There is a large group of people out there — and I feel comfortable suggesting that much of this large group of people is comprised of men, who think boys can only turn into men when they repress their feelings. This group also believes strength is defined almost entirely by the size of the muscles you have. Much of this group thinks men should mow lawns and women should cook meals. And one other irksome thing about this group is that they direct the boys in their lives to watch men hockey players, superheroes, and professionals when they want to show them someone to role model after...
I've seen it done hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of times. I see it when I'm in a store looking at t-shirts with Rey on it and a dad tells his son "that shirt is for girls." I see it in lineups at McDonald's when that dad also tells his son "he doesn't need the pink toy because it's for girls." And I see it when a mom tells her son that "the red nail polish is great, but boys don't wear nail polish no matter what colour it is."
I notice this line of thinking more at certain times in my life. With the success of our Canadian women in the recent Olympics, this was one of those times I noticed it frequently.
For Canadians, the Olympics were largely about the power of women. Our women performed other-worldly in the summer games — where we have to constantly remind ourselves it’s hard to train for summer sports in a country where summer lasts 13 days.
We saw great performance by younger women and older women and we rightly hailed these athletes, who have committed themselves to their sports, as great role models for our daughters. We saw interviews with young girls asking how they've been inspired and we saw young girls sharing their well wishes with the athletes.
We see the same thing starting to happen in movies as well, although we still have a loooong way to go for completely diverse representation. And we see it in comic books where nine year-old girls are being named the most intelligent superheroes in a universe full of superheroes.
Then you look to entrepreneurs, and scientists, and astronauts, and novelists and it’s obvious our daughters are flush with amazing women to hold up to our girls and say “look at them, look how smart and courageous and strong and caring they are.”
Women and girls, not surprisingly, make great role models for girls.
People are very well-intentioned when they glowingly talk about these women as role models for our girls — maybe a sign of how bad many of us have been in the past at profiling women and young girls as role models for our own young girls — but there’s more to profiling these people this way because girls already know how great they are and how great they can be.
So, what other group of people might be lurking out there who could also benefit from better profiling of these people? The women and young girls we hold up for our daughters should also be used as role models for men and young boys. They should be used as role models for boys and men because they are role models for boys and men.
There’s no point really of me spending too many more words trying to explain this any further, because really, it is quite simple:
Women and girls can be role models for men and boys.
We don’t need gendered role models, we need role models who carry characteristics we would like our kids to see. I think there’s something to be said for kids hearing that. And, it’s a simple fix.
Tell boys they can look up to women too. Because boys want to hear this from their parents and from any men in their lives. It's natural for a boy to think a woman is amazing and it's horrifying when an influential adult in their lives takes that away from them. Boys need to be reassured that what they like is valid even if it isn't what their five best friends like.
If you want to role model for the boys in your life, make sure you show them all the things that they can look up to.
Sit them in front of a screen and show them a Simone Biles floor routine and then let them try it out in the backyard. Let their favourite Harry Potter character be Hermione Granger and help them make a wand to perfect her spells. Show boys the contributions women have made over the years in fields like science and math and the arts. Let them read books with girls as the protagonist.
Show them as many as you can. Show them so many that they say “I get it, women are great, but I already know that.” Show them until it’s normal in their lives. If they’re young enough, that will already be the case. And when they tell you they want to be just like Penny Oleksiak, don’t correct them and tell them they must mean Michael Phelps.
Men can be great role models for girls and women and women can be great role models for boys and men.
Back-to-school is something I look forward to as a parent because it was something I always looked forward to as a kid—mostly because of the new clothes. I remember spending the week leading up to the first day laying out different pant/shirt/shoe combinations each night assuming I had the perfect match. Then, the next night, I’d do it all over again. I’d do this right up until the morning of the first day when my mom would yell at me that if I didn’t get downstairs that minute, I’d be late. Sometimes I’d be confident in the outfit, other times I wouldn’t. Then I’d do it all over again the next year.
