Today we chat with the amazing Ginger Valentine - our very own content writer and digital editor at Milligram. Outside of Milligram, Ginger is a loving parent to the adorable four year old Ripley, otherwise endearingly known as Bug.
In this edition of our Milligram Dads series, we chat with Ginger on their experiences with non-binary parenting, what Father's Day means to their family and how they navigate gender with little Bug.
Hi Ginger, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. As the main content writer for Milligram Notes, it must be refreshing to be on the other side haha! Well, to start off, can you tell us about your little one?
Ripley, better known as Bug, is a chill and cheerful little four year old. Loves watching their shows, making cakes with me, and going for bike rides down by the lake.
You and your partner are both non-binary. How does this influence your parenting? I can’t help but imagine it to be a very open household.
We try! We both like to let Bug define themselves however they see fit, so there's no pressure to behave in particular ways. Obviously there are still routines and rules, but we try to help Bug understand as much as we can about the world by being honest, and talking to them about big stuff in age-appropriate ways.
What does Father’s Day mean to your family? Is it a day your family celebrates?
It's a little complicated for me, but we do celebrate it, yeah. When Ripley was born, I wasn't as clear about being non-binary, so I ended up being Dad. If I had my time again, I might do it differently, but I don't lose too much sleep over that. Now that Bug's getting old enough to understand, we've had a few chats about just calling me Ginger instead, but I'll never stop being Ripley's Dad.
"We want Ripley to understand the world around them from as many perspectives as they can – that kind of empathy makes for a better world."
How do you navigate teaching and speaking about gender with your child?
I would hope most parents raising kids today are approaching gender as a less rigid thing than when we grew up, or when our parents were young. Ripley's always been allowed to explore whatever they love, without concern for what is a "boy's thing", or a "girl's thing", so they're just as likely to twirl in an Elsa dress as they are to play superheroes (Bug's current favourite is Robin from Teen Titans Go). As they've grown and started to learn more about gender roles, we've had a few chats about why colours are for everyone, or why girls can have short hair, but that's part of learning – kids tend to have very simplistic, binary understandings of the world, and it's our job as their parents to help them see the nuances.
What was Father’s Day like for you growing up?
I feel like it was the poorer second cousin to Mother's Day, haha. The Mother's Day stall at school was epic, but the Father's Day options were much more basic – tools, razors... pretty uninspiring stuff. Not that it's changed a whole lot – I've already seen the promo displays at Coles with the blokey mugs that make my skin crawl, and everything in footy team colours. But I think a lot of Dads these days find that stuff a bit weird, like a holdover from a past generation.
What values are you hoping to raise your child with?
We want Ripley to understand the world around them from as many perspectives as they can – that kind of empathy makes for a better world. I'd love Bug to grow up aware of the things that will come easier to them than to other people, so they can work against them and help those around them.
And lastly, how has your life changed since becoming a parent?
Parenting uproots your life! It's a pretty massive shift in your identity, and even after close to five years, I'm not sure it's settled. The one thing I do appreciate more is time. Especially when you've got a little one, your time is no longer your own. And because of that, it forced me to really reflect on what was important to me – what was worth prioritising when I had so little time to use? So in a weird way, it was a motivator that got me to commit to some of the creative stuff I'd been idly planning but never following through on.
For more of Ginger's writing, or to listen to their podcasts, check out https://gingerbfg.com/.
To read more on our Milligram Dad series, check out:
Photography, Post-Grad and Parenting with Michael, where we explore our in-house photographer's experiences with balancing his studies, work and cultivating creativity and artistic sensibilities in his seven-year old son.
A First-Time Dad in the Time of Corona, here we chat with Jack - Studio Milligram's product designer, on his first 11 weeks of (quarantined) fatherhood and his first born daughter Florence.