The Yellow Bow

I brought a small yellow bow to my first day of teaching my blogging class, and I’ve left it on my bag ever since.

The morning of my class, my daughter shocked me by requesting a bow for her hair. I brought it down and showed her. N, realizing what she had done, shrieked NO.

But my son turned to me and said: I want a yellow bow.

I paused, considering.

This past Sunday, we went out to lunch. E had been playing dress up before we left. He was a princess in a yellow Snow White dress. As we were packing up, he asked to wear it to lunch. I was nervous, but I didn’t want to change our parenting style for the possibility of a dirty look that may not even come.

We don’t teach much gender at home. E knows that basics of anatomy and how that differentiates girls from boys. But everyone gets to wear pink or blue or run or play soccer or be princesses. Even pronouns are not emphasized. Who cares? has been our theme.

We drove to the deli. People stared when we entered, but the adults were unwilling to say or do any more. It was a gaggle of middle school girls who began the snickering. They were on a sports team of some sort. And their blatant whispers incited the DEATH STARE. I told Scott LOUDLY that the girls were being rude.  E heard me and asked if they were making fun of him. I lied and said no.

I couldn’t hurt him like that.

The girls were only showing what they know. Their fears. Of not fitting in. Of being different. Of being excluded. They were reflections of their parents’ fears of the same.

So many teach the words, we can all be whomever and whatever we want to be, and follow it up with actions that say, as long as we conform.

But in my heart, I worried: Am I setting him up? I live in the South. I live in a state that bans gay marriage and people call the police when a black man is in a certain neighborhood. A boy in a dress has no business here.

We sat further away from the crowds and I wouldn’t let E go anywhere without Scott or I by his side. And when we got home, I put on my princess dress, too. In a show of solidarity that I wished I had thought of before we left for lunch.

We spun and laughed. Eventually, we moved on to soccer and superheroes.

My son, oblivious.

Until I’m faced with this second chance. A chance to let my son wear whatever he wants to wear or tell him that he can’t wear a yellow hair bow outside of our home. I can change my parenting ideals to meet the unfair standards that people who merely believe that they believe in equality of gender and the rights of men and women to follow their dream but can’t even handle a boy in a dress.

Or a bow.

I said: Yes.

His school is very progressive, and I believed that he would be safe.

As I relayed the weekend lunch to his teacher, my son walked up to me crying.

E: He called me a girl.

The teacher stepped in and helped E and this boy negotiate.

I walked to my car and burst into tears.

I didn’t want to make my son’s social life more difficult.

I didn’t want to conform to ideas that I believe are stupid.

Pink for girls.

Blue for boys.

When I picked E up from school, he was happy.

He handed me the bow that was no longer in his hair.

I asked him how his day went as we drove home

E: Fine.
Me: Did you work things out about being a boy and wearing the bow?
E: Yes.
Me: The other boy only knows what he’s been taught. He doesn’t know that boys can wear whatever they want.
E: It’s interesting.
Me: Yes.

He wouldn’t talk further, and I let it drop.

But as I was walking to class, I reached into my pocket and pulled out the forgot yellow bow.

I clipped to my bag so I, too, would remember to be myself.

To be the best Alex I can be.

And sometimes I wear bows. And sometimes I wear baseball caps. And sometimes I cry for my little boy who can’t be everything he wants in this world.

I remind myself to add YET.

Because I believe that it won’t always be this way. Each generation, while perhaps not financially better off, is more open and tolerant than the last.

And in the face of hatred, we learn every year to judge people less by what they wear or who they look like, and more by the person they are trying to be.

But progress is slow. And children are sensitive.

Today, at the children’s museum, my son went over to the dress-up bin. He asked his dad to find him boy clothes.

I cried when my husband told me.

Sometimes, I truly hate the world and how far we have to go.

How tiring it is to want more for our children.

But I still keep the yellow bow on my bag. In case, any little boys change their mind.

The follow-up post to this piece is Princess Solidarity.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

74 thoughts to “The Yellow Bow”

  1. This is so beautifully written. I am a really liberal person too and I know I would do the same in your situation. I understand how kids can be mean and pick on those who do not conform – it’s a tough thing to think about. I do feel the world is getting to be a more colorful and accepting place but you’re right – it’s slow going. Great post.

