Jatau_Girls Can Jump Too_Large

Girls Can Jump, Too

Author: Z. Andrew Jatau
Published Date: Monday, February 19, 2018

Some mornings, Keira watches nursery rhymes on YouTube while she eats her breakfast. The other day, as we were watching one of the many adaptations of “Monkeys on the Bed,” Keira turned to me and said, “Daddy, there aren’t any girl monkeys.” Now usually when I hear this song, at least one of the ill-fated monkeys is female, but this version depicted only male characters. Recently, she has become more aware of gender differences, often pointing out how many boys and girls are in the room. I was surprised that she was observant enough to be able to pick it out of a cartoon. At her age, she’s not quite aware of the implications, but it’s interesting that she is already able to notice.

Whenever I give presentations about healthy masculinity in boys, I talk about how socialization begins at an early age and messages are inserted into elements that we feel are harmless. Boys are sent messages about masculinity, and girls are sent messages about the role that women should play in society. As I further studied “Monkeys on the Bed,” I realized that the typical depiction is of at least three or four male rough-housing monkeys, the mother being the caretaker, and the doctor usually being a man. It may seem silly to some, but these portrayals send messages to our children.

Keira’s statement led me to cycle through nursery rhymes and fairy tales to try to determine the roles that the female characters play in each. I already knew that most versions of “Wheels on the Bus” depict the mother in the caretaker role. Same goes for “Three Little Kittens” and “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.” Fairy tales often show the female characters as weak and needing to be rescued. These messages are quite consistent, but appear so minor that we may mistakenly diminish the impact they are having on our kids. Whenever children start to notice difference, it is not long before they start to assign value to these things, whether it’s gender, race, religion, ability, etc.

Keira’s observation reminds me that she’s at an age now where she is noticing difference in herself and others. It is also a reminder to be more mindful about what she sees and hears. I have no plans to shelter her from all nursery rhymes and fairy tales, but I make sure to add commentary or change up the lyrics sometimes. My response to Keira that day was, “There aren’t, huh? Girls can jump on the bed too if they want, right?” She agreed and kept watching her show. Sounds simple, but it helps her understand that her gender doesn’t define what her role in society should be.


 

Want to learn more?

Join our Parent Academy workshop "Cope with it! Raising Resilient Children in a Diverse World" on Thursday, February 22, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., at CHKD's Health Center at Landstown. CHKD blog author and licensed professional counselor Z. Andrew Jatau will lead a discussion on how to talk about the tough stuff in a way that leaves our children feeling confident about who they are and respectful of the differences they see. Register here.



Like this post?

Get parenting inspiration and encouragement delivered directly to your inbox by signing up for our once monthly email.

About Z. Andrew Jatau

I currently work as a mental health counselor at my private practice in Virginia Beach. In 2015, I founded a business called Mylemarks that focuses on creating tools for healthy social and emotional development in children. I have also authored three workbooks for the company. When I’m not working, I enjoy hanging with the family, playing or watching sports, and listening to music.