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  • Gareth Ellis

Teaching Tolerance, not Stereotypes

This week, Emilia turned eight months old.

She’s had a big week this week, because as well as pulling herself up from sitting to standing, she’s also started to crawl (she seems like she’s going to be an all or nothing kind of girl.)

As well as developing at a pace that makes me wish she was still a tiny bundle of joy, her hair is starting to get longer too.

With longer hair comes the responsibility of keeping it out of her eyes with clips etc, and soon I know it will advance to ponytails and bunches.

Now, I always want the kids to look their best, even if we’re stuck in this bloody lockdown, so I will do what I have to do to learn to do her hair the right way.

With introducing something to Emi comes the curiosity of Rupert. At two, it seems he can’t possibly let her have something without also approving it himself. Whenever she has a monthly update photo, he wants to get on the mat too. When she has finished in her bath chair, he wants to get in it after, and now, with her having a clip in her hair he wanted to do it too.

20 years ago, I would have instantly said no to him putting something like that in his hair. I believed that boys should be boys and that hair clips and bows etc were for girls exclusively. As I matured, I drastically changed my views, and I am completely the opposite now. I’m actually a little ashamed of my past beliefs.

However, I wasn’t ever taught to be stereotypical as a child, far from it. I picked up a lot of things from society, from television in the 90s and I built my view around that. Long hair, hair clips, pink clothes, and dolls all belonged with girls, and football, cars and blue were for boys.

I remember growing up being embarrassed that I liked Westlife. For those who aren’t familiar with this incredibly talented Irish five-piece, they were stereotypically followed by girls swooning over Bryan McFadden. If I was at school and someone asked what I was listening to I would lie and tell them it was someone ‘cooler’. The truth was, I bloody loved Westlife, and I still do.

I think as a parent you can only choose to teach your children more 21st century views. I want to teach them both tolerance for people of all genders, acceptance of other people’s beliefs and views and respect for their elders – something I most definitely WAS taught as a child.

Nowadays, Rupert has pink clothes, he had a pink walker when he was younger, and he had a baby doll before his sister arrived. When they both grow up, I want them to be whatever they want to be – within legal restrictions – and we will be proud of them, no matter what.

Unless they want to go into writing – I might discourage them from that if I want them to look after me in my old age.

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