  2. This is such a great post. It made me cry along side you. Whatever society tells your son, he will be so much more secure knowing he has a safe place at home and people there who love him for who he is. And that will make all the difference in the world.

  3. Nature….Nurture…um….Nature…..Nuture…I dunno. When my son came out it was definitely Nature. Now that my daughter is living in a lesbian household, Nurture is coming up fast on the rail.
    I don’t know.

    I do think it comes down to choice. Some folks don’t have a choice and others choose. The only times I’ve had problems were when folks thought I was gay and I had to disappoint them* and when I was judged harshly for being straight. For wanting to be soo open and accepting, there is real bigotry in the GLAD community.

    *Nope not bisexual either. Those folks are confused.

  4. my heart breaks for E. he is adorable in that costume by the way. I’m jealous. my mom never would have let me run around in something so fancy.

    in some ways, I wonder if we’re regressing. I don’t remember gender being such a big deal when I was a kid. every guy I knew dressed up as a girl for Halloween. and I surely played with monster trucks. but lately? everyone is so concerned that gender play MEANS SOMETHING (gasp! the horror!). maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t and why would it be so bad?

    why must we place our prejudices and fears on the children? and not only that, *blame* the fears and prejudices on the children. if I hear one more person say that it’s for the kids! it’s not for the kids. the kids don’t care. I wish people would just take responsibility.

  5. That was such a beautiful piece to share, I am sure that was not easy for you, I cried… it is such a tough world, country, state, city… we live in.. I try to find that little second of comfort in knowing I try the best I can for my kids ! I think I will wear a baseball cap and a bow today in honor of E!

  6. Alex, this is such a BEAUTIFUL expression of mama-hood, choosing to let E be himself despite what others might think. I have a little cousin, Carson, who is very similar… he loves dress up and dolls and even carries a little Vera Bradley purse around with him. And the more we just let him be, the happier he is. It’s just pretend to him, he doesn’t know otherwise. I think at ANY age, all self-expression is OK… the more we stifle it, the more we CONFORM, the more of ourselves we lose in the process. And E is such a sweetheart – we’re looking forward to more play dates in the future!

  7. There need to be more moms like you. Then there would be fewer girls like the ones in the deli. Your E is a lucky little fella. And, bonus!– he’s adorable in his dress.

  8. Oh God I’m blubbering like a baby. I hate seeing innocence crushed for such stupid reasons. Why can’t we just be ok to let others be happy? If it’s not hurting anyone, who cares?

  9. “But progress is slow. And children are sensitive.” This part is so immensely true. I notice people saying things about H’s outfits that she picks out and she is a GIRL, so I can only imagine how E in a dress would stir up negative looks and comments from others since he is a boy. I think that people are afraid to be different, try new things, and stray away from what is the norm. But, when kids are little they don’t know the restraints and silly rules that adults know, which is what makes them so innocent and free. I wish we could really all be that way.

  10. I appreciate what you go through with your children, and your willingness to share with us. It really makes me think about how I will raise my son (close to N’s age). Thanks for making me think.

  11. Wow, this is such a wonderful and beautiful written post. As I am typing though my tears I just want to say thank you for being such a honest open writer. Also your son is so lucky to have open supportive parents like you and your husband. It is sad that kids have to learn life lessons so early. And I saw life lessons, but I am angry that being ourselves and learning that sometimes that doesn’t fit society is a life lesson. I love your quote about society slowly getting better and each generation gets a little better every year at accepting people for who they are. I wish there was a love button for this post. Standing up now giving you a big round of applause. So glad you decided to post this blog post. IT is my all time favorite I believe.

  12. Love this.
    I have a boy and a girl, and I’m always telling them that there are’t Boy Toys & Girl Toys, it’s TOYS.
    I think little yellow bows and this story should be handed out to anyone whose kids laugh at another for ‘not conforming’. Thank you for sharing.

  13. This makes me sad. I think you should submit this to somebody important or something. It was really well written. Not insinuating that your other posts are NOT well written, but you know what I mean.

  14. Wonderfully written.

    Child A’s dad – while as open minded and liberal and non-gender-rigid as any person you’d know – could not shake the memories of the torment he got as a child with long hair.

    He wanted Child A to be boy-ish. Not because he thought it was proper, and not because he thought it was right, and not because he didn’t want Child A to be anything in the world.

    But because he remembered hurt, and it broke is heart to imagine his son living through the same.

