Posted by: bluelion | March 29, 2015

Let’s read… about great parenting

#9: Lori Duron : Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son (Broadway Books, 2013)

The battle is on between “[…] all the nosy mothers within ten miles, all of whom have their degree in child development with a minor in judging people.” (p. 130) and Lori, a.k.a. CJ’s Mom, who “[…] works part-time as a business consultant, full-time as a mother and overtime as a walking panic attack.” (http://raisingmyrainbow.com/cast-of-characters/)

As an enthusiastic follower of the blog, I had the constant feeling that I had read this before. If you want to own a hard copy and put it on your shelf, go ahead. It even has a foreword by David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris! As much as I love the blog though, I feel I shouldn’t have bought this book. I’ve been reading every post for a couple of years now, so it is probably hard to tell me anything new from times past.

Still, it is definitely more than a collection of blog posts. A coherent text that summarizes the first few years and all the struggles and joys of raising a gender creative child. Written with a great sense of humour, the episodes I already know still melt my heart or upset me. It was interesting to remember recent posts while reading the book. I had an instant follow-up in certain cases.

If you are not familiar with the blog, the book is a great place to start. And I strongly recommend that you start following the blog as well. Lori and her family are amazing. They teach us so much about empathy, and how to be a great parent, no matter what your child’s unique needs are. They show us how to love and support your child, “no matter what”. In addition, Lori and Matt are probably the first real-life couple I ‘encountered’ who work as a great team as parents. As Lori says, “[h]e has always been there with me every step of whatever journey I take.”(p.235)

Lori also taught us loads about bullying, and how to deal with it. She shares all the detailed knowledge she gathered while trying to protect her children, with the exact legal steps you can take in the US. The end of the book hosts some great lists, including a Reader’s Guide, Twelve Things Every Gender-Nonconforming Child Wants You to Know, invaluable Tips for Educators and Resources to turn to.

I always think of this wonderful family when my son tells me things like the girls in his class said he couldn’t play in the toy kitchen, because it was for girls. Or when he coloured a clown purple, the girls told him he should be a girl because of the colour he chose. Then I tell him that colours and toys are not for girls or for boys only. That is a sentence I learned from Lori. I don’t know whether I knew what to say in these instances otherwise.

What is this thing with toy kitchens being for girls anyway? Most of the chefs, including world renowned ones are men. Even a cook I know was upset because his son liked to play with a toy kitchen. But he himself is a male cook!

What about clothes? How is it acceptable if I like the colour blue or prefer wearing trousers, if manufacturers make pink shirts for grown men but it is not okay for young boys to wear pink? My son’s favourite colours are red and purple. He also likes pink. In clothes, he likes red, blue and black. There aren’t many purple (or pink) boys’ clothes. He loves everything firefighter, cars and other vehicles, including the garbage truck, everything connected to building houses, numbers, letters, he disassembles everything and reassembles some, and he loves to draw. With all kinds of colours. He is a boy’s boy with favourite colours not everyone approves of. Lucky that we don’t seek their approval. I am grateful to Lori for teaching me that, too. To remember what is important: the happiness of your child, and what is not: what other people might think.

Because of this blog, I am the parent who said last year that it was not a great idea if our little boys in nursery school gave flowers to the little girls for International Women’s Day as the grown-ups here do. I thought it was unnecessarily enforcing a gender stereotype at an early age. This year, I concluded that the whole practice of men giving flowers to women on this day is actually sexist and the total opposite of what International Women’s Day should be – and in other countries is – about.

I know struggles from a year of lactose intolerance. I know how parents don’t want unnecessary hardships for their child. I know how adults are so much less accepting and flexible than children. Sometimes I couldn’t decide whether they truly weren’t able to understand the situation or just didn’t want to. Other times I was exhausted from the constant struggle. Often I was sad that my child felt left out because of his condition. I am glad it was temporary and I know it was less of a challenge than raising a gender creative boy.

If there is anything everyone could and should learn from this book and the blog, they are the following:

1. Love and support your child. No matter what.

2. “It’s a lesson more in empathy than in gender.” (p. 180.). You are encouraged “[…] to learn – as we have – to judge less, imagine more, and treat others as they would like to be treated.” (p. 252.)

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Responses

  1. […] of Raising my Rainbow said so many times, “to have an open heart and an open mind”. Lori’s was another blog-turned-book I read this year and I felt I shouldn’t have bought it. It was a […]

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