the boys planning their escape

This morning I was driving with my 7 year old son to Starbucks for my triple venti non-fat toffee nut latte with two Splendas and whipped cream (it is delicious, don’t judge me). There was a long line today, it seems they were training someone new because when I ordered my ridiculous concoction there were a few pauses and a few questions. A seasoned barista can take my order with the best of them and while mine is a little complicated, it’s hardly the worst order they have heard that day.

When we got to the window there was a bit of a wait so the barista engaged in a conversation with me, asking about my plans for the day, about my work, anything to pass the time. He was very nice and very personable and we had a good quick 3 minute conversation. After wishing each other a cheery “have a great day”, I drove off with my very patient 7 year old son in the backseat. While waiting at a red light he said, “that guy was really nice.” I said, “yes, I know, he was really nice.” He then said, “he didn’t interrupt you, not even once, he listened to everything you said, not like other people do.” I was a little taken aback by this statement because yes, I do get interrupted often, but I was unsure about his context or take on the situation, so I asked him. I said, “well what do you mean I get interrupted, what is an example?” He said, “you know, like when you are in meetings you get interrupted all the time.” Because I work from home, running my web development agency, my kids hear me have meetings on conference calls and video chats constantly. They know that if Mommy is on a call, they should stay in the other room playing and the TV has to be a little lower. I really didn’t think any of them paid attention to the meetings, and while I am excited about tech and digital strategy, I didn’t think they were quite there yet. (I won’t mention a certain 2 year old red-headed lady who has snuck in and peeked up from behind making her way onto the big screen).

So now after hearing his perspective, I’m wondering how to respond to that. How do I let him know that even though in some instances I’m being disrespected, I am worthy of respect? How do I let him know that I fight back in ways that I can, even though they might be more subtle than his 7 year old life experiences can pick up on? He is obviously paying attention.

What is really interesting to me is that he grows up in a very equal household where we are not purposefully perpetuating any of these types of stereotypes. In fact, my husband does way more of the cooking and cleaning than I do because I am so busy running my business. We each take turns owning different parts of the household and neither of us think that certain roles belong to us because of our gender. So even though these things are happening and he is being raised in this environment, outside sources are influencing him.

We regularly talk about girls vs. boys because he is the oldest of three, with our youngest being a girl. He will come home saying things like “today at school I played football and my friend Dylan (a girl) wanted to play, but she can’t because she is a girl.” When he says things like that I give him a look and he admits defeat, “ok, ok, I know, I know, girls can do anything boys can do.” He doesn’t give up though, he will try and prove his weakened point further by coming up with things he think that boys can do and girls can’t.

My son: “well boys can drive race cars, and girls can’t”

Me: “Danica Patrick”

My son: “well boys can fight, and girls can’t”

Me: “Ronda Rousey”

My son: “well boys LIKE to play with boy toys like transformers, and girls don’t like to”

Me: “Go get your transformers right now, let’s do this!”

My son: “…….”

Me: “Exactly.”

What advice would you give me as someone who wants to keep encouraging my son that women are equal to men, even though he sees me in certain instances not being heard? I do run a business, so I know that part of the issue has to do with providing customer service. I can’t be in constant fem-nazi mode and provide for my family at the same time. Thoughts?

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