    Because progress is slow, and children are sensitive.

    But hooray for the yellow bow.

  15. I was thinking about this very thing the other day. I have a little boy that looks up to his big sister and loves her so much and yes, he sometimes wears her dress up clothes to play in. I was thinking about the mom that let her little boy dress up as Daphne for Halloween and I realized I never would have been able to do that. Not that I think it is wrong, but I could not have set him up for the hurt that I’m positive he would have encountered in our very small, very Southern backwards town. That makes me sad.

  16. Crying right along with you, because I’ve been there, too.

    I admit, I’ve sometimes steered my son towards “safe” choices, to spare him from others’ judgement or ridicule. (Hopefully in a way that he didn’t realize that’s waht I was doing– but I fear he’s more perceptive than I’d like.) And I don’t know if it’s always been the right thing to do. Sometimes it feels like cowardice, and I admire people for instances when they haven’t caved. As I admire you now.

    But I cling to the belief that the acceptance of his family will ultimately mean more than any criticism in the outside world. I try very hard to show him that his family loves, accepts, and supports him no matter WHAT. And I try very hard to be just as accepting of other people’s differences, too, and let my kids see that acceptance.

    I LOVE your idea of wearing your princess dress, too. Even when ideas come to us too late, we’re prepared for next time. And the rest of us who have read your post will be, too! So thank you. ((hug))

  17. “So many teach the words, we can all be whomever and whatever we want to be, and follow it up with actions that say, as long as we conform.” It’s really true. Good for you for not allowing the world to change your way of parenting.

  18. You keep on keeping mama – change has to begin somewhere and it’s people like you who continue to fight the good fight that ensures a brighter, more tolerant future for generations to come. You’re certainly not alone – I, for one, am with you on this, and I know many others are too.

  19. Amazing. I have twin boys who love to play with their big sisters tutus, they are only 16 mo, and I hope if faced with the same situation I will handle myself with the care and love that you showed with your son!

  20. What I really don’t like about all of this kind of stuff is the double standard… If your daughter had been wearing a Spiderman or any other “boy’s” costume, no one would have given it a second thought…. It’s so disappointing.

  21. You know, I think a lot of parents go through this. “This” being how the world/society challenges your parenting. I have felt that same struggle sometimes. All I can do is just realize that the world is not in charge of raising my child, R and I are. So I pray and ask God to guide me and give me the answers because I sure as heck am not letting a broken world raise my precious little people.

    About the bow “issue”. This breaks my heart. I know we see differently about homosexuality/marriage issues. But there is no way I would condone anyone being teased or otherwise treated differently outside the marriage thing (and even there I don’t have an issue with a union, just calling it “marriage” – but that’s a different post). I hate that society gets to decide what’s gender appropriate or what’s beautiful or what’s acceptable. I wore Docs and crazy tights in high school and I know it made my mom cringe. And that’s probably why it was only a few days out of the week and the other days I’d wear J. Crew rugby’s or corduroy skirts. I was blessed with a mother that understood self-expression and friends that did as well. She gave me a large parameter as long as I didn’t sacrifice for safety or a eternal spiritual issue(come to find out she HATED the fact I was a cheerleader for a few years. Never said a thing. Totally let me do it and my desires turned me elsewhere). That’s the joy of childhood right?! The innocence of being silly or trying new things before one is pressured that it’s not cool or it IS cool to do something that is not “you”. I guess we as parents also have to consider protecting our child’s heart as well. Encouraging them to be themselves and have fun a la Peter Pan as long as they can. The world affects some of that I suppose. I guess we also have to protect them to not be targets as well. Gosh. I guess I didn’t see that coming. But also to protect and develop them as God created them to be. That’s the most important thing. Thanks for this post and reigniting my mommy goal to truly know my child; His gifts, his talents, his abilities. To train and develop him so that those are brought out and not to punish him in a way that would kill a spirit in him that God created.

    By the way, make sure you let E know that in Scotland many a tough Scotsman wears a skirt at times. Keep in mind, a lot of this is cultural. There’s a time and a place to teach what’s appropriate (like manners) but I say never let a culture guide your parenting. Keep prayin’ Mama. And for his friends too. That E will have a great group of friends who will encourage each other to be themselves and whom he feels safe with. I know my mom did that for me and I can honestly say I never felt pressured to do anything or act a certain way and I had GREAT friends and memories of school from k-12 and on in college.

