THE BLOG
11/13/2014 04:41 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2015

The Words I Can't Believe I Heard on the Playground

This. Just. Happened.

I was at the park with my 2-and-half-year-old daughter. It's 2014 and a beautiful sunny afternoon. We went to one of the nicest parks in our neighborhood. It's a pretty big park, on one side there is a big field, and on the other, a playground and pond. We parked by the field, so we had to walk the long way over to the playground.

On the big field, there were a group of girls playing flag football. As we walked by the girls, my daughter jumped up and down and shouted, "Football!" We stopped to watch the girls play. We saw some amazing athletes, we cheered an amazing pass that was caught NFL style. Toddlers have a limited attention span, so after about five minutes, we walked on over to the playground.

My daughter headed right for her favorite things. She loves to climb the rock wall and walk on the mushroom steps. As we walked along the mushroom steps there was a 4-year-old boy and his mother playing right near the steps. The little boy asked his mom, "Mom, are those girls playing football?" She replied, "Yes and I don't know why they are doing it. It's a boy's sport. Boys play football and girls are cheerleaders."

I almost instantly threw up in mouth. I turned around to check to see if I had suddenly been transported to the 1950s, but the cars looked pretty new and people were wearing modern clothes.

I stood there, silent. I honestly couldn't believe what I really just heard out of a woman's mouth. Out of a woman that wasn't 90 years old (not all 90-year-old women think this way, I'm sure you know that, but I might have understood a bit better.) This was a woman in her late 30s or early 40s. How could a woman in 2014 say something like that? How could someone pigeonhole their own gender? How could a woman teach her son misogynistic traits?

As I stewed silently inside, the little boy says to his mom again, "But mom, those are girls playing football." She once again replied, "Andrew, they shouldn't be playing football. It is a sport for boys. Girls aren't supposed to get dirty and run around. They are supposed to dress up, be pretty and be cheerleaders."

At this point, my brain is going a million miles an hour. What should I do? Should I say something? "Hey lady! That's nuts, girls can do anything!" I instinctively wanted to grab my toddler and say, "Poppy, you can be anything you want to be, don't listen to any of that!" Then, I started thinking, do I really want to start a fight with a women in the playground? What if she knows someone I know? Do I want to start something with her child right there, he will surely know what's going on? Do I have an obligation to the women of the world and to that sweet little boy to kindly say that girls can be anything they want?

I remained silent. This is not usually my style, but I did. I was frozen. I later posted on Facebook and asked my friends what they would have done. The answers ranged from do nothing to letting her know that boys can be cheerleaders too. There were many people that though I should have said something, politely of course. What would you have done?