I know, I know, two posts in as many days. But, I was heading back from a school drop-off this morning and a blog post blogged itself into my head and demanded to be put on paper… er … screen.
Today is “Free To Be Me Day” at my son’s school. It is part of an anti-bullying campaign that has been taking many different forms in the past few years. They also have “Wear Pink” day, and a variety of assemblies and speakers during the year.
Living, as I do, in a relatively tolerant country, in a friendly neighbourhood, with liberal friends and family, it is easy to sometimes forget that intolerance exists. I even fooled myself into thinking that today’s children were more open-minded than yesterday’s.
As a child who didn’t fit in very well in elementary school (but desperately wanted to), I am perhaps a little more sensitive as I watch my own son learning the ropes and navigating these dangerous, shark-infested waters.
My son has always marched to a different drummer. He likes to experiment and to do things his own way. Telling him how something should be done is a guaranteed way to get him to come up with something else. One day, he asked me to paint his fingernails. As I refuse to push gender stereotypes on my children, I gladly agreed. He wasn’t keen on pink, so I got him blue and green. (Gender boundaries can only be crossed to a point it seems). He was very pleased with his nails and wore them to school a few weeks ago. Other kids were not so impressed.
Boys, he was told, do NOT wear nail polish.
Did that stop him? No, he kept it on a few more days. I thought maybe he would be turned off the nail polish at that point. Nope, he wanted the sparkly blue back on for his birthday again. Then, when the kids in gym class told him to go join the girls’ line, did that stop him? Nope, he then wanted the polish tidied up for “Free to be me day.”
Kid, I am so proud of you.
This story probably doesn’t sound all that significant to adults, but if you think back to how it felt to be in elementary school, the small things really do matter.
But I do wonder at the effectiveness of these campaigns.
Does “Free to be me day” imply that on any other day the children are NOT free to be themselves? On the same note, would “Wear Pink” day imply that boys can’t wear pink on any other day of the year? Not that I’m opposed to the concept, but I’m not sure it gets the point across. If we started celebrating annual “Don’t Hit Your Brother Day” or “Help with the Housework Day,” wouldn’t that undermine family ideals of day-to-day non-violence and helpfulness? I’m not sure. It’s something to think about.
Similarly, I am puzzled about “Random Act of Kindness” Day. Suggestions include things like “opening the door for someone” or “paying someone a sincere compliment.” Don’t people just do these things? I’m a fan of the idea in general, but it saddens me to think it is necessary.
Meanwhile, I can’t wait to see what my brave, creative, unique little boy comes up with next. Surprise me!