  22. Beautiful, Alex. So, so beautiful.

    This is the heart of parenting for us liberal-minded sorts – helping them become who they are and simultaneously helping them navigate a world that wants them to turn square pegs into round ones.

  23. I can feel your internal struggle in this post and it made me ache for you. We want to encourage our children to be themselves, whoever that may be, yet we also want to spare them the humiliation of public ridicule from ignorant, small-minded individuals. It’s quite a paradox, isn’t it? But you’re right – each generation IS more open and tolerant than the last. It’s a silver lining in a world that I sometimes feel is otherwise going to hell in a handbasket. Just keep that yellow bow clipped to your bag.

  24. Alex, this one hits close to home for me. Ethan’s thing right now is wearing my jewelry – necklaces and bracelets – everywhere we go. And I let him. I don’t know where the line is for me because if he wanted to wear a bow in his hair, I’m not sure if I’d let him. But if one of the girls wanted to wear his Spiderman costume out, I’d let her…I don’t know why it seems different to me.

    I think you handled it all perfectly, and I could feel your pain and your tears.

    I’m including this in my Monster Likes on Saturday – moms should really read this.

  25. Oh my eyes burn with tears because this is what I fear for our son if it ever happens. My heart HURTS to think about my son–or ANYONE’S SON–being told they can’t be who they want.

    It’s so hard to want to protect them from the cruel world while still staying true to themselves and, like you said, our parenting styles. Love and hugs to you and your amazing boy.

  26. This was such a beautiful and moving post. I think about my own son and the world in which he will grow up. We are fortunate to live in a city that is quite tolerant, one that hosts many different cultures and religions as well as a large gay/lesbian community (gay marriages are legal here). Yet, I know so many prejudices still exist and kids can both be sensitive and mean. Hoping that your post will resonate with many parents and others to slowly chip away at those barriers and make us all more accepting.

  27. I wish I had been there to tell E how awesome he looked and how unique and special he is (and to hug you both when those girls laughed.) Our jobs as parents are tougher than any other in the world – far to many no win situations. Kudos to you for embracing E and N every step of the way as they wade through this confusing and less than accepting world.

  28. as a partnered lesbian starting our family, i thank you. as a human, i thank you. as a future momma, i thank you most of all for letting me know there are real people out there who are intent on teaching their children to be good humans, too. we live in rural alabama. our childs life will not always be easy. but knowing there are people fighting out there in the world to make it easier makes me so grateful, & takes some of the weight off.

  29. I know a little of that mama-heartache. I feel it for some of my kids, even though I didn’t birth them in the literal sense. I tell myself I can be their safe haven. You and S are that for E and N. You are wonderful, and I love you.

  30. This is beautifully written!! My son doesn’t often worry about gender, he doesn’t ask to where dresses, but he does do things other people view as odd. For instance, he still plays dress up, plays with hot wheels, and plays with army guys. He is 14. He has been diagnosed with bipolar, adhd, and some sensory processing issues. He has never grown up. We don’t know if he will ever get a job, drive a car, or move out of our home.

    Last year he wanted to wear black nail polish, and he wanted his ear pierced. I fought like hell to let him get his ear pierced. He wore the black nail polish once. He said the kids at school picked on him. He has never worn it again. I took him to get his ear pierced even though I was scared for him, but he couldn’t do it. Not because he understood kids might pick on him, but because of the possible pain involved. He really doesn’t like pain.

    Hopefully by the time my son and yours are grown, life will have changed enough that they can teach their children neutrality. I love your site, and I understand the pain.

  31. This is a great post! Thank you for sharing it This is coming from someone who is more of a pink is not for boys. It’s weird how a girl is OK to do any boy thing, but not so much the other way around. You made me think on this one and you are one amazing Mom making a difference!

  32. Alex–I thank you for sharing this post. I feel the same way for my boys, but for different reasons. Enrique, my older son, has Autism. Talk about people staring. I never really know how to explain it to people, and some days, I really hate having to. Why does he have to be just like everyone else? Why can’t his behaviors be “normal?” I worry about what the future holds for him–bullying is likely inevitable. And I worry what all of this means for my typically developing younger son, who will probably be put in the position of defending his brother (God willing) or taunting him like the others (which would literally break my heart). I tell my children I love them just the way they are–and I mean it. And yet, there is always that “but”…looming. I’m glad to hear that other people allow their children to be different, even if it hurts, and I hope that E and N always have the strength and courage to be true to that 🙂

  33. I’m crying with you. For what this world can be and that we must send out children into it, eventually free from our protection. But how you get there, the things you do like you have described here, will make a difference to him. I’m certain of it. xo

  34. Alex, you are an amazing mother. One of the ones that will really help future generations to be more accepting. Seriously.

