Please stop calling me a girl.

I am an adult—therefore, I am a woman.

This is something that really annoys me, but in the past I’ve also been guilty of referring to women as girls. But I’ve made a conscious effort to stop, because language matters. In the video, Mayim Bialik explains why we all need to stop referring to adult females as girls. And she backs it with science (Yay for Science!).

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis is the theory that language one uses influences the way in which people think about things. And so, when we refer to grown women as girls we are in fact implying that they are not mature adults, as well as perpetuate gender biases and stereotypes of gender roles. Mayim states it perfectly…

“Language sets expectations. Let’s set ourselves up to have women behave as mature, responsible women.”—Mayim Bialik

So, please, please, please take four minutes out of your day to watch the video. You might learn something new (and that’s always a bonus!).

It took me 10 years to solve one major mathematical problem.

Fourth grade was a terrible, awful, no-good year!

Okay, I’m being hyperbolic—but, it was the year that I was asked to stand in front of the class, pick up a piece of chalk and solve a mathematical problem. It was some sort of multiplication or long division or, as far as I was concerned, the most difficult mathematical problem ever created!

To this day working with numbers sends a heart-stopping fear through me that I can’t explain, other than just sheer panic. And needless to say, I try to avoid mathematics at all cost, which is not ideal…my husband is forever bewildered that I never check if I’ve received the proper change after paying for something. It’s also the reason I’ve embraced weChat and other electronic forms of payments (Why wouldn’t I? It does the math for me!).

I know that soon enough the day will come that Charlie will ask for help with her maths homework (Cue: The Imperial March.)…and she’ll realise that Mathematics is my kryptonite. This poses the following problems:

1. I won’t have the confidence to help her or, more likely, still try to help her and fail and ultimately, let her down—which is my actual biggest fear.

2. I’ll eventually have to admit that I never bothered to “face my fear” and avoided it instead of actually trying harder to learn mathematical concepts (because let’s be honest, your annoying math teacher was right, we use mathematics everyday!).

3. All the times I encourage her to persevere telling her to “keep going” and to “try again” and all the occasions I try to promote resilience and foster positive learning dispositions…they will all be lies. It would be hypocritical to call myself a role model.

How can I urge her to persevere when trying to solve a difficult math problem and when I never did?

I can’t, unless I can honestly model it.

This is the one major mathematical problem I am solving in my life.

Because I am resilient.

(And the Internet will teach me…privately, and in the comfort of my own bed where nobody ever has to know how many times I panicked, cried and hit the reset button!)

Rapunzel, Rapunzel…Please keep your hair short!

“Now you look like a boy.”

“So, I look like a boy because I have short hair?”

“Yep.”

My heart sank a little. I’d been chatting with two young sisters about differences for my uni assignment. In my years of working with young children, I’ve learned that conversations need to be organic and that you just have to follow their lead. And thus, how we landed on the subject of the differences between boys and girls, specifically hairstyles.

When I was nine I had, unfortunately, been exposed to head lice and my mum decided the best option was to chop off all my hair. My dad could not hide his disappointment. “You’re so beautiful with long hair. I guess it’ll grow it back” (Uhh. Thanks?) That Monday, I found myself being screamed at in the school bathroom, “Get out! You’re not supposed to be in here!” I was dressed in hand-me-downs, old jeans, and a t-shirt—a slight contrast from the bright pink dress the girl (yelling at me) wore and her long hair, which gently draped against her shoulders, would’ve made Rapunzel jealous. It was almost the complete opposite of the short, bowl-cut hairstyle my mum had given me. Before I could open my mouth to explain, a teacher—who I guess decided that I was a boy too—was dragging me out.

Fun Fact 1: Gender roles significantly impact educators’ image of children, as well as their pedagogies (teaching practices)—specifically educators of children in early childhood. Early childhood educators have biases toward gender-specific stereotypes and prefer when boys and girls engage in play and activities that match conventional gender roles. Simply put, teachers like to see boys doing boy things and girls doing girl things. Thus, when a child challenges these perceptions, more often than not, they become stigmatised as being deviant (a tomboy, a sissy-boy, or the weird girl that looks like a boy). You can only imagine the negative socio-emotional effect this can have on a young child.

