Having children of each gender helps me to see first hand the struggle people go through when they aren’t allowed to be themselves. I want my children to grow up to be happy, confident people who trust that their mom always has their backs. Over the years, I have been in the position of questioning whether something was gender appropriate for my children- and I hate that. It feels wrong to say, “you can’t do x because that’s for boys/girls.” With that message, I’m telling my son he would be wrong to pick up a doll or should be ashamed to like a certain character.
When Avery was younger, I dressed her up all the time to go anywhere and nowhere. Quickly into her toddlerhood, I learned that the dresses and shoes didn’t really work with her trying to run and climb everywhere. And why should it? I personally don’t like going dressed up to go everywhere. I’m much more comfortable in some running sneakers and comfortable pants. These days, the trouble is trying to convince her she would be more comfortable in sneakers than her red patent leather Mary Janes. When there was no princess tray option at a store one day, we simply asked her Ninja Turtle or Spiderman?
She went with Spiderman, Brad got Ninja Turtle. If I had reacted differently and expressed disappointment at not finding any traditionally “girly” trays, she may have reacted differently herself.
I remember when Bradley was two years old, he asked for a baby doll. I mentioned it to a few people and they thought it would be odd to get a baby doll for a boy. I didn’t get the doll, and it bothered me. At three years old, he told me he wanted to be a princess for Halloween. We were watching something on Disney and he probably thought the princess was pretty, or maybe he thought how funny it would be if he were a princesss for Halloween. My first thought was, Does that make him gay? My next thought was how crazy that was. My kid is only three and kids like different things. He changed his mind about a dozen times to things from a banana to eventually Batman. They don’t know what’s “for boys” and “for girls” until we tell them. And it makes me feel a little guilty for putting that on them. There are times I’m painting Avery’s nails and Bradley has shown interest in getting his painted, too. And I see what he’s thinking. It would be so cool to have green/blue/black nail polish on MY nails. But I think of the kids at school who may make fun of him. I think of parents who may judge me and my child. It still doesn’t feel right. It shouldn’t matter to people what my kids play with, how they dress or what they like.
Last Christmas, Avery asked for “girl Legos” when I told her that Legos are for everyone, she wouldn’t listen. She insisted that she have pink and purple Legos, and it was sad to see how much she’s been influenced already. All toys are for everyone. But we don’t buy cars for girls and dolls for boys.
So, while we are home, do whatever you want. It’s not like Bradley wants to be a girl. He’s a kid who dresses himself in button shirts and bow ties. He’s a young man who loves Star Wars and MineCraft; he has a collection of Hot Wheels and action figures. But sometimes, he likes to play with “girls'” things, and that’s okay with me. Bradley will occasionally play dress up with his sister; sometimes in superhero capes and masks, sometimes in dresses and things. And it is hysterical! And why not, when it’s okay that Avery would be allowed to dress as a superhero? I want my kids to be happy, free, imaginative and confident in themselves. I don’t know why I care so much about what people think of my parenting, but maybe I shouldn’t. I’ll make an effort to let them be themselves more, without worrying about how they fit into a role that’s been determined by someone else.