Countering Biases

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I watch Laddu toddle onto the driveway. The breeze lifts the hair off her neck. The exhilaration on her face is a treat to watch. Her sisters run around her feeling the wind and enjoying the sun. I feel irrationally happy.

We stand, the four of us in the afternoon sun, minutes before we would go on our usual grocery shopping rounds, feeling the warmth and taking in the first spring-ish day in a while. I look towards the grassy oval in front of our house and a memory from Friday flashes. I call out to Ammu and Pattu and they run to me.

“On Friday morning, the kids were playing with something in the morning before the bus, what was it?” I ask. They think for a moment before comprehension dawns.

“Oh! It was some trash. Stinky trash,” says Pattu wrinkling her nose before walking away.

I remember the sight clearly. A bunch of kids, mostly boys standing in the early morning cold grabbing something off the ground, throwing it with a look on their faces that read gross from even a distance. I only remember because I had been watching my kids wondering if they would be part of the circle.

I was curious. The yelling and the boisterous laughter had drawn me out. I had stood at my stoop, eyes squinting in the direct sunlight trying to find the cause for the ruckus. I had been struck by the fact it was mostly boys. There was just one girl in the group. Pattu had run in, lingered along the edges and walked back. I experienced relief. I also experienced disappointment.

I had stood there watching until the bus rumbled in and the children ran to take their places in the line. I watched at the bus disappeared from view and the chill in the air permeated my clothes.

It had stayed in my head, that sight and my reaction.

“Is being squeamish a girl thing?”

“Am I raising my children with gender biases?”

“Are they learning it at school?”

“Why was I relieved?”

“Why was I disappointed?”

I have mused on stereotypes on the blog and in real life with friends before. I like to think I am not actively creating these biases at home. Yet, the sight of my daughter walking away because she thought something was gross struck home.

“Why did you walk away?” I ask her.

“I did not want my boots to get muddy amma” she says and walks away, her eyes on the mailbox where her twin is reaching for something that is in a box.

Laddu launches all 25 odd pounds of her being on my legs and I struggle to retain balance. I scoop her up and head for the car knowing the only thing I can do is to be a conscious parent and hope that will be enough.


  1. New book coming out by Caroline Paul titled “Gutsy Girl” addressing this very topic. Perhaps you would find it interesting. 🙂

  2. I don’t know Laksh. While we play a big role in raising our kids, for better or worse, we are not the only ones. There are other players – peers, books, movie, society etc. They have to find their footing amidst the cumulative message they are receiving, which they will, with time.

  3. It certainly sounds to me like you are teaching your kids to be themselves and not what society thinks they should be. But I’m equally sure they would pick it up at school, on TV, and in public. Great topic, though!

    1. I think outside influences are far higher which means the message at home should be louder and strident to override the other messages.

      Thank you for stopping by. I loved your demons post.

  4. Parenting is so tough at times! I come up with all these questions in my head, way too often. So I try to be vocal about my values, at home, as much as I can, hoping something might go further than their ears and sink in their system.

  5. I don’t have any kids, but I have thought about this! Wondering how much of me is my own personality and how much is societal influence. I’m glad you are thinking about this and trying to help your children be free to break stereotypes.

  6. It’s always such a dilemma, no? If it’s any consolation, I have two boys, the elder is something of a clean freak (and has always been), the younger could not be more opposite if he tried.

    Parenting is hard, and there’s no manual. It’s delightful to see how deeply you think about your influence, the influence of outside forces, all of it. I believe strongly that that kind of introspection, combined with a willingness to foster open communication is what will help our kids in the long run. We’ll still make mistakes, sure, but at least we’ll be open to talking about it.

  7. you’re a wonderful mum ❤ like the others have mentioned, the outside forces play a role in molding them but i love how you let them become who they want to be without any influences. probably have a talk with them in the future about gender stereotypes?

    1. Thank you! We do talk about gender and stereotypes but I suspect the next few years are critical. Should be challenging and interesting.

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