Being mistaken for a boy happened a lot. It happened at airports, shopping malls…and even church! I had trouble making friends because nobody wanted to be friends with the weird girl that looked like a boy. When I finally grew my hair long and started wearing dresses, I started making friends. They were mainly girls because pop culture and society said so. I was a girl and I was to play with girls and do girl thing and boys play with boys and they do boy things. Many believe this is a fact backed by “clinical studies”… a little something called “gender segregation”. But as an adult, I question it…how much of this behaviour is determined by the culture and environment in which children are raised?

Fun Fact 2: During the mid 70’s American families started having fewer kids and retailers were unhappy with the fact that families were buying less and fewer goods and, in a stroke of brilliance, decided to market gendered items, and that’s why you have pink for girls and blue for boys…(and there you go, folks. The birth of gender segregation!) Don’t believe me? Check out Hidden Brain for the full episode transcript of the podcast called The Edge of Gender.

So, back to my question…has culture and environment impacted the way adults see children? Simple answer, yep. Ever since I could remember heteronormative perceptions of being have been deemed “the right way”. Girls behave this way, boys behave that way and girls wear pink and boys wear blue. Girls are the beautiful princesses—the damsels in distress—and boys are the brave princes that marry the damsels upon rescuing them from distress. These are the heteronormative narratives to which we have all become accustomed. You’re probably thinking, “there’s nothing wrong with this. It’s normal.” But is it normal because society decided long, long ago that the definition of femininity and masculinity are the gender roles that have been created by these narratives that we have all grown up hearing, reading and seeing?

So, what can we do?

Research new norms that provide a gender-neutral understandingone that facilitates an understanding of equality and provides children with positive role models and ideas that enable them to decide their own ways of being and more important, new norms that step away from the heteronormative narratives that reinforce stereotypes about gender.

It’s as simple as offering storybooks that challenge traditional values on gender roles—such as The Paper Bag Princess and My Princess Boyand creating safe spaces that encourage young children to engage with toys and activities that promote non-traditional play, which enables children to critically examine and explore ideas of gender. It also provides opportunities for young children to demonstrate that they are active participants in the process of their own gender.

And maybe, just maybe, it will also create a society that embraces the deviants—no matter their gender…or  length of their hair.

The reason I don’t care about the scribbles on my wall…(Thanks, Janet Lansbury!)

Don’t ever mistake any moment with your child for anything less than a learning experience…for both of you.

What do I mean?

Well, tonight Charlie said, “I draw A” during dinner and I looked up and she had used her fork to ‘draw’ on the walls (My fault, I was answering a text…during dinner). Of course, I was busy lecturing her on the appropriate use of the fork to look at the lovely lines she had scrawled on our white wall. But she insisted, “I draw A!” Exasperated. I took her fork away. I mean, she hasn’t even learned to identify ‘A’ from ‘B’, it’s also all ABC to her, even numbers. After a while, she acknowledged that “Forks are for eating, not drawing.” And but then she repeated again, “I draw A.” And I finally looked carefully at the wall… and lo and behold, there it was an upside down ‘A’! I felt terrible for not listening to her… and of course, I praised the upside down letter immediately upon realising, but then she repeated, “Forks are for eating…”  Sigh.

After the little stinker (Yep, I said it!)  went to bed, I came across the Janet Lansbury article below, and this quote resonated with me:

“…Kids draw to have experiences, tell stories and express ideas. Even when they scribble, they are often expressing energy, sound, or motion rather than just moving their arm along the page or making a primitive attempt at something more representative…”

I realised that Charlie had found a way to express that she had finally identified the letter ‘A’ on her own (and drew it!), but all I could do was focus on the negative—not to mention the fact that I completely underestimated her capacity to recognise the letter ‘A’ from ‘B’—rather than appreciate the learning that had occurred right in front of my eyes.

