clown is wearing pants and I'm naming her Cleopatra.

Alexey: Fine, mine is a boy.

Simone: They're clowns, they don't need a gender. Purknetta can be a boy, a girl or a transgender person...

The clowns now hang on the wall in my mother's apartment, next to seashells Alexey stuck to the wall with scotch tape, incidentally.


2. Age 4 ½ - Topic “Girls and Video Games”

We were standing on the B3 bus stop looking into a window of a Chinese restaurant that had some men playing video games inside. Alexey was especially interested because he saw guns being used on the screen and he finds guns interesting since we’re pretty anti-gun around the house. He was looking over and said..

Alexey: Look, Mommy, there are guns shooting…

Simone: I know, it’s a field day for you, J even if you know I think guns are stupid.

Alexey: Are people shooting people?

Simone: It’s a game, you play and pretend to shoot people. It’s not good to do in real life.

Alexey: There are no girls that are shooting.

Simone: Why do you think that is?

Alexey: Girls don’t shoot.

Simone: Actually, Alexey, girls do shoot. In fact, last century Russian women were considered some of the best snipers in the world. And women serve in the army.

Alexey (noting a girl shooting on the screen): Oh look! There is a girl shooting. And I thought girls don’t shoot.

Simone: Well, this is a good example of adjusting your views when presented with evidence. Even though I don’t like people using guns, Alexey, I must say that people of all genders own and use guns.
Process: This particular conversation was also difficult to have because I didn't want to go into particular depth about people using guns or what guns are used for but I had to tell him that all people are capable of using them. I consider random usage of guns to be an ugly thing but I don't want my son to think that women are somehow immune from being this ugly.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gnomes, Snowflakes and Dresses.

Contrary to popular belief, Alexey and I don't often discuss anything having to do with gender because no particular issues come up. In this next blog entry, I will post the only conversations we have had since my first blog post in November. I do think the frequency of the conversations will shoot up in the coming years.

1. Age: 4 Topic "Roles for Winter Play"

Alexey: For this year’s Winter Play, all the girls will be snowflakes and all the boys will be gnomes.

Simone: Why can’t any of the girls play gnomes?

Alexey: Because they’re snowflakes…

Simone: Why are only the girls snowflakes?

Alexey: Because it’s for girls – they have a delicate song to sing

Simone (surprised at his choice of the word ‘delicate’): And gnomes aren’t delicate?

Alexey (on a tangent, spreading his legs): Look at how hard my penis is

Simone: I know, that’s normal – it’s often like that in the morning, remember?

Alexey: Because blood comes out of it?

Simone: No, as I taught you, there is blood inside your body and when you have an erection, when your penis gets hard and swollen, that means blood got drawn to that part of your body and then when it becomes soft again, that means blood went elsewhere…

Alexey:…And this one girl will be Snow White

Simone: I think for the Winter Holidays, I’ll be a gnome too - a large gnome and I will eat you for dinner, om nom nom

Alexey (Laughs): And Alex will be a gnome too, okay?

Simone: What will Ark be?

Alexey: He’ll be a tiny tiny tiny little gnome because he’s a boy too.

Simone: I don’t get this separation because of gender – why can only boys be gnomes and girls be snowflakes?

Alexey: Because.

Simone: Why?

Alexey: That’s what Tanya said.

Simone: Well, it’s not like snowflakes have a gender – they’re snow, part of nature, as are we, so anyone can play a snowflake, right?

Alexey: …Tanya said…

Simone: Oh, Tanya said this and Tanya said that…

Alexey laughs

Simone: Well, your mother says otherwise, it’s so arbitrary..and gnomes…of course girls can be gnomes, they can be anything, delicate or not.

Alexey: Some people took off Halloween decorations and some people didn’t.

(Hey, no one said he stays on topic).


2. Age: 4 ½ Topic "Clothing in a Mini Boden catalog"

(Looking through the girls’ clothing section)

Alexey: I want this (pointing to a pink shirt with an ice cream cone)

Simone: Ok, we’ll put a star next to it

Alexey: And I want this dress

(I notice myself hesitating before putting a star next to the dress because I am not sure if he understands it’s a dress)

Alexey: And I want this girl

Simone: We can’t buy girls, Alexey…

Alexey: And I want these pants (blue loose fitting cropped pants)

Simone: I know, I liked those too earlier, I circled these pants

Alexey (seeing the pants on a girl in the next picture): but it’s for girls! Look, girl wearing…

Simone: So what, she’s a child, you can wear them too

Alexey: I don’t want to look anymore

Simone: Okay, but this dress from before, you sure you want it?

Alexey: Yeah

Simone: I can get it for you but you probably won’t be able to wear it to pre-school

Alexey: Why?

Simone: Well you know your father and I won’t care and we don’t think that way but your teachers in pre-school will probably say ‘dresses are just for girls’ and I don’t want you to hear crap from the other kids, either…But, we’ll get you one anyway, you can wear it at home for sure…maybe, your grandmother and I can make you one later tonight, okay?

Alexey: Okay!...Can I draw now?

Simone: Here’s a Victoria’s Secret catalog (I know I’m horrible), draw on it

Alexey: Okay, I will draw a turkey and food for turkey.

Process: I felt like a coward letting him know that it's probably better to not wear a dress to pre-school and have to face all those kids and educators. He's at such a tender age, I just don't know sometimes. I also felt that my aunt who would be the first person to ask to sew his dress (as she's a seamstress) would think I'm insane and tell him so, as well. I think I will have more luck with my mom around this issue but only because my father is no longer alive.