The other night I bought a cute little My Little Pony Tshirt for my almost five year old, who had begged me for it after seeing it on the wall at the store. It was half off, so I obliged. When we got home it was hung up next to my almost five year old’s other recent prized bargain, a Hello Kitty back pack, gifted from a neighbor’s daughter who no longer used it. These two things are just a few items from the collection that is gathering from my almost five year old’s favorite cartoon icons. Some people might find this strange, since I am the mother of four boys. That’s right, my almost five year old is a boy. A sweet, wonderful little boy who doesn’t see gender lines.
T is the second of four boys and will be five in two more months. He is very much like all other boys his age. He loves superheroes (Marvel and DC, he doesn’t take sides). He loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ninjago, and Adventure Time. He wants to be a fire fighter (and maybe a farmer) when he grows up. He plays sports and goes to Farm school, where he loves to play in the mud and feed the animals, and when he’s not in school, he loves to ride his scooter and his “two wheeler” bike that he is super proud of riding without training wheels. Just a “typical” boy, who also loves to get his nails painted, his favorite color is pink, enjoys watching My Little Pony, and wanted nothing more than a Monster High Doll for Christmas two years ago.
So what does all this mean? Nothing. It means that my son is who he is and doesn’t see gender lines. He sees the world the way more people should, as an open and limitless, unbound by sex or gender. Unfortunately, most people don’t see the world this way. Most people like to categorize and label things. Most people like to tell others that things are wrong or meant for other people. Most people will try to crush my guy and his spirit as he grows up. They will try to force him to conform to what they expect of him. His older brother has already experienced this.
Only a year ago, I used to paint all my boys’ nails, it was the only way I could coax them into letting me cut and file their nails. We’d play nail salon. I bought colors like metallic silver, sparkly blue, and green for the boys; colors I thought society might allow my kids to wear without ruining our fun. Then it happened. I painted my oldest’s toe nails the Sunday before he began a gymnastics camp with T; Monday afternoon he came home and asked me to take the nail polish off and hasn’t worn it since. Someone had obviously said something to my oldest about nail polish being for girls and with that comment, they stole from me that special quality time with my oldest in which he would sit in my lap, cuddle into me, and talk to me as I painted his nails. From that point on, those gender lines became more solidified for my oldest, despite his desire for them not to be there. When his brother first started watching My a Little Pony, my oldest made comments like “that’s a girl show” and refused to watch it with him. T didn’t care, he watched it anyway, he loved the show. Then my husband found my oldest hiding in his room with my iPad watching it alone despite his brothers sitting downstairs watching it together. He acted like what he was doing was somehow wrong and shameful. My husband told him that it was ok to like the show and encouraged him to go watch it with his brothers. Now the three older ones watch it together most of the time. Then this week, while we were in the store where I bought the My Little Pony shirt, my oldest showed again, how the world had already begun engraining gender lines into him. When his brother crossed that imaginary line from the boys’ clothes section into the girls’ clothing section, my oldest was sure to point it out. T again didn’t care, he just knew he had seen a shirt that he loved and that he wanted to see it closer. As I began to look at the price on the shirt and check the sizes against him, my oldest son seemed to get confused. He knew that his brother was in the girls’ section and for some reason he shouldn’t be, but neither his brother nor I seemed to get that, we were both acting like it was ok. At this point my oldest began walking though the store from side to side stating which section his was in, the “boys’ side” or the “girls’ side.” Then the came to the athletic wear and there didn’t seem to be a clear side in that section. The sections were no longer separated by an aisle, they just seemed to blend into each other. This seemed to catch him by surprise. He came running back to his younger brother and excitedly told him “over there, there is no boys section or girls section, they just blend!” It was like he had found the perfect place for his brother.
I love my sweet little almost five year old. I love his humor, his sensitivity, his individuality, and the fact that he loves the things he loves, no matter what others say. I worry for my little guy though. I worry that over time, the world will crush him and not allow him to be who he is. I worry that too many people will draw lines in the ground and tell him which side he needs to be on. I wish more people would allow the genders to blend more seamlessly. After all, the only thing that really makes someone a “typical” boy or girl is the ability to adhere to our expectations of a certain gender. If we eliminate those gender lines, we allow people to just be themselves.