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Sexism hurts boys + girls alike

Today's girl can be anything she wants. But what of the little boys playing house, dressing up, cuddling baby dolls?

Sexism hurts boys + girls alike

Ask my two children what their favorite part of recent trip to Disney World was and you'll get two very different answers. Not only because of their five and a half years age gap, but also because they are remarkably different people. My older child's favorite experience was the Jedi training at Hollywood Studios while my younger loved meeting all the princesses and riding the Frozen attraction. Their souvenirs were a build-your-own lightsaber and a Cinderella doll, respectively. When my mother took them for face painting, the older one opted for a tiger face and the younger, Princess Tiana.

Reading those descriptions, many may assume I have an older boy and younger girl. If I told you that they were the same sex, most people would assume they are girls and the older is a tomboy. Most of you are fine with that. But what if I were to say that they were both boys? Would you be equally fine with a little boy entranced with and identifying as a princess? Would you accept my parenting if I'd let a little boy play princess?

Where is the positive boy equivalent of a 'tomboy'?

Although there are definitely subcultures throughout our country that emphasize femininity and reject the tomboys, that trend has shifted some over the past decade or two. In many circles it's now not only totally acceptable, but even a point of pride to have a tomboy daughter.

Today's girl can be anything she wants. Girls are being pushed into the STEM fields that they've been shunned from for… well forever. Geeky girl culture is booming, with little girls' clothing lines rolling out dresses and tops covered in dinosaurs, computers and video game characters. Girls can play with Legos and trucks and Minecraft and balls.

But what of the little boys playing house, dressing up, cuddling baby dolls? We don't have a name for these boys other than "sissies" or "wusses" or other such derogatory terms; however, many boys choose toys and play styles that are traditionally thought of as feminine, despite being strongly discouraged from doing so. The pressure to change is applied by both society and parents, particularly the fathers.

Why respecting individuality in our kids makes for better adults

Today's parents are encouraging our girls to play with all toys and games to give them a broader perspective of the world. We are revolting against the "pinkification" of every toy and opting for gender neutral colors and toys that cross gender barriers. We are venturing into the unknown lands of the "boy" toy aisle to help our girls become more well-rounded adults. Several years ago this backlash was supported by President Obama and several movements like "Let toys be toys."

But are we doing the same for our boys? In a society in which we increasingly expect our adult male partners to contribute to housework and childcare, why wouldn't we encourage nurturing play behavior with dolls and toy kitchens? If we want our grown men to be able to identify and express emotions and to work with people of all personalities and backgrounds, why wouldn't we encourage imaginative play and dress-up where they get to feel what it is like to be these other kinds of people?

Humans learn through experience. Long-term memories require reiteration. What we practice, we get good at. Our brains are also designed to pay attention to the emotional responses to what we do. When we are encouraged and applauded, we do those things more. When we are yelled at, or shamed or not allowed to do something, particularly by someone we care about, those memories stick. How our parents respond to our choices affects who we become.

While we know that some play is practice for adult behaviors, we also know that play also is important for later stress management and mental health. A recent study of fathers showed their active engagement with their daughters, encouraging emotional growth… and the opposite with their sons. We need to reverse this trend to improve adult mental health outcomes in men.

There is no 'wrong' way for kids to play

My children are both tough and wild, gentle and sweet, thoughtful and intelligent. They are feisty and fierce and stubborn and opinionated. They are both girls. And they're also individuals, and I value their differing choices and encourage their unique selves. My "tomboy" daughter builds her Minecraft world with polished nails and cat-ear headphones perched on her short hair. My "princess" daughter is more comfortable outdoors, pausing in her pursuit of the soccer ball only to investigate the bugs that terrify her sister. As girls, my children are empowered and encouraged to be all these things.

As a society, we need to be doing the same for our boys by encouraging them to expand their play. My nephews love to play dress-up with my girls, and will happily don a frilly dress; just as my girls will happily grab the superhero costumes when at their houses. My youngest brother often got stuffed into dresses as my sister and I played with him, and he'd smile and entertain us with song and dance and play any role, male or female, that our imaginations required of him.

Most of that came from my parents, who modeled atypical gender roles and encouraged each of us children to be our true selves. But I like to think that maybe a little of his later life success comes from his big sister encouraging creative thought at early ages, and that his success as a husband and father are shaped in part by the freedom to play at those roles as a child.

Ultimately, we give our children the best chance by being supportive and encouraging of their interests, whether those interests and toys are traditionally pink or blue.

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These are only the vitamins I give my children and here's why

It's hard to say who loves these more—my kids or me.

When I became a mama five years ago, I didn't put too much thought into whether my son was getting the right vitamins and minerals. From breastfeeding to steaming and pureeing his first bites of solid food, I was confident I was giving him everything to support his growth and development.

But then the toddler years—and the suddenly picky palate that accompanied them—came along. Between that challenge and two additional children in the mix… well, I knew my oldest son's eating plan was falling short in some vitamin and mineral categories.

I also knew how quickly he was growing, so I wanted to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed (even on those days when he said "no, thank you" to any veggie I offered).

So when I discovered the new line of children's supplements from Nature's Way®, it felt like a serious weight off my chest. Thanks to supplements that support my children's musculoskeletal growth, their brain function, their immune systems, their eyes and more, I'm taken back to that simpler time when I was so confident my kids' vitamin needs were met.*

It wasn't just the variety of supplements offered by Nature's Way that won me over: As a vegetarian mama, I'm the picky one in the family when it comes to scanning labels and making sure they meet our standards. The trick is that most gummy vitamins are made with gelatin, which is not vegetarian friendly.

But just like the other offerings from Nature's Way that I've already come to know and love, the children's supplement line is held to a high standard. That means there's no high-fructose corn syrup, gelatin or common allergens to be found in the supplements. The best part? My two oldest kids ensure we never miss their daily vitamins—they are so in love with the gummy flavors, which include tropical fruit punch, lemonade and wild berry.


Nature's Way Kids Mulitvitamin


Meanwhile, my pharmacist husband has different criteria when evaluating supplements, especially when it comes to those for our kids. He appreciates the variety of options from Nature's Way, which gives us the ability to rotate the vitamins based on our kids' daily needs. By keeping various children's supplements from Nature's Way on hand, I can customize a regimen to suit my kids' individual requirements.

Of course, high-quality products often come at a higher price point. But (to my immense gratitude!) that isn't the case with Nature's Way, which retails for a competitive value when compared to the other items on the shelf.

Like all mamas, my chief concern is supporting my children's health in any way I can. While I see evidence of their growth every time I pack away clothes they've outgrown, I know there is much more growth that doesn't meet the eye. That's why, for my oldest son, I like stacking the Brain Builder gummy with the Growing Bones & Muscles gummy and the Happy & Healthy Multi. My 3-year-old also enjoys getting her own mix to include the Healthy Eyes gummy. And both of my older kids are quick to request the Tummy Soothe tablet when something isn't sitting right in their stomachs.* And I'll admit it: I've tried it myself and the berry blast flavor really is tasty!

Although my current phase of motherhood may not be as "simple" as it once was, there is so much to appreciate about it—like watching my kids play and sing and create with their incredible imaginations. Along the way, I've eased up on some of my need for control, but it does help to have this range of supplements in my motherhood tool kit. So while I may not be able to convince my son to try kale, having the Nature's Way supplements on hand means I do know he's right on track.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


This article was sponsored by Nature's Way. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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