Who would have thought that a discussion amongst four year olds about a baby born at Christmas time would have generated so much discussion with regards to gender?
Two of the four-year-old girls were sat dressed up in nativity costumes exploring a book of Christmas carols. The children thought that the baby in the drawing, in the arms of Mary, was calm, peaceful and quiet. I suggested it might be a boy, but they had already decided it was a girl. I then told them that the drawing was of baby Jesus, a baby boy. I explained that all babies can be calm, peaceful and quiet, in the same way that they can also be excitable and loud at times too. The baby was calm because he was in the loving arms of his family.
The rest of the conversation then resorted to the usual pattern of colours and gender, which I have experienced many times before.
Later on the two girls were looking at the shepherds looking after the sheep. Even with the drawing of both men and women as shepherds the children stated that ‘Only men can be shepherds.’
I responded that ‘Shepherdesses’ are women that look after sheep and that it’s not just men that do this.
You can understand why young children might think this. Over the next three weeks many schools will be having the boys play the shepherds and the girls, angels in nativity plays, even though we know Angel Gabriel was a man (as far as angels have a gender) and that women worked as shepherdesses in the hills.