Because my 9 year old grandson lives with us, I find myself much more involved with children than I probably would be at this point in my life. I listen as he tells me of his day...so I can revel in the joy he has found...but I also listen, intently, for those small ways someone may have hurt him. Not physically, because in his school that rarely happens. But emotionally or psychologically. Perhaps someone made a comment about his size, or he was picked last for a team, or his friend yesterday didn't want to play with him today.
He has a heart the size of heaven, but that heart can be easily broken. And I know there are thousands of others just like him...happy, silly, warm, intelligent children who want only to be loved...and accepted.
But we, as a society, make it so very easy for our children to be hurt.
Because we designate behaviors as either male or female, we make it hard for children to freely experience life. Society indulgently smiles on the little girl who is a "tom-boy"...who gets dirty, or plays backyard football, or likes to hunt, or play with cars and airplanes. But not so the little boys, who may really enjoy helping bake a cake, or is interested in dance, or can draw or paint (unless it is something "male"). Boys such as these make society uncomfortable. They are not masculine enough...and so they are made to feel bad about the things they enjoy or even worse, feel they have to hide them.
One year, during the Christmas season, I took my children to watch a performance of the Nutcracker. It may not have been exactly what my son wanted to do, but he indulged a mother he loves. He truly is a unique individual and has always been strong enough to march to his own drummer. But ballet was not something he would have ever chosen to do. On the way home, I remember the awe in his voice as he spoke of the male dancers...their muscle control and more importantly their strength. He marveled at the ease with which they lifted the female dancers who, although they probably only weight 90 to 100 pounds, were lifted flawlessly. He wondered out loud how many men could dead lift that amount over their head without a struggle. Many believe male ballet dancers are "sissies", but that day, my son's estimation of their abilities changed that thought, if he'd ever had it. He was impressed!
Why can't we encourage our children to follow the path that intrigues them the most? Why can we not speak with same pride about our male child's dancing ability as we would if he could throw a football 80 yards? Why must we pigeon hole all people because of their chromosomes?
What do we accomplish when we break the hearts of our young because they don't fit the mold society has chosen for them? Have we done a service to our children when we teach them to "make fun of" or to "bully" those who are different from them? Children are what they learn to be. We can encourage them if we are willing to break the mold which our ancestors created...We can change, if we but have the courage to try...