Next time, I’ll parent better, kid. I promise.

So, parents please read the article. It’s an eye-opener! And I implore you, observe and listen…your little one might just be expressing just how clever they are (even if it is upside down)!

“Be careful what you teach. It might interfere with what they are learning.” – Magda Gerber Parents have often asked me some variation of the question: “How do we strike the right balance between molding our children and trusting them to unfold?” In my view, “molding” should be reserved for ceramics projects and dental work. In…

via The Moments We Miss When We’re Busy Molding Our Kids — Janet Lansbury

Great tips on monitoring your child’s screen time by Dr. Alan Kazdin.

The use of technology in the form of computers, tablets, television, video game systems, and smart phones has become such a part of our lives. They entertain us, allow us to connect with others, provide information and education tools, and simply make our lives easier. As with any advance, there is usually another side. In…

via Children and Technology — Dr. Alan E. Kazdin

Daria Morgendorffer helps me parent. Yes, that Daria. 

I’m lying inside a giant box.

No, that’s not some weird metaphor. I am literally lying inside a giant box.

Why? Because when our new fridge arrived the other day, my first thought was, “Charlie’s going to love this box.” And yep, I was right. Now I’m lying inside the giant box as she sleeps sweetly, cuddled into me because, “Mama sleep in box, please,” completely melted my heart. And when your daughter melts your heart. You just can’t say no.

So, as I lie here (at 03:35 am because apparently, my body doesn’t like sleep) I am thinking about the box and why I thought of Charlie when most adults would be excited about the new fridge. (Is it that my brain is now incapable of thinking about anything beyond Charlie? Possible). But then I remembered…Boxing Daria.

For those unfamiliar, Daria was an animated show in the 90s–created by Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis–and for me, undeniably the best show ever created. Now don’t get confused, animated, yes–but certainly not your typical cutesy, Disney variety (I LOVE those too!). Daria was produced by MTV for a teen audience and it had all your typical teen angsty goodness with a touch of humor. It also spawned my love of satire. In the “Boxing Daria” episode, she finds comfort in a refrigerator box during a difficult time in her early years (thus, me lying in a giant box with my kid). 

While not hugely positive, Daria’s perspectives of the world around her enabled me to explore ideas that challenged social norms and pop culture. I feel like my individualist values are due to her refusal to conform to societal norms. (I’m really putting a lot of stock in a fictional character. Noooot entirely sure what to make of that.)

In my nine years of living in China (It was only supposed to be six months! Yikes!), I’ve witnessed, heard about and experienced for myself cases where people told me what to do and how to do it. I was told how to behave, how I should look, what to eat, what to drink, and what to wear, and what it means to be female and male, and what it means to belong in this society. I’m not saying, this is only in China. I know this happens everywhere. But because of China’s collectivist culture, individualism is not highly valued. There are so many societal pressures and to step away from the norm is just not acceptable here. For some people, at least. But with that, it is also getting a bit better. I still wouldn’t call it progressive, but there are sparks of hope every now and then (Yay, China!)

It’s 06:00 am now and I’m reminiscing about a cartoon (I can almost feel your eye roll…get to the point already). Anyway, so it got me thinking…Daria was socially awkward, completely pessimistic and wasn’t always pleasant to her peers. She was an outlier, yet despite all that, she remained true to herself and it made her resilient. At the end of the day, this is really all I want for Charlie.

I’m excited to watch Daria with Charlie (I mean when she’s 12). It will probably seem so ancient to her by that time, but considering my values are still the same…perhaps, Daria was onto something way back in the 90s.

Case in point, there is so much truth to this response to a question about her goals in life.

(I took this image from Buzzfeed.)

Pamper Your Child the Right Way

Guest post by Amy Williams****Being a parent requires a tough and constant balance between disciplining your children enough and pampering them the way they need in order to feel loved, confident, and secure. It goes without saying that in a world where it’s easy to spoil your children rotten, maintaining that balance is difficult to…

via Pamper Your Children the Right Way — Positive Parents