Friday, April 22, 2016

Role Models

For the past few weeks, I've been holding down the fort here at home with the boys while Jason is off working hard and getting his motorcycle mechanics licence. Now, I say this sincerely, it's not hard to be excited about this for him, he's wanted to do this for years and he keeps sending me his grades and they are awesome...but then I see this? And I remember all that I miss about him...and wonder simultaneously about the value of spending money on educating this guy. I also wonder why he is wearing coveralls with the name Peter Sellers on them? It doesn't take Inspector Clouseau to figure out why my boys share such a strange sense of humour, does it?

I know that with Jason gone and it just being me at home with the boys, there are a few roles I've had to fill that don't come too naturally to me. One is being the "fun" parent. Now, I've talked about this before here and how it just doesn't work to have two fun parents. Alas, in the absence of the "fun" parent, I've had to figure it out and now and then, I'm rewarded with a laugh or at least not an eye roll and groan.  I've also had to figure out a few things that I didn't know I would ever have to figure out. 

To be honest, I consider myself a feminist in the sense that I believe wholeheartedly that men and women are equal but I find myself, more often than I care to admit, descending to the whole male roles/female roles when it comes to things around the house. I often wonder how tasks get divided into male and female when really, if you're anything like J and I, we got married young and had to figure stuff out because we didn't have a clue. There was nothing that made J more qualified to fix the vehicles or to sort out taxes. Wait, I do that and I am certainly unqualified. In fact, I am often haunted by the words of my accounting teacher, Mr. Skerlak, who would often tell me that with my accounting skills, I'll end up in prison. Life lessons, Mr. S...they stay with me. I remember one of our first road trips as two twenty-something-year-olds and we were driving on the island highway returning from a trip out to Denman in our '69 VW van. (Lord, I miss that van.) Our fuel gauge suddenly started dropping rapidly towards empty and we checked the rearview to see a coyote-vs-roadrunner line of gasoline following us down the highway. We pulled over and the two of us jumped out, opened the engine compartment and looked at the engine with no clue what to do. Suddenly, Jason grabbed some weird tube and held it up, and you could see it had some liquid in it. Sniffing it, it was the gas line, so he looked a little closer, picked a spot on the engine that looked like it should have something attached to it, and plugged the tube back onto it. We shrugged, waited a minute and then got back in and started the car, waiting for the KA-BOOM to follow. Crazy as it was, it started without a hitch and we just drove on, laughing at our unbelievable luck at solving that little issue. 

In these past few years, our roles changed and Jason stayed home with the boys and our life became really, really fun! Jason did laundry and planned and cooked meals and it was awesome! We even discovered, far too late in our marriage, that Jason, who actually LOVES shopping and has the ability to buy great gifts, should do all our Christmas shopping. Women gasp when I tell them this but it has been the greatest gift to me (and to anyone who is on our gift list) that I do not have to go near a mall or retail outlet from November until January. Believe me. It's for everyone's safety.  So, with Jason gone, I've taken on a few new roles and revamped a few. I painted the main floor of the house, I fixed our washing machine and I even googled how to adjust the idle on Aidan's '84 Firebird just to get the dang thing out of my garage so I could move in there! I'm not going to lie, there's something about taking on a new role that is empowering. I've never been much for the status quo of roles, and while I loved being home with my kids when they were preschool aged, I love my work as well. I don't take for granted that many women don't have this luxury of a husband who just does what he does, regardless if it's a "blue" job or a "pink" one...and believe me, we have never used those terms in our house. It makes me shudder.

I will say this though, I was reminded this morning that there are still so many places in our world where gender defines roles and opportunities. I was listening to a young woman from Syria who had escaped her ISIS captors who held her as a slave. I can't imagine living in a place where my gender defines me more than my humanity. 

In this day and age where we're arguing whether gender matters or who can use what bathroom, I think we need to remember the over arching argument is humanity. Man or woman or's about living out the best of your characteristics and sharing them with others to improve everyone's life on this planet. It's difficult to explain to someone who has no interest in learning, that having a transgendered person using the stall next to you is not an affront to your civil rights. And while we are busy filling the world with the fear of all that could possibly go wrong, we are waiving the rights of those who have already struggled and dealt with pain and bias and ignorance. We can't go backwards, people. It's 2016. It's hard not to be discouraged when you think that there is still such a large portion of the population of this earth that don't understand one another and are at war with one another. Some days I can't find good news on my Twitter feed or in the news so I just shut it all down for a while. But today, today was a good morning. 

I woke to see this photo on my Twitter feed and it reminds me that there are people who are doing this every dang day. Women who have done the hard work and broken the barriers and continue to rise in the ranks of predominantly male roles, yet they don't lose anything of themselves in the mean time. Joanne ( Saskatoon City Police) and Deb (Saskatoon City Fire Dept.) are two of the most incredibly unselfish, giving women I've met and I am so proud to call them friends. They are cheerleaders and advocates for women in non-traditional roles and they can hold their own and supersede many of their male counterparts at the same time. Yet, there is something to be said for the compassion and pride these women show in their roles as well.  Maybe that's why it's easier for me to accept that men, women and neutral gendered people all have the equal ability to make our world a more liveable place. We just need to allow each person equal opportunity. Or even an opportunity...because regardless of what bathroom you use, we all gotta pee. 

I'm proud of the women and the men in my life who continue to exhibit that there are roles for everyone to play...regardless of what gender you happen to be. 

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