Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the fiction book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at email@example.com or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
From the moment we’re conceived, we’re instantly identified and divided according to our gender. If the sonogram shows a penis, blue blankets are dutifully draped upon rocking chairs, the quickest route to the local Boys & Girls Club researched and mentally stored for later. If the sonogram lacks a penis, baby shower attendees will come equipped with (and ready to unleash at a moment’s notice) any shade of pink that exists as of this typing. These two paths are typically followed like GPS directions when you’re in the bad part of town: You don’t dare try to “do it your own way” for fear of serious repercussions.
And we’re all guilty of “genderizing” someone, as I like to call it. I’ve certainly done it. In fact, my wife and I just picked up a flowery dress and a doll for my soon-to-be 2-year-old niece’s birthday party. I mean, it would be rude if I showed up with a Matchbox car and a whiffle ball bat, right? That’s most definitely how I’d feel walking into the party. And I’m not saying giving a girl a doll or a boy a toy car is a bad thing. But where I do have a problem is when it goes beyond gift-giving and becomes a close-minded, limiting philosophy about what our children should be exposed to and where their interests should or shouldn’t lie.
While I see myself as far from the perfect parent, this is one area where I feel like I’m doing the right thing- giving my kids the freedom to explore their surroundings and establish their “favorite things” independent of my input and potentially misleading influence. After all, who am I to impede their happiness?
Well, regardless of the child’s contentment, I’ve known an embarrassing amount of people who force their preconceived theories on their kids quite liberally.
“Put down that doll. It’s for girls.”
“Isabella, you can’t be Batman for Halloween. Only boys can be Batman.”
It happens everywhere, and you’ve seen it happen, too. I think we’re far too quick to label a toy as “for girls” or “for boys” when, in reality, there is very little actual difference between the two. And really, when I think of the toys I “borrowed” from my sister growing up, many of them would raise an eyebrow with the traditionalists out there (not to mention my undying affinity for The Golden Girls). Let’s go through them, one by one, so maybe we can determine what’s so “girly” about them.
Barbies: Growing up with one sibling, a sister, getting intimately acquainted with Barbie was inevitable. And like any kid (girl or not), I thoroughly enjoyed playing make believe. And in fact, Barbie was where I first realized my fascination with taking women’s clothes off! Not much “girly” about that.
Kitchen: Some of the most famous chefs in the world are men! And I’m sure they started by making their moms fake blueberry pies in their fake oven.
Baby Stroller: For whatever reason, pushing a stroller is always seen as a feminine act. But any father will tell you that we spend just as much time behind a stroller than behind a grill.
Dolls: Perhaps the most traditionally girly toy of all. And you’ll almost never see a boy given this as a gift. But I’ve got news for all you traditionalists out there. Boys play with dolls all the time. We might call them “action figures,” but they’re dolls. They are toys designed to appear like a living thing, allowing children to create fictional scenarios and fantasize about them being real. They’re dolls. Even if they’re wearing a helmet and carrying a gun.
The color pink or purple: I’m not necessarily suggesting that you adorn your sons in hot pink Juicy sweatpants, but my 4-year-old came home from camp the other day and grumbled that another kid told him “purple is for girls.” It should be noted that purple is Antonio’s favorite color and has been at least since he’s been able to speak. I was infinitely proud when he followed that up with, “But it doesn’t matter.” He’d heard that phrase from my wife. And that’s exactly the kind of thinking I want to instill in my sons. I firmly believe that allowing children to be themselves instead of forcing them to be like everyone else yields a happy kid who won’t resent his/her parents for stifling their creativity.
This leads me to a post I recently came across on the NFL Facebook page. It was a photo of a woman, donned in standard referee stripes, with two simple words: Coming Soon? It was about Sarah Thomas, who is in line to become the NFL’s first ever full-time female referee this season. I’m a massive NFL fan, but I knew immediately that the comment thread would include a significant dose of close-mindedness (read: barely literate ignoramuses). However, even I was surprised by what I saw.
Since I was seeing exponentially more of the top two comments than of the bottom two, I decided to chime in and have my voice be heard.
Turns out I wasn’t alone. As of this screen-grab, 465 other NFL fans agreed. But some…did not.
What I’ve highlighted above is exactly the type of ignorance I never want my sons to exhibit. And yes, my “brilliant observation” comment was strictly sarcastic. Not that its recipient was aware of that.
Clearly, not every football fan is prepared for female involvement in their male-dominated game of choice. But maybe, just maybe, they’d be a little bit more prepared if they were raised to retain the open-mindedness they were born with, encouraged and not discouraged to try new things, and instilled within them respect for the opposite sex.
If you disagree, I’m sorry to hear that. But as a parent, I feel that it’s my responsibility to enable my kids’ happiness, not restrict it.
Thoughts? Rebuttals? Enter them by adding a comment below!
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Joe DeProspero
Friday, July 26th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. He has written the book “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt” and is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Prepare to have your tastes judged relentlessly.
