A dear friend recently wrote to share her stress that her son wanted a pink backpack for school. Her son’s a wonderful, mathematically and mechanically-inclined little boy. Nothing “princess” about him.
(I’m making myself nauseous dancing around gender cliches.)
Brass tacks: he likes wearing his sister’s tutus from time to time, plays with lots of girls at school AND loves building space ships and cars –and the occasional toaster – out of Legos.
He wanted a pink backpack for school.
My friend agonized over it. Of course she’s 100% supportive of her son sporting a pink backpack and couldn’t give a rat’s ass if he becomes a drag queen or a mechanical engineer. But even she couldn’t stop herself from warning , “Okay. We’ll get this backpack…but just be aware…some kids might says it’s for girls.”
“Uh-huh,” he responded, undaunted.
“Because it’s pink,” she emphasized.
After she hit “purchase”, she sent me the link for the backpack.
Yeah. It was girly.
My friend and I discussed the backpack and laughed at ourselves about a struggle that (hopefully all) parents would have: we encourage self-expression but fear taunting.
No matter how liberal and label-less we want to live, kids are kids and mockery hurts.
I wonder what my coming years will bring? I’m already stressing Halloween. Is my son going to ask to be a princess? Will I help him be the best princess in New York City?
I think I could pull that off.
But would I be secure enough to repress comments like this to other parents: “Yeah,” (laughing) “we tried to steer him away from cross-dressing, but whaddyagonnado?”
Can I keep from rolling my eyes to the parents, self-consciously trying to make it evident that my partner and I certainly aren’t PUSHING our son to be, er…um…“feminine?”
In other words, laughing about him behind his back?
I make myself sick thinking that I lack the strength to embrace all his choices.
And this is all about my own insecurities! Not about him and the other kids.
Well, not entirely. Again: mockery hurts.
I secretly hope his teacher will require animal costumes so I can obsequiously avoid choosing between “Rapunzel” and “Ariel” costumes.
Just a few days ago, my friend told me her son’s passion for his pink backpack waned once it arrived. He got cold feet and they returned the backpack…for something more “boyish”.
My friend was a little bit relieved but a lot bit disappointed. Suddenly the handwringing took on another tack. If he wanted a pink backpack, why shouldn’t he have one? He shouldn’t be influenced by stupid conventions!
At least he wouldn’t be teased.
But he should carry what he wants!
But teasing might have really hurt him.
But he should choose happiness over conformity!
But at least first grade will be easier.
Or might be?
But might he just be teased for something else?
What’s the harm? Wear your colors loud and proud! Start a pink revolution, men!
Curse the schizophrenia of open-minded parenting!
Having confessed all of this, I pledge to all of you eight or nine readers: I will help my kid have the best costume of his desires. Whatever it may be. And I’ll proudly watch and photograph and cheer him on without deprecating comments to other parents.
But I might need to have a drink and blog some more.
I dunno. Can you help with my perspective? Advice? How’ve you dealt with similar issues?