A few weeks ago, I got word from one of my daughter’s Montessori teachers that June will be among a small — very small — handful of girls in her preschool classroom this fall. This marks a big shift from last year, when there was more of an equal distribution of sexes in the class. I asked a few fellow Montessori parents about it and was told this is a school-wide thing — there are simply more Y-chromosomes tearing up the playground this year.
Where did all the little girls go? Some transitioned up to kindergarten, some — like June’s best friend — moved (to Chile, of all places), and others were probably parboiled and eaten by the glut of boys.
See, this is how a parent of a conscientious, careful and tidy little girl thinks: We think little boys really are out to destroy everything in their paths … cats, dogs, teachers, girls. We think little boys are just itching to turn their pencils into tiny spears that they can chuck at our girls because, you know, spear chucking is a fun thing to do when you’re a boy.
Is this rational? Nope. Is it realistic? Not at all.
But I am a bit concerned about whether June, who is shaping up to be something of a girly-girl, will be able to hold her own in this new world order. She is the kind of kid who likes to look, as she says, “beautiful, not cute.” She prefers dresses over shorts. She really does think she is Elsa. Who will play Frozen with her at recess? Who will be the Anna to her Elsa?
The real problem here is that June is in danger of losing her leverage. Up until this point, she’s comfortably retained a position of strength on the playground. Part of this is because there was a nice blend of sexes in the classroom so no one gender was dominant. And part of it is because, at age 3, gender differences still weren’t that pronounced.
But 4? Four, I suspect is another story. Four is the age when boys and girls noticeably separate with their play: gender differences are brought into sharper relief. I wouldn’t want to see June socially sidelined because she doesn’t see the point in playing fighter jets or wrestling in the dirt like some of the boys do.
I’ve talked to a few parents who’ve been through something similar and they told me to simply pay attention as June goes throughout the school year: Does she complain about having to go to preschool? Does she have a hard time making new friends?
Until that happens, they advised, the best thing to do is allow her to try to negotiate these new social dynamics on her own. Who knows? She might love playing fighter jets. Maybe she’s phasing out of the girly-girl phase. Maybe the real problem here is that I’m not giving my kid enough credit.
As we got closer to the first day of school, I found out that my daughter’s amazing teacher Kitty was also concerned about the dearth of females and asked administrators for a few more little ladies to be pulled into June’s class.
This was probably a good idea, but part of me that wonders if it’s better for a child to learn to negotiate tricky social dynamics when they’re still very young since it’s not a 50/50 world out there, neatly segmented into equal distributions of men and women.
Let’s say that one day June finds herself working in a mostly male environment (though please, dear god, not a strip club). Would she be better prepared to navigate the situation using social skills she started honing all the way back in preschool?
The flip side is that even though my approach to life tends toward “sink or swim” – dealing with life the way it is, not the way we want it to be – 4 is awfully young to have to run with the big boys. Having a few more girls in class will provide a buffer, and that’s not a bad thing.
Here’s the kicker: I asked Kitty about it and she admitted she didn’t pull in more boys for the girls’ sake; she pulled them in for her own. Apparently she couldn’t deal with that many 4-year-old little dudes either.More On