So my son says he wants to be a boxer now. He is four.
He runs around the house punching the air with his tiny fists.
You see, my best friend and I had our first babies roughly around the same time.
She had a girl. I had a boy.
I was fairly confident that I knew everything about everything when it came to raising children.
As new moms, we heard tons about “gender stereotyping” and how that was, like, bad and stuff. Saying things like “boys will be boys” was old-fashioned and frowned upon. We were modern! We would never say such a thing.
So to start with, we dressed them in neutral outfits until they could pick for themselves.
Her daughter picked out clothes with squeals of excitement.
My son, on the other hand, could not care less.
But it wasn’t just their wardrobe. It was toys too.
She bought her daughter a toy truck.
She played with it sometimes.
I bought my son a doll and a wooden doll cradle.
He played with the cradle sometimes.
And it wasn’t just the toys. It was everything.
We wanted to open the world up for them. We sheltered them from messages that put value on their interests or skills based on gender expectations.
And they do have skills.
Her daughter can turn anything into a baby.
My son can turn anything into a weapon.
Then we had more babies.
She had another girl. I had another boy.
As they grew, I watched as her girls mostly played well together.
And how my boys mostly didn’t.
She reassured me that it wasn’t anything I did wrong. And I reassured myself by begrudgingly muttering “boys will be boys” when I was sure that nobody could hear me.
And then, two years ago, she had a third.
It was a boy this time.
I wondered what that little boy would be like growing up with two nurturing sisters and all the dolls and sparkles in the world.
I admit, despite my experience, I was a little afraid that he would tenderly burp dolls and share and always say please. I was afraid that he would never, ever turn a spoon into a catapult. Or throw sand. Or be aggressive in any way.
Then last week, there he was, running around the house, punching the air with his tiny fists.