Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hashtag, Mom of Boys

If you don’t know, I am the mom of three wildly imaginative and independent young girls. They have a wide range of interests that include everything from fairies to construction projects. We start some mornings in long flowing dresses that we accompany with our foam swords and pirate scarves. We build castles out of Legos and cities with our train tracks and blocks for our dolls to live in. We sit on the sofa and cuddle under soft blankets as we read stories about Olivia, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Aslan. We go to the park and see how high we can climb that one tree that whispers to us. We paint and draw and color. We rescue each other from “bad guys.” We write stories and put on plays, fashion shows, and highly choreographed dance routines. We challenge each other to games of basketball. We take ballet and tap class. We go to soccer.

Photo Courtesy of Austin Upton

We do these things, because those three, wildly imaginative and independent young girls are growing into something. They are growing into…..adults.

Yes, someday these girls of mine will be adults.

But because they are females, they are also going to face challenges.

It is sobering and it completely affects how I parent my girls. I am raising my girls to be brave and bold and daring and kind and truthful. I am raising them to be the person they were created to be. I am raising them to go after their dreams. I am raising them to make the world a better place. I don’t want these statistics to follow them into their teen and adult years. I need them to be strong. I need them to be able to use their voice. I want them to feel safe.

So can I let you in on a secret? Not many things get me going like the hashtag, “mom of boys.”


“Started my morning stepping on Legos.” #momofboys
“Found a car in my pocket.” #momofboys
“Look at all the blocks and train sets.” #momofboys

Look, I get it. You are raising men. Your experience of coming alongside your children may be different than mine. I don’t want to minimize it or gloss over it. But for those of us who are raising preschoolers and young elementary aged children, do we really have to start all of this now? Really?

I know you. I know you care about women. So I don’t understand why we start giving the message to little kids that leaving out Legos or playing with cars or trains is something that at the age of 4 is relegated to those children who have a penis.

Can we put our cards on the table here? When you use the hashtag, “momofboys” when describing behavior that has been traditionally attributed to boys, you are enforcing the stereotypes that boys do “this” and girls do “that.” It’s wrong. And it hurts girls. You would not believe how often my little girl questions an activity because she’s been told by classmates that it is something that “boys” do.

Moms of boys, I need you. I need you to raise children alongside me. I need you to teach your boys girls can play with Legos, trains, and cars. I need you to raise boys who will ask my girls to join in on a game of soccer or tag. I need you to raise boys who will let my girls dig tunnels in the dirt with them. I need you to raise boys who don’t have preconceived ideas of what my girls can and cannot do. Because I am raising my girls to play with your boys. And they will play cars and Legos with them. They will get dirt underneath their fingernails and they will steal the ball from them in a game of basketball. But they might ask them if they want a spot of tea beforehand. I want that to be okay.

I want to celebrate you, moms of boys. I want to encourage you. I want to support you. I want your boys to know that they can do whatever it is that they want to do whether it is sports or art or playing dolls. I want us to sit together and share stories of raising children. I want us to be able to nod in agreement, even if you have a boy and I have a girl.

I go back to those statistics, the ones that haunt me. And they won’t change, not unless we work together.

How about instead of spending time reinforcing these ideas of what boys and girls do, we spend that time teaching them to see the inherent value in all people. How about we allow room for emotion. How about we speak up when we hear someone perpetuating stereotypes.

How about we raise….people.


  1. good word here Brenna from one mom of three girls to another. I think it erks me in a different way than what you wrote. but I am thankful to read what your words as it encourages me to look past my annoyances and see the deeper "ugh" that you so eloquently wrote. I want my girls to be all the things you want your girls to become.

    I also value Ben's role in their lives. I think there are certain traits which are inherently female and male, in how God designed us. I remember Ben saying, "How can I teach my girls what it's like to be me as a male in a very female dominated house?" I think he had a point. I am glad to partner with him as he brings his strengths to the table as I bring mine. I hope some of this made sense--it's late and I need to go to bed! Love your mind and your heart and you!

  2. Seriously, this has always bothered me. I think, and this is just me, that there is a superior tone to "I'm raising boys," as if the job is somehow more important. Again, totally projecting there, but let's face it. When we delineate gender and assign Legos to boys and princesses to girls we're negating the individuality of our children and failing as women whose job it is to take the gender gap and crush it. I can't stand it when I see BOYS party ideas and whatnot on Pinterest. You go, fierce mama.

  3. oh, i appreciate this, lady. my friend and i were just talking about how early kids get this unnecessarily gendered messages, and i think you're right to push back.

    i have a son and a daughter, and they're different, because they're different people, of course, but because of gender and sex, too. but it's SO easy (and dangerous), to move from "boys can be so physical, X, Y, Z!" into the prescriptive, limiting, and hurtful language dictating who/what kids "should" and "shouldn't" be or do.

    of course, there's a theological layer to this, too. many who use that hashtag do believe in prescriptive and limiting gender roles, but we who don't absolutely need to push back against this tide.

  4. Oh, I love this so much. I am a "mom of boys" who are actually not boys so much anymore, and the hashtag annoys ME. My boys didn't fit all of those "stereotypes" and I would NOT want them to. I want people to understand that it's more about being a mom of children, or YOUR children, and that each one is a wild unique amazing creatures, regardless of their gender. And no hashtag can box our children in. And I'll stop before I keep ranting in your comment section. ;) Thank you for this post!

  5. good word, love. such a good word. we are raising people, people who are going to hit enough boxes as they grow up. people who are going to find out that the world is a place where other people like to build fences in random places. our homes should not have boxes. my girl loves mud and dogs and Legos and babydolls and kitty cats and toy tractors.

    mothers of people. oh, I love this.

  6. Hashtag I love you. Hashtag when I was a kid, I played with dinosaurs and action figures. Hashtag all my nephew wanted for Christmas this year was a princess stable. Hashtag slay those dragons, friend.

    I'm not a parent, but I appreciate you writing this for all the awesome little people growing up out there. Roar.