Dear Diary,

I’ve always been a moderately active person. I enjoy a wide variety of physical activities and sports, and sometimes wonder, in hindsight, if any potential passions might have been stamped out by gender stereotypes. Throughout elementary school, I played soccer in an all-girls league. In 5th grade, I joined the school team, which happened to be co-ed. Needless to say, it was a combination of my size, age, gender and basic awkwardness around members of the opposite sex that made me eventually drop out of the game. But before I did, I absolutely refused to back down—which meant I got completely mowed over about sixty times per game, usually by gargantuan 8th grade boys. I was so caught up in not letting those giants, or my male coach, think for a second that I would back down from my defensive position out of fear or female delicacy, that I stopped enjoying the sport. I quit and picked up a volleyball.

Now that I’m a parent, my past childhood anxieties morph into brand-new mommy worries. I know that just giving girls the opportunity to play sports in schools doesn’t mean they will always have a fair shot, especially if their sport of choice is male dominated and full of physical aggression. I also know that if my son wants to take dance or gymnastics classes or perform in musicals, he will cross some serious gender lines. As much as I wholeheartedly and completely support any such decision, my nagging childhood anxieties remind me that there will be a million subtle, passive ways that he will be deterred from pursuing such interests. Granted, my son is only three-years-old, so I have a few years before this gets really tricky. At the same time, I know that the only place to buy gymnastics equipment and clothing for little boys in my small town is online. I know that if my friend’s little girl wants to play football or soccer she will either be forced into awkwardly oversized and ill-fitted boys’ gear or into unnecessarily pink or zebra striped equipment that will get her mocked.

I don’t exactly have a plan of action yet, but I guess all of these flashbacks and flash-forwards have made me pay close attention to how and when interests change. Did my son stop playing dress up because someone told him it was girly? Perhaps further down the road, will he drop out of ballet or volleyball just to fit in with the boys playing tackle football in the neighbor’s backyard? Is it more ethical to subject our sons to concussions or tutus? I don’t have a daughter but wonder why society portrays running like a girl to be a wimpy act?

Hey DFTM Fam–What does running like a girl look like in your house? Are you supporting your daughter’s decision pick up soccer balls or your son’s interest in tying on ballet slippers? Tweet your answers to @dearmomdiary using #LikeAGirl

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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