    This story touches on a story about my son wanting to dress up like a princess and my mother-in-law telling me about, with the disclaimer of “I don’t think it means anything.” I’ve been trying to find a way to put my feelings about this into words, and my feels about her reaction, without hurting anyone (she reads my blog). Maybe soon I can figure out the way to do it.

  35. You know…it’s not fair that we have to live with societal norms that just don’t make any darn sense. I have two girls….if they want to play like they’re the King and Queen of the kingdom, who am I to tell them they can’t because they’re both Queens!? Ridiculous. I say way to go. Let that little man dress and play as he wishes. It’s his imagination and it sounds like he’s got a healthy one.

  36. Wow. I’m sorry. That sucks. I’m sorry.

    My boy wears bows sometimes. He doesn’t think it’s fair for his sisters to have pretty bows if he can’t have them. He usually trades in his bow for a truck before we leave the house. I hope I never go through this…

    I’m sorry. That sucks.

  37. I’m so glad I’m not the only one. My six year old will gladly tell you his favorite color is pink… but when no one is listening he’ll ask me why the girls in his class think it’s funny. Yet, he’s not ashamed to pick up the pink birthday bear pin. Somehow in his six year old innocence he understands that the kids who make fun of him are the ones with the problem, not him liking the color pink.

  38. I love this.
    I want my children to grow up this way. Every day I try more to teach them to just be. It’s very, very, very, very difficult. You should be proud of you.

  39. It’s true- I do believe that each generation is becoming more open and tolerant than the last. And it’s parents like you that are making that possible. I struggle with this in my mind all the time (my son is not quite old enough to really socialize that much). But it is exhausting, this struggle between my ideals, altruistic tendencies, non conformity (if that’s even a phrase), and my great need to protect my son and make things easy for him.
    I love you and your bow.

  40. I recently had a discussion with someone online about this issue. And I left it apologetically, downtrodden, and disappointed in human beings.

    Thank you (and all the commenters) so much for lifting me back up.

  41. Hilarious and cute.

    I have three daughters, 15, 7, 6. The youngest is a princess. But the middle one is like having a boy. She’s rough, she likes to get dirty, she has a good fastball for a lefthander 7 year old, and she prefers trucks and swords to her sister’s barbies. We don’t tecah gender either. It’s a waste of time. They figure out on their own anyway. Every once in w hile the 7 yr old likes to have her nails done and her hair fixed. She’s perfect the way she is.

  42. You are lovely, and such a good mommy! In the same situation I don’t think I could’ve done what you did. Not because I’d care myself, but because of others. I Hate that.

  43. My first thought when you mentioned that group of girls was to think of how it was not so very long ago when they would not have been allowed to wear jeans or pants of any type as children, and not even slacks as grown women. If they had, they may have been ridiculed beyond laughter, they would have been ostracized. They would never have even had the option to dream of trying out for the soccer team, or the basketball team, and heaven forbid a football team.
    There was a time when it was thought that college would have been a waste of time for these young girls.

    They were not “allowed” as grown women to have an opinion on politics, or at least not allowed to vote if they did manage to form an opinion. They could be treated as property, or as lesser human beings to say the least, in matters such as deciding who to marry, or even if to marry. Centuries of women endured beatings with no hope of escape. Words such as rape and incest were never mentioned, because although the acts occurred, those were things no one spoke about. When the day finally arrived that women could divorce, it was decades later before they might be allowed to fight for custody. There were no career choices, no one asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up.
    Those days were not that long ago. In fact, conditions worse than these, are happening even as I type this.

    So, perhaps these young ladies should review their history a bit more or read up on current events to hopefully gain SOME understanding of what it is like to be told what to do, what to think, what to wear, and who to be, or more importantly, who they could not be.

    Hang in there Mom.

