Today Oot came up to me and asked me if I’d like to play a game.
“What kind of a game?” I asked him.
“Oh you know,” he explains, sounding very matter-of-fact. “A guy game. Because we’re both guys.”
I hear this, and I sigh a little inside. We’ve tried really hard to keep the gender stereotype stuff away from him. I don’t want him to think that trucks are for boys and dolls are for girls. That boys are tough and girls are delicate. When I tell him stories, the heroes win because they’re clever instead of being strong, and sometimes it’s the prince that needs rescuing, not the princess.
But I can’t watch every piece of media before he does. Or every book before he reads it. Besides, this stuff is insidious. It’s everywhere. And I know that despite my best intentions I sometimes tend to reinforce stereotypes without meaning to.
It’s like trying to keep dust out of your house. You can do a lot, but ultimately, *you* are one of the main reasons there’s dust. You track it in on your clothes without knowing it. And even if you somehow managed to avoid that, you’d still shed skin cells. Even if you don’t want to. This constant, low-grade sexism is everywhere. It sneaks in.
But they can’t all be learning experiences. Sometimes you just want to play a game with your kid. Sometimes you watch The Princess Bride because you love it, and it’s a really great movie even though there is only one woman in it, and Buttercup is pretty much the epitome of a useless trophy damsel.
Sometimes you’re going to lose a little. That’s the way of things. It stings, but all I can do is try my best and hope he grows up having internalized less of this cultural bullshit than me. Then he won’t have to work so hard to be a halfway decent human being.
Then, years from now when he has kids, he can help them be even better than he is. And so on. I might lose a battle here and there, but I’m taking the long view. I’m aiming to win the war.
So it’s okay. We’ll play a guy game.
“What sort of guy game would you like to play?” I ask him.
“Well,” he says. “Maybe me and you could play a game where we make a house.”
I’m okay with that. It’s a good game. I did a lot of construction projects with my dad when I was little. At least it’s not killing-things game. It’s a making-things game. I’ll take what I can get.
So we go into the room and he explains the game to me. We’re dragons, and we’re making a house. In the house we’re going to make a nest. And in the nest we have some eggs. Our job is to take care of the eggs, keep them warm and safe until they hatch.
After they hatch, we’ll take care of the baby dragons. We’ll bring them food to eat and toys and soft things to cuddle up with.
You know. A guy game. Because we’re both guys.
Some days you lose despite your best efforts. Some days you win without even trying.
Be good everyone,