It’s been close to 20-years since I’ve felt that same back-to-school joy. But now that I have two kids finally of school-age, I’m starting to relive it all over again.
Carter’s | OshKosh sent me a gift card to go shopping for my girls, so before heading out, I browsed the online store with my daughters, who claim to be just as excited about back-to- school shopping as I used to be.
“Look at that cat shirt!” one daughter yelled.
“And those cat leggings!” I was sure to point out.
For two young girls who love the idea of being a robot one minute, a princess the next, and then finishing off their flurry of play with a change into a scientist’s outfit, the thought of mixing and matching outfits to fit their personality of the moment is a dream. Back-to-school shopping is a great time for dads to get to understand their kids’ developing personalities and sense of exploration a little better.
With Carter’s | OshKosh's multitude of designs to help kids envision themselves as a scientist or a princess, and to prove to them that good old dad actually has the best fashion sense of all of us, I decided I’d let them experience just how good I am at first-day-of-school outfit selecting by challenging them to a duel of sorts.
The premise for the challenge was simple: I’d pick one outfit and they’d pick another. Then, we’d buy whichever one they liked most.
The prize for winning this contest? Well, nothing. Except for my daughters getting to understand how good dad can be at shopping for clothes.
To set the mood for the day, I let them pick my outfit and style my hair for me:
The hairstyle speaks for itself. It was the classic spiked in the middle, patted down at the front and then covered up by a headband look that is all the rage these days.
It felt important to set the tone this way so they’d know I was willing to play fair and square. They did a nice job of choosing running socks, dress pants, and a Hermione Granger t-shirt which I wore with complete confidence in the 30-degree weather.
With the atmosphere set, what did we find?
I thought to myself “what would I wear if I was going to work on a casual Friday and if casual Fridays were how school works.
A pair of skinny jeans ($10) and a stripe tunic ($18) rounded out my outfit for her. I feel very strongly that this was a great outfit, although it may be more second, third, fourth, fifth...day of school than it is first day of school.
I knew from the moment we walked into the store and found overalls that I was doomed if I didn’t pick them first. My daughter has looked at every pair of overalls in every store we’ve been in over the past four months. They make her look like a farmer, she says, and that makes her happy.
This kid loves to twirl, and as much as I loved the mix and match opportunities available to her, this polka dot knit-like denim dress ($28), of the many dresses that lined the walls, was one I knew would twirl very well for her. It was also heavier than many of the dresses she wears during the summer, so I liked that it would be a little warmer for the fall mornings.
What you absolutely cannot fault her with is a commitment to a theme. Sparkle everything. She chose sparkle leggings ($10), a sparkle stripe tee ($14), and a pair of sparkle flats ($18.75). Needless to say, the reflection in the fitting room mirror made it very hard to keep from getting blinded.
As expected, the desire for a pair of overalls was simply too strong for me to overcome and my eldest daughter eschewed my jeans and t-shirt look for her farmer look. Can’t fault her for this outfit though, it is pretty great and the overalls are of amazing quality so we should get a lot of wear out of them.
Our youngest daughter couldn’t resist the twirl offered by the dress that was picked for her. Similar to the overalls, the dress is a heavier fabric that works well as we head into the temperatures that fall and winter can bring in this country.
Most importantly, both the girls loved the outfits they came home with. So much so, that they set up a game of “first day of school” where one sat down in a school desk at home and the other stepped up to the blackboard to introduce herself to the “class.”
As a dad, I was in love with not just the styles of clothing at Carter’s | OshKosh, but also the messaging. Their shirts for girls carried messages like brave, and adventurous, and smart. There are shirts with girls reading, shirts with girls doing science, and shirts with unicorns — that kind of thing isn’t lost on me or our kids.
I’m glad these clothes range in sizes that will last our kids for years to come, because they are things I’d love to see them continue to grow up in.