Toddlers are our chance to change the world.
Ok a bold statement, and don’t get alarmed…I’m not mustering a troop of whisk waving two year olds just yet.
But toddlers are impressionable. They are mostly unencumbered by society’s rules and stereotypes. They are also at the start of their knowledge-gaining and opinion-forming journey through life.
Exposing my son to a male dominated and quite traditional sporting environment from day dot means he may develop a blinkered idea of what is normal in terms of gender roles. This has got me thinking.
I believe that we, as responsible adults and caregivers, have a duty to think about the world’s future for men and women when we are helping shape our toddler’s wisdom.
And there are two toddler character traits that mean we have a pretty wonderful starting point.
1. They question everything:
My two year old is heavily into naming things at the moment, people being a favourite. We have moved on from the blanket ‘man’ identification that was in vogue a few weeks ago and have added ‘woman’ to the repertoire.
Friday found my son and I (not unusually) on the edge of a cricket pitch.
‘Man’ pointing to batsman
‘Man’ pointing to bowler
‘Man, man, man’ taking in a few fielders
‘Daddy’ pointing to Daddy
‘Man’ pointing to opposing team on balcony
‘Man’ pointing to spectators
‘Man’ pointing to groundsmen
‘Woman’, no pointing.
‘Woman!’ no pointing but getting louder
People were starting to look. I was roused from my habitual response of ‘mmm, man, oh yes’ and I waited.
My son turned to face me ‘no woman? Any woman?’.
Hmm a quick scour of the pitch, the few spectators and the surrounding areas confirmed that indeed there were no women.
I do understand why there were no women on that particular day. I wouldn’t expect to see hundreds of men at a women’s sport event either. Although I bet there would be a few, perhaps the odd coach or spectator at least.
But this isn’t really the point. The point is that the toddler asked.
Sport is a big part of our lives, perhaps it will be a big part of his too. I hope he always asks where the women are.
- Anything is Possible:
My son and I were playing in the kitchen one morning. I got cold and put on the first thing I found which happened to be my husband’s tracksuit top. A fetching sporting number, it is logo-ed to the hilt as you would expect.
The logos are instantly recognisable to our toddler as emblems of ‘Daddy work’. He stopped ‘chopping’ vegetables and came closer to study and identify.
I waited for the expected ‘Daddy work’. He came really close until he was touching the team badge, he looked at me and then back at the badge.
‘Mummy work’ he declared, satisfied.
Now my son knows I ‘work’ (it’s what we call my volunteering and my book group). I asked what he thinks Mummy does at work:
‘Bat, ball, hit, bat, hole, YAYYY!’
Admittedly this probably has more to do with his skewed vision of what ‘work’ is than anything more profound.
But what a liberated and innocent starting point to think that Mummy could overcome gender (ahem and talent) and play for the same team as Daddy.
There must come a point after toddler-hood and somewhere in our childhood where we naturally conform to the rules and expectations of the environments we are exposed to.
I hope when that point comes for my son that he carries on questioning. I’m not expecting him to change the world. But I hope he can navigate through any damaging stereotypes with a strong ‘fairness’ compass. And I hope that he always believes that anything is possible.