D, posing by Amelia Earhart's plane.
D, posing by Amelia Earhart's plane.

Yesterday, I went with my brother, sister-in-law, their boys to the Air & Space Museum for a little birthday celebration for my younger nephew, who was turning four. Some of the museum was a little over his head, but for the most part, the planes and rockets went over pretty well.

His big brother, however, was entranced by nearly everything and would have likely spent hours more had there been time. One of the things he wanted to see was the exhibit of Amelia Earhart’s plane, and once we found it he took to reading the descriptive panels. His mom & I followed him around as he looked through the panels, and I was offering a little bit of narration as he did so, having recently found out that he could “read” words that he didn’t always understand. The following conversation ensued:

Me: In the old days, only men were allowed to fly airplanes, but Amelia Earhart thought women could, too, and she was right!

D: (puzzled) They thought girls couldn’t fly airplanes?

Me: (with a “I know! Can you believe it?” expression) Uh huh.

Jen: We know now, though, that girls and boys can do pretty much all the same things.

D: Well… (long pause, during which Jen and I exchanged looks that said “Hmm, I wonder what gender stereotypes he’s picked up?”) Boys can’t paint their fingernails!

(Laughter from the grownups.)

Jen: Actually, boys can paint their fingernails. It’s just that most don’t.

Satisfied with this response – or perhaps bored with the conversation – D shrugged and went  back to reading the signs by the airplane.

I don’t know what I love more about this conversation – that he was flummoxed by the very idea that women couldn’t fly planes or that it took him so long to think of one thing (and then, such a small one!) that is not the same for boys and girls. I know some of this is just the innocence of being six, but for me, raised as I was with the ideals of “Free to Be… You and Me” in not always ideal world, it feels like progress.

7 thoughts on “Progress

  1. Mom September 27, 2010 / 4:31 pm

    This is especially remarkable with D’s paternal lineage of which the blogger is very much aware 🙂

  2. Common Loon September 27, 2010 / 5:29 pm

    Gotta stick up for Brian here. He’s progressive. There is no way he would have had the guts to propose to his wonderful wife if he wasn’t. There is no way they’d be up to an almost 11 years worth of marriage if it weren’t so. He’s a gentleman, though, and that does not necessarily make him a chauvinist. Don’t puke, please.

  3. Eileen September 27, 2010 / 5:42 pm

    Ma. Bri may not be the most progressive guy out there, but he’s no cave man! 🙂 Now Dad wasn’t much progressive either but…he could’ve been a lot worse too. We’re pretty lucky in the grand scheme. And I love that D had to think that hard and came up with nail polish.

  4. Sarah September 27, 2010 / 5:58 pm

    @Mom – CL & Eileen both beat me to it, but I was going to say that I didn’t know if you were referring to Dad or Brian in your comment, but I think you’re selling both of them short. In all honesty, Brian is one of the more egalitarian husbands/fathers I know — it’s safe to say “Free to Be… You and Me” rubbed off on him as much as it did on Eileen and me. And while Dad was a product of his time in some ways, he never seemed to have any qualms about raising smart, independent, mouthy daughters.

  5. Common Loon September 27, 2010 / 6:11 pm

    Now according to Rudi, you’re all in on Eileen’s conspiracy! Sending her scripts to preview, coordinating post times. Shucks!

  6. Mom September 27, 2010 / 6:34 pm

    DEFENSE — I *thought* (first mistake) that I was alluding to Dad & Hughie’s conservatism — yes, Brian is a SUPER Dad and I am oh so proud of him & his sons. The progression of the generations is amazing!! Sorry, I was not bashing my men whom I all love dearly.

  7. Joanne September 27, 2010 / 10:43 pm

    OK, so I have to share. My very favoritest picture of Wyatt is this AWESOME snap of him playing dress up with his sister and her friend at a playdate. I took it as he was running around, and sheer joy just LEAPS off the picture. He’s dressed in a purple and aqua fairy costume that practically reached down to his ankles. And he’s just so happy!! I have a copy at work, and I stare at it whenever I’m stressed.

    Jesse? Told me he wouldn’t download the picture for me when I took it. Apparently, this crosses the line for him. ;D HAH. I may not be the computer geek he is, but I’m perfectly capable of downloading my own pictures!!

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