Giving anything a name can be a daunting task. A poem, a song, your pet iguana. If you’ve ever been in a position where you’ve had to “title” any of them, I don’t need to tell you that it’s a painstaking, often arduous process. And naming your own child is easily the most difficult of any naming decision you’ll make.
First, it’s a name you’ll be blamed for until you die. Second, both you and your spouse have to come to one joint decision (which is difficult when you can’t even decide on a movie for Saturday night). And third, there is often family pressure to succumb to their wishes rather than sticking to your own (likely predetermined) ideas. Just ask Princess Kate, who I can guarantee you, deep down, would’ve loved to go against royal tradition and name her baby Thor, or something equally unexpected. King Thor does have a nice ring to it.
Before you even start the process of determining a name for your child, there is one thing you need to remember: Everyone has opinions, and most of them are terrible. Or at least they will seem that way to you. After you’ve announced that you’re expecting, and you’ve been grilled relentlessly about the-gender-you-won’t-know-for-months-anyway, you will find yourself inundated with baby names. It’s like being smacked across the face with a Pottery Barn Kids catalog. Most of the information will be completely unusable and self-serving.
Aside from your own indecisiveness, you also have to deal with the aforementioned skewed views of everyone in your life who believes their opinion matters. For example, you’ll have those who will passive aggressively tell you they hate the name you’ve chosen.
“Sophia? Really? You guys actually like that name?” No, we can’t stand it. We’re just really big ”Golden Girls” fans.
Then, you’ll have those who don’t like the name because it reminds them of someone who wronged them in a totally insignificant way in 1973.
“Oh, please don’t name her Francesca. I knew a receptionist named Francesca and she had a lisp and was incredibly promiscuous.” I was grateful for this information, as the last thing I’d want is for my daughter to be a lady of the night with a speech impediment.
The most intriguing bunch are the ones who believe that by naming your child the same name as someone they despise, your child will magically inherit the awful personality traits of the hated party. Generally speaking, this person’s opinion should be treated like a new boyfriend or girlfriend’s attempt at making homemade sushi—pushed to the side and ultimately discarded when no one is looking.
Your best bet is to not tell anyone your chosen name until he/she is born. Pre-parent, I found this pretentious. But now I believe it’s the path that leads to the least amount of drama, bitterness and resentment. In a nutshell, people are much less likely to speak ill of your decision if it’s one they can no longer change. Not to mention you have a new baby. Anyone with an ounce of social grace knows to keep their mouth shut.
With that said, here is a series of pitfalls to avoid. Follow these and you should be able to keep your child out of therapy for a while.
If your last name starts with a “K,” don’t name your kid “Mike.” Instead of being Mike Kaplan, your child will end up being My Kaplan, Mike Aplan, or worst of all, Micapalin (which sounds more like an over-the-counter ED medication).
It’s an honorable act, naming your son after his grandparents. However, if you’re having a boy (and the two grandfathers are Richard and Lester), don’t name your poor son Richard Lester. People tend to abbreviate or shorten names and this one will only spawn ridicule and shame (shorten Richard to Dick…then take it from there). Or, for abbreviation, our newest royal family member: G.A.L.
Speaking of abbreviating names, don’t name your daughter Susan if you hate Sue. It’s like putting a piece of cake in a doggy dish and being angry that the pup licked the icing off. A nickname is going to happen at some point. So I suggest picking a name where you can live with any possible version of it. You can still monogram their receiving blankets with your personal favorite of the bunch.
Before you slap a name on that birth certificate, say it out loud to yourself. Then say it to a few others. Did any of them cover their face and stifle a laugh? Well, it’s probably because you named your kid Dino Marino. If you want to give something a clownish name, saddle your dog with it. Better yet, a goldfish. The life expectancy is much shorter, minimizing the humiliation from their friends.
At the end of the day, this is your decision and yours alone. When my wife was pregnant with our second son, we made a monumental mistake and told everyone our three top choices. This guaranteed one thing: at least one person would be disappointed. In fact, people started referring to the baby by their favorite…while he was still in the womb! We waited three days after his birth and ultimately decided on the least popular of the three, Nathaniel, and announced it to the families shortly thereafter. Sometimes, at night, I close my eyes and can still hear the crickets.
So, stick to your guns, decide on a moniker that sounds pleasant with your last name and one that you’ll be comfortable shouting for the next couple of decades.
Thanks for reading, and look for my blog next week about the thought process behind going from two to three kids. In the meantime, check out my recent appearance on Huffington Post Live, discussing “How to Hire a Nanny.” They had me take my glasses off, so I l0ok blind, but I was thrilled to be a part of the conversation.
What are your baby-naming pet peeves? Add a comment below!
Pregnant belly picture courtesy of Shutterstock.com
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Fearless Feisty Mama, Joe DeProspero, Mom Situations, Must Read, Newborn Care