I used to write for a fabulous online publication geared towards Caribbean Woman globally. The name of this publication was COCO Magazine. I wrote an article sometime in 2014 about “Raising Confident Girls.’’ At that time I was a mom of one, a mom of one little girl, and was determined to raise her in a way that would provide her with every opportunity. I was determined to not box her into girl colors, even though she went through a very ‘pink is my favorite color’ phase. I was determined to expose her to traditional boy toys, even though she enjoyed playing with her construction toys while wearing her tiara and princess shirt.
I wrote, “For my daughter's third birthday there was a bit of a social experiment that took place in my house. She was given a music set, a princess set, and a construction set. As she keenly played with all three of her new toys, I eagerly watched to see if she gravitated more to one than the other. After a day full of new toy excitement, she enthusiastically announced that her construction set was her favorite gift. I breathed a sigh of relief. I felt like we just had a little success in our household. In a world full of pink and princesses my daughter chose her construction set. It was a proud moment. The truth is that princess usually gets played a few times a week in our household, but I am thankful that somehow my daughter does get that pulling out her tools and playing construction is just as natural as wearing her tiara and fake high heels.”
Fast-forward a few years, and now I am the mom of two boys! In an age of #MeToo, glamorous lives on social media and reality TV and violent video games, how does one raise a well rounded confident child that understands the importance of compassion, kindness and empathy? Also, even though I am from Caribbean decent, I am a very Canadian momma! Being Canadian has very much shaped who I am, and I am raising children in the Caribbean and wanting them to be able to thrive in both their home/local community and as well as abroad in the Western World.
We see lots of debates about whether we should embrace boys playing with dolls, or if pink ends up being their favorite color. We steer boys away from traditional girl toys, activities or colors in fear of it being too ‘feminine’, whereas when we are looking at the development of girls, we encourage them that the world is open to them! As a mom of two boys, this was becoming a growing concern. If my son dresses in pink and wants to play princess, he will likely be judged, whereas if my daughter wears a construction belt, she will likely be praised. This has really caused me to question my thoughts on raising boys vs. raising girls. What should I be exposing my boys to in order for them to thrive? What toys, what activities, what chatter do I want them to hear in order to be able to grow up as responsible well-balanced men?
Thankfully, they have a great role model as a father. They have someone to look up to that provides them with a road map to being a man of integrity laced with compassion and empathy. So this, paired with perhaps the exhaustion of having three young children, has caused me to relax. It has caused me to relax and focus less on choosing the right toys and books and providing them with options that help them to develop their personalities. I hope these choices will provide them with opportunities to build and create while also teach them how to be empathetic, helpful and compassionate individuals.
So this week, we broke into some Christmas presents early. I gave my boys both their very own superheroes with matching capes. As a young child my mother had to send to New York for me to be able to have a doll in my image, and I am so thankful to be able to provide my boys with superheroes of their own in their own image.
I also returned to my original article on Raising Confident Girls and found that the top 5 tips that I provided there are the same tips that I will provide for Raising Confident Boys. Here is my revised top 5 list in which I changed ‘girls’ to ‘boys’ and which reminded me of the importance of these 5 E’s in raising well rounded children.
Shifting Perspectives is a weekly conversation with Yolande. Yolande, a Canadian of Caribbean descent, now calls the Turks and Caicos Islands home and in this podcast challenges Caribbean woman worldwide to fuel themselves with diversity in the way they think, the way they work, the way they parent and the way they live.