  44. –>Good for you as a Mom. I have a 4-year old boy as well and although he hasn’t strayed from sterotypical roles yet, I think I would hesitate before going out in public because I worry about what others would say to him and thus hurt his feelings. *sigh*
    He did ask me once if boys wear “make-ups” and my gut was to say only girls do but instead I said, little people like him are too pretty already to need make-up.

  45. First time reader of your blog and I am already in love. You are incredibly brave. When my son was 3, he wore a Peter Pan costume for a year. Everywhere. To the store. To preschool. To the bank. I had to wash it when he was in the bathtub and have it dried by morning when we’d start all over again.

    Now granted. It wasn’t a dress. But green tights? And a role that made Sandy Duncan famous? It wasn’t exactly manly.

    I got looks. And my sister would say things like, “You’re letting him be in charge.”

    What. Of his clothing choices? If we lived in Minnesota and he wanted to wear a bathing suit in December, that’s one thing. But I was in California. It is warm enough for green tights all year long.

    That was ten years ago. And my son is now 13. He survived.
    I’d like to think that if he’d wanted to wear a yellow hairbow or a princess costume, I’d have let him.

    But like I said. You are brave. I’m not sure I’d have been that strong.
    Which is why I’m a first-time reader of your blog.
    And already in love.

  46. Wonderful post–wonderful writing, wonderful thoughts, wonderful feelings, wonderful mom.

    When I was maybe 16, I was babysitting–it was a one-time only gig in a pinch, some parents/kids I didn’t know at all, must have been a referral from someone else when the regular wasn’t available. I remember only one thing about the whole experience. The boy, about 5 or 6, wanted to play dress up. All he cared about was putting on women’s clothing and jewelry. I remember that the main thing I was thinking (even at age 16!), was I wonder why the parents didn’t warn me about this, because surely they must know that he likes to do this, so I need to know are they encouraging it or discouraging it, and what, as their proxy, would they have me do? At 16 I guess I thought it was weird (and I admit that at that age I thought it meant that he was gay, which of course I now realize it does not mean), but since I personally didn’t think it was any big deal to be gay or straight, I didn’t really care if he did it or not, but I knew enough to know that OTHER people cared, and that his parents must have an opinion.
    That was my main dilemma…what were his parents’ wishes in that moment?
    Was it so normal that he did it all the time so no one mentioned it bc it didn’t matter if I had the typical freak-out teenage reaction bc enough others supported it?
    Did they want me to react badly to it bc they wished he didn’t do it?
    Was this a hidden behavior that he only brought out for strangers anymore bc his parents had scolded him for it, so he tried out each babysitter anew?

    I wish I could remember anything about these people so I could track them down and ask some follow up questions….
    Alex, do you make it a point of sharing your parenting style/approach with all others who are watching your children? And how can you cover enough bases for all the different things that might come up?

  47. This is lovely. I hope if faced with the a similar situation with my son someday that I will act the same. You give moms a good name. Keep up the great work. xoxo

  48. Every time I hear a story like this from another mother, I’m filled with hope for our children’s generation. You are not alone! Like you, I want to support my kids in being themselves, but like you, I sometimes struggle with what my role should be regarding helping them navigate the social realities out there.

    The phrase you use, about the person only knowing what they are taught and not knowing that everybody can choose what they want, is perfect. I plan to tap into that idea next time we have this kind of discussion in our home. Thank you!

    And in case you’re interested in reading similar thoughts from me…here’s a post of mine from a while back. Same song, different verse:

  49. Alex..this post is beautiful. This is how i feel about my little guy too.

    I teach in a school that is extremely accepting of ALL lifestyles…even when the parents maybe aren’t. I tend to attract these kids to my classroom to “hang out” and chat after school. Just this week one boy–who was back visiting from college (art school, actually)–told me he was so thankful that I would put the smack down if anyone even sort of used the word gay negatively. He said my son was so lucky and he wished he could be my boy.

    I cried and cried.

    I think what you are doing is wonderful. You are the mother all kids with “differences” wish they had. Maybe E will be gay. maybe not. the fact that he wanted “boy” clothes could just be his preference that day and he didn’t have alternative vocabulary to ask for what he wanted.

    You are exactly EXACTLY the kind of mother I am striving to be with my Eddie.

