Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks
Wednesday, December 19, 2007 Dress Up
Something a bit weird happened the other day. We stopped by Trash's brother's house to drop off their Christmas cookies, and to hang out for a bit and give M. Small a chance to play with his cousin Deniece for a little bit. The kids ran around in the living room for a while, and then they went downstairs while we adults sat upstairs and discussed the WGA strike (by the way, the writers have one more supporter as of Sunday).
It was just coming up on that time when you realize the kids have been quiet for a while. As any parent knows, loud noises and yelling and crashes coming from the place where the kids are generally do not constitute a major problem; it's the times when they've been quiet for too long that you know the real damage is being done.
I was just about to go down and check on them when they came back upstairs. They hadn't destroyed anything at all, as it turned out, and were behaving quite innocently. Deniece was wearing a fringed flapper outfit from one of her dance classes. And M. Small was stunning in a full-length pink ball gown.
Although not "stunning" in the usual sense.
He presented himself before us, smiling proudly yet mischievously, his little-boy haircut suddenly looking oddly butch. Obviously this was Deniece's doing, but it was equally obvious that he had been a willing participant.
Trash and I made the appropriate surprised/aren't you silly noises, and they ran off again. And Trash admitted, "You know, I'm not having the reaction I've always thought I'd have."
We certainly haven't gone out of our way to socialize him with traditional gender roles. At Target, he always compares the vacuum cleaner displays with "Daddy's vacuum" and compares hardware store displays with "Mommy's table saw." Yet he's always been much more interested in tools and construction equipment than in dollies or dresses, through no conscious effort on our part.
We've always agreed that we will support him no matter what when he gets older, but after he ran off again in that pink formal, Trash confessed, "Inside my head I'm like, get it off, get it off." And I was glad she said that, because I kind of felt the same way. If he wants to wear women's clothes one day, fine. But preferably when he's older. And definitely not with the dark-blue socks that have rockets and stars on them. No son of mine is going to leave the house in a pink dress unless he's got white stockings on as well.
Obviously we didn't make a big deal of it, because the last thing we wanted was to turn it into a formative experience, either way. Hence no pictures for your enjoyment/alarm. Shortly afterward, it was time to go, and we explained that it was too cold to go back outside until he put his own clothes on.
"Noooo!" he wailed in protest. "I want to be a princess!"
"It's too cold for you to be a princess," I told him, and wrestled my child out of a dress, something I haven't thought I was ever going to have to do ever since we found out what gender he is.
I don't want to make it seem like I'm reading too much into this; It's just something funny he did. But it made me realize that as enlightened as we tell ourselves we are, I'm sure there's some part of us that's glad we don't have to worry about preparing him for certain things, like the way the world sometimes reacts to boys who aren't as interested in backhoe loaders as they are in MGM musicals. Being willing to but not having to represents the best of both worlds; you get to be thoughtful and progressive without actually having to work at it.
We've always told him he can be whatever he wants to be when he grows up. If that's a princess, we'll worry about it when the time comes. posted by M. Giant 9:24 PM 19 comments
At M's age, dressing up, playing with dolls, kitchen, etc. isn't a cause for alarm. He's just pretending. He probably doesn't even understand that princesses are girls. My preschoolers all love to play dress up, cars, whatever, no matter their gender. Letting boys play dress up or with dolls is shown to help them express their emotions! :)
My daughter likes to wear her "pwincess dwesses" while playing with her trains and backhoes. You just never know with kids. Her almost 7 year old brother will wear a tiara while fighting her for the Thomas trains.
My younger brother wore my pink ballet tutu all the time when he was about two. We have several pictures of him wearing it while on his big wheel. He liked it more than I did, it was pretty hilarious. My parents didn't make a big deal out of it either, and eventually he got tired of it and moved on.
My son's favorite color was pink until he entered pre-school. I think the others kids quickly schooled him on what boys and girls are "supposed" to like and how they are "supposed" to act. Then he started talking (and it was all talk) like he was "all boy". For his 4th birthday, he insisted no girls would be invited to his party. But then when you asked him the names of kids to invite, it was "Amber, Sarah, Chloe, ..."
