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  • ‘Rinding-rindi Na Ako’ Mom Reacts To Insensitive Comments On Her Son’s Hair

    '2022 na, bakit issue pa rin kung long hair yung baby boy?'
    by Maika Bernardo .
‘Rinding-rindi Na Ako’ Mom Reacts To Insensitive Comments On Her Son’s Hair
PHOTO BY COURTESY OF MARIE NEL / SMART PARENTING VILLAGE
  • “Another day, another ‘Bakit ’di niyo pa pagupitan yung buhok niya? Nagmumukha tuloy babae,’” begins a post in Smart Parenting Village, a judgment-free community on Facebook.

    It’s by a mom to a young boy whose hair started growing long during the 2020 lockdown.You can almost feel her exasperation. “Rinding-rindi na ako sa mga ganitong statement na usually galing sa mga older generation,” she continues. “Laging kesyo mukhang babae, bakla daw, or magiging bakla daw, pangit tignan... Ni isang patak ng shampoo wala namang ambag sa anak ko, pero napakaraming kuda.”

    The mom also asks: “Ano ang mali kung pahabain ko ang buhok ng anak kong lalaki? Saang libro ba nakasaad na ’pag palake dapat short hair, kapag babae dapat long hair? 2022 na, bakit issue pa rin kung long hair yung baby boy?”

    Let’s pause for a minute and take note: Especially when talking about children age six and below, experts draw a line between sexual orientation and gender conformity.

    Sexual orientation vs. gender conformity

    A person’s sexual orientation, which manifests itself around puberty, has to do with whom you are sexually and romantically attracted to. On the other hand, gender conformity can start even in utero. Just think of gender-reveal announcements, and assigning pink to baby girls and blue to baby boys.

    “Gender gives structure to the way we live,” says Eric Julian Manalastas, a psychology professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, in a Smart Parenting article.

    “We have notions about how boys and girls should [act] in society. Anything that challenges this notion may seem disturbing to many.” And that may drive some to make insensitive comments about a little boy’s long hair.

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    The responsibility of parents in defining gender roles

    Maria Theresa Ujano-Batangan, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist and professor at the Department of Psychology in UP Diliman, shares with Smart Parenting: “I’ve had cases of parents coming to me, bringing their Grade 2 and 3 kids for counseling because they were perceived to be gay. I’d tell them, ‘I don’t think it is your child who needs counseling; it is you who need counseling.’ Why? Because at that very young age, a child is still in the process of defining who [they are]. And it is the role of the parent to provide opportunities for the child to process all these experiences and to be more open to these roles.”

    Seeing beyond the blue-and-pink binary can help your kids reach their full potential. If they come to believe that, for example, cooking is only for girls and cars are only for boys, they’d cut off opportunities to explore their interests and develop their talents. They would also not grow up to become well-rounded adults.

    Just imagine: Your future daughter-in-law would secretly hate you for raising a son who doesn’t help around the house because he believes chores are only for women. Or the warming world would have lost one environmental engineer because someone’s daughter hadn’t pursued STEM, believing it’s “only for boys.”

    “It is possible to raise children who are not ‘sexist’ in their points of view... who will choose their future life roles not on the basis of stereotypes [of any kind] but on the basis of their own personal strengths and desires...” write Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway in their book What to Expect: The First Year.

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    Because actions speak louder than (hurtful) words, show your kids that anyone can clean up after themselves and anyone can express their emotions. (You can get other practical tips on raising gender-sensitive kids here.)

    It starts at home

    Still, your child could hear hurtful words but hopefully only outside the home. “At home with [their] parents, it should be a safe space for [them] to explore,” Manalastas says.

    “They shouldn’t have to worry about [their] gender identity. Creating a safe space at home for that kind of exploration is very important.” They need freedom “to build on the personal strengths and resources [that they] need to face that kind of stigma outside.”

    You can’t control what others say to and about your kids, but you can build a safe home for them (and get things off your chest in the Smart Parenting Village).

    “Kung ano man ang maging sexual orientation niya, nasa akin na ’yon bilang magulang ng anak ko, basta ba lumaking masaya at mabuting tao...” says the mom of the long-haired boy. What more could any parent ask for their child?

    Join the Smart Parenting Village Facebook group here.

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