  50. I hope I can be as brave and strong a mother as you are as my son and future children grow up. My son’s only 9 months old, but already I find myself going into his classroom at school and seeing all the little girls with pigtails that the teachers have put in their hair, and thinking how cute my kid would look with pigtails. Or on “bow day,” how come they didn’t put a bow in J’s hair? I mean, I know why… but… it’s kind of a shame that he’s automatically not getting the same fun attention because he’s a boy. Although I am sure many mothers of the boys in the class would flip a lid if they came in and their baby boys had bows in their hair. I’d think it was the cutest thing ever, and I can totally see my little guy grinning at himself in the mirror seeing a bow on his head.

    The one thing I think about a lot, though, is the pros and cons of letting my son do something I *know* will lead to him being made fun of. I grew up looking very different from your average kid, and I was made fun of daily. It hurt… why would I ever want my son to be in that position if I could prevent it? But then, I also had the blissful realization as an adult that being “different” gave me the benefit of knowing that every single one of my good friends was truly a GOOD PERSON… they didn’t like me because everyone else did, or because I was pretty, or smart, or had Guess jeans… they liked me because of who I was as a person–because the “cool” thing to do would have been to make fun of me, yet my friends knew better… they were better, kinder people. And damn, how freaking lucky is that?

    So know that E (and maybe even N one day) will almost certainly encounter some real jerks who have rude things to say about his choices in fashion or self-expression, but those choices he makes will also give him the amazing luxury of weeding out the jerks before he ever wastes his time trying to be their friend… and hopefully as time goes by, the number of small-minded people who have something rude to say will become smaller and smaller…

  51. I thought of you this weekend.

    While scouting the $1 bins at Target, Ezra became enamored with the Transformers board books. “These robots are for me, Mama. You look at princesses.”

    No whether I was crowding his personal space around the robots and shoving me to the princesses would give him more elbow room or whether it was because robots are for boys and princesses are for girls–I don’t know. But I thought of you and tried to explain that anyone can like robots and anyone can like princesses. Shoot, they’re both cool.

    He ended up eyeballing the princess tiaras but we left with a robot board book which I’m fine with. I’m just glad I was able to explain the appeal of both.

  52. Just so you know, my friends are gathered together, as we get every Tuesday night, and Skye commented about this post which I’d linked to on Twitter and then my other friends were interested so they read it and find you an exceptional mom.

  53. Be the change you wish to see in the world … I love that quote and it warms my heart to see you live it! Sadly this world is judgemental, my youngest, whom we adopted at 3 weeks is African American … I am judged every day by people who don’t me who see me in a store and give me dirty looks.
    Our children judge no one, they love all for the people they strive to be – one day they too will be that change.

  54. I’m new to your blog and reading your “best of” list. This post is so beautifully written. Our son is in 1st grade and has chosen to do a Musical Theater class after school this year. He took a dance class at summer school where he was one of two boys in a 17 kid class. His little buddy is in the Musical Theater class, too, and I am so thrilled to have friends with the same ideas we have- let the children be who they are and do what activities they want to do. He doesn’t realize that dance and theater are traditionally “girl” activities no am I going to tell him that. He also plays soccer and Star Wars. He’s a boy who knows what he likes and is quickly/sadly learning the “gender roles” of our society. I hope he continues to dance, sing, and act and doesn’t get teased away from it. Thank you again for such a beautiful post.

  55. I loved this article very much, but I wish I could sincerely apologize for how rude those girls where. I’m only a couple years older then them from what your article says, but I know plenty of people from my school that would do the same exact thing. It’s a sad fact, and I only wish I could have been there ( even though I live in Texas) instead of those girls because I would have smiled and if I had the chance I would have complemented the dress. I hope your son doesn’t stop wearing the princess dresses, and I think you are raising your children incredibly, and I wish you good luck.

  56. LeighAnn from Genie in a Blog shared this post of your’s with me because I wrote one the very same thing except mine was about pink, sparkly shoes.

    I handled it differently. I admire the strength you showed in the way you handled it.

    Like you, I wish we didn’t live in a society that cared about gender issues like this. Thank you for taking a stand in your own home and showing your children the truth.

  57. I have a girl, but this piece is touching me so. Sometimes she SAYS that boys can’t wear pink or pink is for girls and blue is for boys, and I fear she is getting that from school. Because we don’t teach it here. Yes, she love love loves pink. But she also wears blue and green and purple and whatever she wants. So sad that your little boy cried, but brava to you for letting him BE. ANd hugs. For the hard. That happened and will come. Because we as parents are sure to face more of it. ((<3))

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