Mommy Dearest,

I have a 4-year-old little girl who seems to fit into the stereotypes surrounding children her age; she loves princesses, makeup, and playing with baby dolls. In an effort to get her to branch out, I have signed her up for soccer with other boys and girls her age. At first, the playtime was terrific — boys and girls running elbow to elbow. Then the coach decided to split them up by gender. Kids generally play with their own sex, so I understood his rationale for dividing them, but at this past practice he decided it was time for the boys to play football while the girls still kicked the ball around. When one of the girls asked the coach why the boys got to play football, he said, "The boys have gotten really good at soccer so we're letting them play football. You guys still need to work on your soccer." All of the mothers on the sideline gasped. While the coach may be right, he is already starting to pigeonhole them into the stereotypes that we moms are trying so hard to avoid. They are such an impressionable age and they are already starting to hear that boys are better than them. I would like to talk with the coach about it, but I don't seem to have the right words. Do you have any advice?

— Antistereotype Soccer Mom

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Antistereotype Soccer Mom,

Parents are often conflicted with how to share a gender-divided world with their children. It is commendable that you are trying to take actions to show your girly daughter the other facets of life that don't include tutus and lip gloss, but you may find that not everyone is like minded. It seems the coach could use some, er, coaching in stereotyping. He is probably used to straight talk and may appreciate the candor of a sideline mommy. Rather than make a big issue out of it, I'd simply tell him you want the girls to have the same learning experience as the boys. The larger concern at hand would be how he manages to tell the girls about their routine. I would ask him to explain to the girls that they are equal to the boys and ready to roll with the flag-football punches.

— Mommy Dearest

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