Written by: Phindile Le Bris Sithole-Spong
I can still remember it as clear as day. When my daughter was about to turn one, I had a conversation with my older sister about whether or not I would pierce my daughter’s ears. I’ve been with my daughter at every vaccination she’s ever received and I could see just how traumatising the experience was for and how much pain she was in. While needles might not be such a big deal to someone like me, even an older children, it can be highly stressful for a baby or a toddler, which is why I wanted to buy the cute studs that she could keep forever to commemorate the significant milestone. But I decided against it. When I told my sister about my decision not to pierce my daughter’s ears, she responded, and said: “but aren’t you worried she will look like a boy”. The truth is since then, and even before then, people have mistaken my daughter for a baby boy. Which is something neither my husband nor I care much about.
If you live with, or are around toddlers, you probably know how hard it sometimes is to differentiate between a little boy and a little girl. Especially when the child is dressed in gender-neutral clothes. I, for one, was not willing to put her through a stressful encounter so that people could tell she was a girl. However, upon thinking about it further, I also realised that society might have ideas about what she should look like and how she should dress, and truth is, as her mom, I also have my ideas too. But, ultimately, the decision is up to her. And as she gets older and more verbal about what she wants to look and dress like, she can decide whether she wants her ears pierced or not.
I must admit, however, that even with this in mind, I do enjoy dressing her in pinks. Perhaps this is an outcome of my upbringing and my ideas of gender. However, I am completely comfortable with the idea that she may not want all that at some point. She may want to dress in sweats and shorts all day. Whatever she decides, my job as her mother is to support and love her. Even if, or when she chooses to do things her way and not my way.
There’s an analogy that comes to mind when I think about this: our children are like gardens. We are there to water and tend to them, but we cannot tell them or force them to grow the way we want to. But, like any good gardener, we are there to support their growth in whatever form it may take shape. And that’s how I see my job as a parent. And whilst I may not always get it right. I will keep doing my best to make sure that no matter what, I am raising a strong, independent child who is free to express herself whichever way she see fit and does not feel the need to conform to sociatel standards on gender or anything else for that matter.