Look at it this way: if he does grow up to be a cross-dresser, then statistically he has a greater than usual chance of becoming a US Senator or FBI Director. So that's pretty cool.
When I was a kid I wanted to be a cowboy. "Don't you mean a cowgirl?" people would ask. "No!" I'd insist scornfully, "A cowBOY!" No one ever told me that being anything I wanted to be when I grew up didn't include male.
I'm a new reader of your blog and I've been enjoying the posts about your son. However, this post and the comments above from Bunny and Ali make me sad and angry. If so-called "progressive" parents hope not to have LGBT kids, I'd hate to hear what more conservative parents think about this topic. This is a very personal issue for me, but I'd like to think that any true progressive parent would work like hell to create a society that values all people, including the LGBT people their children might become.
A couple that I am friends with have four children, two older boys and twin girls. The middle boy is the most stereotypically "boyish" in his behavior. Nonetheless, one of his favorite things to do when he was little was playing dress-up, and dressing up ALWAYS included Mommy's high-heeled shoes and some Mardi Gras beads. We all thought it was adorable; but then his parents used to cross-dress for their Halloween costumes in their pre-child-having era. Enjoy your son's imagination and sense of freedom; this lack of self-consciousness is precious, and usually doesn't last.
I was wondering when a comment like the last one would appear. I'm not going to speak for Trash and M. Giant, but as someone who knows them in real life, I can promise you that they are not homophobic at all, and I think other friends would back me up on this point. They have very close friends and relations that are GLBT, and I think that's what M. Giant was trying to say here. While they wouldn't have any issues themselves with a GLBT child, it would sadden them that M. Small would live in a world that does discriminate. But again, I don't want to speak for them.
Although we all know that M. Small isn't necessarily anything LGBT because he's wearing a pink dress, some interesting things have come up in this conversation.
I'm gay and I'd have to say that if I had kids I wouldn't want them to be gay/transgendered/etc. It's not homophobia. Stop being so overly sensitive and PC! It's really ok!
I love the Internet, but sometimes it seems like it's where people go to be annoyed by stuff. This discussion is asinine.
@febrifuge Maybe when you consider how many people are murdered and beaten, or commit suicide every year because of homophobia, you'll think twice about how asinine this discussion is.
My 6 year old nephew was dressed up like the lone Ranger playing guns and shooting things while singing look at me I'm sandra Dee.
@anonymous 8:33pm -- look, this is asinine because it's not the time or place. If you believe that the comments section of my friend's blog is where I'm going to a) show my true colors as some kind of hateful bigot, b) experience a conversion to the "correct" way of thinking, or c) convince you that I'm actually a thoughtful, decent person, then you're just wrong. None of those things can really happen here. The difference between you and I, it seems to me, is I know it.
Oh sure, Feb - we get a flame war for Christmas, you guys get cookies. Unfair!
I'd like to have seen the pictures - especially the blue socks with rockets. It is giving me ideas on what to wear to our next faculty event.
My 16-year-old son and I were at the Roseville Target earlier this week when I heard him say, "Oooh, mom, I want this for Christmas!" I turned around to see.... Hello Kitty Barbie. He's obsessed with all things even remotely Japanese.
I don't really know what's so wrong with hoping your kid won't grow up with a giant metaphorical target painted on his ass. In decades past, would saying "I hope my kids all grow up right-handed so the nuns don't duct-tape their hands to the desk in handwriting class" have indicated a deep-seated loathing for left-handed people? Come on, for real. I am the B in LGBT (which is how I happen to know that Ls and Gs are more than fully capable of sexual-orientation bigotry all their own but that's a whooole other post) and I have no problem with loving parents who want to see their kids grow up suffering as little mockery, scorn, oppression, or repression as possible. Until we *do* live in that happy world where no gay kid has to deal with more of that stuff than straights, I have no problem with M's & Trash's attitude at. all. Acknowledging that the world is more-than-usually cruel to gay kids isn't the same as *condoning* that fact.