Friday, 6 February 2015

Family Tree

Parenthood is about a lot of things: love, frustration and exhaustion.  It's also filled with a lot more paperwork then I ever expected.  Every time we register a child for anything (next week it's kindergarten gulp) there is something on all forms that I've overlooked. Recently a friend suggested I write about parental forms after having read a Facebook message from her frustrated acquaintance that was imploring parents to take action.  There is a ton of outdated language on forms for education, medical treatment and even registration into extracurricular activities for our children.

Many of the forms we are asked to fill out ask for the name and contact information of the child's "mother" and "father".  These forms are only defining old school, nuclear family titles.  Family isn't just a mom and a dad and it hasn't been for a long time.  In addition to same sex couples and single parents, children are raised by a variety of caregivers including grandparents, step-parents or other family members who are all forced to try to check a box on a form in a category where they aren't represented. A simple change to the form to say something like"Parent/Guardian 1, Parent/Guardian 2, Parent Guardian 3 etc." instead would be more inclusive.

I often find myself frustrated by the lack of diversity modelled in books, television and other media geared at children and worry about the rarity for representation of the diverse backgrounds of family and friends the minions are exposed to everyday. 

princess cowgirl
Princess Cowgirl

It's no surprise to many people that Molly is really into princesses right now and as a progressive parent the princess obsession has always worried me a little, until this happened the other day:

Molly "I'm going to be Cinderella, Mommy you be Belle and Daddy you're Prince Eric."

Dad "Can I be someone else?  Prince Eric is kinda boring?" (In Chris' defence this is a valid argument,  Prince Eric kinda sucks.)

Molly "No, you're Prince Eric daddy."

Dad "Can I be someone else?"

Molly "No, you're Prince Eric and there's going to be a wedding."

Dad "Can I be a dragon? ROAR!"

Molly "No you're Prince Eric.  And Belle and Cinderella are getting married.  Prince Eric is bugging me."

So, if my three and a half year old "gets" that there are all sorts of different families and definitions as to what constitutes a family unit (princess families included), why are so many organizations using exclusionary language?  The next time you fill out a form and notice outdated language consider saying something about it to someone.  Write an email or a letter to the organization explaining your preference for changed language.  If your kids are old enough, encourage them to do the same.  If you're presented with an unchanged form the next year, and this bothers you enough, maybe you want to consider a new softball league for your kid.  Be sure to tell the company and your child why.

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