What Would You Do?

TGIF! Thank God It’s Friday, time to get off work and enjoy some cocktails during a much needed happy hour. Yeah right! Not with a 3 year-old it at home it isn’t. Long gone are those days of leaving work and hightailing it to a bar on a whim,  to unwind and enjoy some libations. My preferred destination nowadays is homeward bound and to be perfectly honest with you, I am just fine with that.

So lets’s start this again then. TGIF! Thank God It’s Friday, the little guy has enjoyed his movie(Friday is his movie night) and is now fast asleep and we’re sat here watching the TV show “What Would You Do?” For those of you not familiar with the show, here is the wikipedia description –

“The program features actors acting out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings while hidden cameras record the scene, and the focus is on whether or not bystanders intervene, and how. Variations are also usually included, such as changing the genders, the races or the clothing of the actors performing the scene, to see if bystanders react differently. Show host John Quiñones appears at the end of each scenario to interview bystanders and witnesses about their reactions.

As the experiment goes on, psychology professors, teachers, or club members watch and discuss the video with Quiñones, explaining and making inferences on the bystanders’ reactions.”

This particular episode featured a segment where a mother and son are in a toy store and the boy wanted to get a doll.

I actually wanted to write “and the boy wanted to get a girl’s doll” but feel somewhat conflicted actually typing out the words girl’s doll. That, in a nutshell is at the heart of the issue I raise here.

I myself have been in this very predicament multiple times already and I’m quite sure that I will be in this same predicament going forward. To be honest I haven’t always dealt with it in the way that I would hope to have been able to deal with it. We once went into a Walgreens and my little guy wanted a Minnie Mouse car. I promptly told him no and said we would be getting the Mickey Mouse car and made sure we left with the Mickey Mouse version. It’s happened again with the same suspects, Minnie and Mickey and once again I made sure that he left with the male. Perhaps it’s speaks more to my insecurities than to his choice of toy. Male, heterosexual, retired man about town; my son is not playing with a girls toy. I’m not quite sure, I do realize though that it’s instinctual, almost reflex, son wants “girl” toy, bait and switch with the male version.

Considering my age, background and being raised in the era when I was it would be natural for me to associate dolls, specifically Barbie type dolls with being a girl’s toy. My(Our) biggest argument has always been whether there were enough “Afrocentric” dolls for our daughters to play with, never mind having to worry about your son wanting one. Hell, Action Man was white too come to think of it, but I wasn’t much of an action figure type of kid growing up. Obviously the world has changed quite a bit since my childhood days but have we changed for the better, have we changed for the worse, have we just changed for the sake of change. Or is it that this has always been our world, it’s just that we get to see the whole now as opposed to our previous limited view, due to this digital age.

When it comes to our children and how we raise them,  specifically concerning the boy/girl axis and the values we should instill it can often times be a bit much. There’s that gray area between personal opinion and being politically correct, that gray area between being gender bias and non-gender bias, that gray area between the values that I was raised with and the world that we are/I am raising my son in. It’s a joint effort but going forward let’s stick with the dad’s perspective as I’m the one currently typing on this keyboard.  Anyway going back to the points I raised earlier, it is not my job to be politically correct when it comes to how I raise my son but at the same time there’s an obligation to raise him in order to assimilate with modern society. Not that I want or need him to “fit-in” per se but I also don’t want him to be ostracized because of a belief system that I may have subjected him to and essentially trained him to follow. Think about it, you’re almost treated like a pariah nowadays for wanting to raise your kids with old-fashioned values and to be honest they are just that, “old-fashioned”. The world is constantly changing, we are continually evolving. Maybe it’s time to get with the program. Maybe it’s time I get with the program.

One of the things about becoming a parent is that you are quite literally forced to look at the world differently. You are somewhat in control of a life that came into the world through you.  You realize that you will almost always force your belief system onto your kids. It’s pretty much impossible not to,  but is it the right thing to do? I challenge myself constantly to be “present” and by that I don’t mean just showing up when needed. I mean when I am home with my son, that I am present. This means free from distractions, the cellphone is in the corner, free from the cluttered mind that is left over from a day’s work, right here, right now, nothing else matters. It’s not always easy and trust me I often falter. At the same time, it’s in these moments of clarity that I realize that this little person is a reflection of me and my spouse. It’s the little things too, the mannerisms, the shouting, the gestures towards the dog. All the subtle ways that your child will model your behavior, oftentimes behavior that you are not even conscious of, the stuff that we often don’t see because we are running on autopilot. Let’s face it, if mummy and daddy are working a 9 to 5, you are running on auto-pilot the vast majority of the time.

What I love about this show is that it inspires thought, conversation and the periodic look in the mirror, some self reflection. It also shines a light on society and our collective psyche. It’s a snapshot into our biases or lack thereof, be it cultural, gender or race related. There’s probably a lot of people as now adults who believe in something just because it was taught to them by their parents not necessarily because that is what they themselves believe. I aspire to raise my little guy with an open mind and will try not to project my belief system onto him, a question to you is What Would You Do?

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