We have a son. He is a boy. We know this for no reason other than the fact that he has a penis; that his genetic makeup consists of both an X and a Y chromosome. Aside from that, at the ripe old age of two and a half, there isn’t much else inherently gender specific, and all that makes him who he is comes from what we as parents, family, friends, teachers, and society impose. I’d like to believe that the greatest influence occurs right here at home, that Pete and I have the most profound effect on our children of all the people, environments and stimuli they encounter. So with that in mind, when it comes to establishing gender identity, we tend to back off.
Of course we’re not perfectly gender neutral. He has a boy’s name, we buy him boy clothes, there’s a fair amount of blue involved in his accoutrement, and there’s at least some measure of deep-rooted praxis driving purchases of toys i.e trucks and tractors. But as the situation arises in which Crosby is offered the opportunity to make a choice, we’re not looming near to attempt to steer toward the “boy appropriate” option. I imagine (hope) that this is how many parents choose to rear in our generation, so I’m certainly not on a soap box. Only stating that we aim to allow our kids to become who they’ll be without forcing them into a predefined box.
Our son has long hair. Not so long now as it once was, but still long enough that approximately 7 out of 10 strangers mistake him for a girl. This fascinates me because in those situations he tends to be masculinely dressed meaning said strangers have placed greater emphasis on hair length than clothing style when making a snap judgment about my child’s gender. I’m not suggesting one is better than the other, only that prior to being the mother of a luxuriously locked, blonde baby boy, I’d not have surmised that hair was the go to gender identifier for the majority of our population. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest though! When the incorrect assessment comes in the form of a compliment – “your girls are SO pretty!” – I opt to smile, nod, and move on. And when someone refers directly to Crosby as she or her, I politely correct them.
Crosby’s favorite color is pink, sometimes more specifically, fuchsia. At times, he prefers this rosy hue to an almost obsessive degree, offering signs of tantrum should we try to give him any other color plate or bowl from the Ikea dish rainbow (this thing). His love of pink has recently extended to clothing selections, many of which now occur from his sister’s dresser. His favorite outfit consists of Norah’s long sleeve, pink Frozen t-shirt and black cotton Bermuda shorts, but he enjoys shopping her entire wardrobe, frequently donning such garments as her bright red, fuzzy sleep pants splattered with the likeness of Minnie Mouse. Aside from his infatuation with Frozen which I believe plays the largest role in favoriting that particular shirt, I get the sense that his affection for Norah’s clothing comes mostly from his affection for Norah. She’s older and cooler and wiser (yes, I feel like this is already a thing) and he wants to do what she does, wear what she wears, and be just like her in any way possible. I allow, and in fact fully support this raiding of Norah’s drawers because for one, who cares, and more importantly, he looks pretty cute in pink.
Despite our efforts to avoid sex stereotyping, we have begun to notice in Crosby some behaviors that one might traditionally associate with boys (and men). Like touching his penis and giggling, for example. Penis was one of his earlier words, and the joy and amusement he derives from discussing, exposing, and handling his penis pretty much calls it. It’s a boy! Perhaps we can teach Crosby to scream penis anytime someone calls him a girl. That should help clear up any confusion. Our other most recent experience that may or may not be what one would call “traditional boy behavior” occurred just last weekend about two minutes before I was supposed to head out the door for a run. Crosby was in the bathroom, which I had to pass on my way out, and I looked in to say goodbye only to find my darling, sweet, pink loving, silky headed son holding up both hands to display a glorious spread of poop. Upon closer inspection, the poop had also found its way to his forehead, and the painfully panicked look on his cute little face was almost too much to handle. PETE! I hollered. COME HELP NOW! We teamed up to scrub him down, Pete cringing, me hysterically laughing, and both making attempts to get Crosby to explain what exactly lead to this disaster. Hopefully the embarrassment and disgust he was so clearly feeling in that moment will be enough to deter him from ever again putting his hands anywhere near the inside of his potty bowl, but only time will tell. And boys will be boys.