My sweet gentle almost 4 yo son loves everything "girly". He loves princesses and fairies (but also trucks and tractors), wears his favourite pyjamas (a pink nightgown) every night (crisis if it is in the laundry!), no longer wants me to cut his hair b/c he wants it long for pigtails, and more and more asks to wear skirts and dresses (he has a 6-yo sister, so there are lots of 'girly' clothes available!). He is always playing pretend, and regularly pretends to be a girl, asking us to call him "Lily.' He very much wanted to wear a dress and a flower in his hair to church on Christmas Eve, so we let him. Both my husband and I are quite comfortable with it, we believe if there is any problem, it's with society's gender expectations, not with our little sweetheart. We have always told our three children, "There are no rules for girls and boys in this family." It may be just a phase he is going through, maybe he will always prefer more feminine things, or maybe there is something deeper starting. We're just going with the flow and letting him work out who he wants to be. BUT of course this is not as easy as it sounds in public or even with our extended families. I have already asked my father not to say anything to him about wearing a nightgown, and ever so gently defended him to my husband's grandmother when she told him a boy couldn't be a princess. Does anyone else have a child who crosses gender lines? Any advice on how to handle negative reactions from others?
4 yo boy loves everything "girly"
I think you're doing the right thing! I have a 3 year old son who wears "girly" dora shoes, likes his hair long and happily plays princesses. I honestly don't feel like it is an "issue". Our children are THEMSELVES and that's all. I LOVE how you say "There are no rules fo girls and boys in this family." Funny you mention your sons pink nightgown. We were given a big bag of handmedowns and there was a pink my little mermaid pajama set in there- he immediately stripped down and put it on, absolutely in love with it (he had never seen the movie..just loves princesses and pink!) it was a size too small, so it's been passed on to another family but he wore it for awhile.
I don't feel my son has any gender confusion- he knows he is a boy, he understands that boys have penises and girls don't but THINGS do not have a gender. I will support my son in bring his true self however that looks and defend him to the last!
I will be interested in hearing how others reply regarding dealing with negative comments/reactions from others. In our culture now more than ever things are gears ONLY toward boys or ONLY toward girls which I think is unhealthy. Children are children and any human should be free to wear or enjoy whatever they like. We had issues with my family telling my boys (now six and three) early on that they shouldn't like girls, they shouldn't play with girl toys, etc but I nipped it in the bud immediately. I know some of the extended family still talk about us but I just don't allow them in my life! My mom was jumped on board- my son is insanely in love with Dora the Explorer. He says she is his best friend. My mom made him a dora cake for his birthday and he almost had a heart attack :-D
It sounds like you have a sweet little guy there and I'm happy to see you are supporting him being his true self!
Both of my older boys went through a phase where they liked pink and girly stuff. But they never dressed as girls or pretended to be girls. Maybe I'm the odd mom, but honestly I would not allow that any way. Same for my daughter. They can like whatever they want to like, play with whatever, but dress up.. I would not be comfortable with that, just sayin...
What would you have done if they insisted on it? You say they can like whatever they life, but not dress up like a girl.. what if they felt uncomfortable NOT dressing as a girl? Are you uncomfortable with it because people would talk or because you couldn't accept a non-gender typical child? Just wondering.. I hear this response a lot actually, that's OK for a boy to play with a barbie but "no boy of mine is going to wear a dress"
IDK about you, but I would be disgusted to find my DH dressed up in my clothes. So, would you be able to marry a man, that wore dresses?
Kids don't stay kids long. This is when they are forming and learning. They will be grown before you know it and all their lessons from childhood hopefully stuck.
I honestly do not believe that its wrong to teach and guide your children.
I also *know* I'm not that odd because I've NEVER ever, not even once seen a cross dressing child. So go ahead and gang up on me if you must. It always turns into this...
I would guess that I live in a quite different social context than 3lil, for sure (a very liberal town in a very liberal state), but in my UU church (my main exposure to kids your son's age, and another layer of liberal), we have two little boys that I know of in the 3-5 age range (both with older sisters that they look up to) that regularly wear dresses/other "girly" clothing to church. Both are treated like every other child in our congregation, with love and respect.
For the record, I don't think there's a thing wrong with a man who wears dresses, or a woman who was born a man who wears dresses, or overalls, or anything she darn well pleases. And, if your son ends up in either of those categories, he's going to find lots of people in the world who love and accept him as he is.
I think the reality is, when it comes to things like gender identity or gender expression, no amount of "guidance" is going to stop your child from feeling the way that they feel. Being told it's wrong, or not allowed, is just going to mean they learn to hide who they are from you, and believe what they want and need is wrong, and internalize self-hatred. You can't shelter them from a society that's going to tell them that they "aren't doing it right," but you can have their back 100%. And it will matter....
Edited by fillefantome - 1/24/14 at 6:49am
I think people will think it's weird, but they will get over it. It's good to get this out of his system with the people who love him, before entering school and being questioned by kids who don't know him yet. (he will probably have other interests by then) So, learning the hard way from his loved ones is going to bring him along gently.
The most common thing I notice, and this tends to make the family mad is people will assume he's a girl. On more than one occasion, I have met a child who crossed gender lines, and I'll say "he" or "she" because I think the child is a boy or a girl. If I can't tell, I'll say nothing. But, I get annoyed with the parents who get angry at ME, when I was saying something nice to the child, but mistakenly said "he" or "she".
We had a neighbor kid who was all boy...the stereotypical rough boy. But, his name was Adrian, and he had waist length beautiful black hair that any woman would be jealous of. He had long beautiful eye lashes and he was just pretty. (In the 90s, unisex clothes were common) But, his mom would get really obnoxious about reprimanding anyone who suggested He was a girl. I always hated that....it's not the fault of the other kid or their parent that they can't tell the difference, so just politely correct them.
I think you are handling it all wonderfully. He will feel safe to be whoever he wants, and he can freely explore at home with you. I was very much a tomboy, and preferred comfortable clothes as a child, which meant boy's clothes. Girls clothes were not meant for playing rough. So, for many years people thought I was a boy. Even in junior high, in the winter, people still thought I was a boy because I would only wear sweatshirts instead of sweaters. It didn't bother me at all. My feelings were never hurt by other people's comments. My Mom was more bothered by it than I was. I can't remember a single incident that hurt my feelings.
Ruthie, I've met a lot of little boys who wear dresses. I've met men who freelly admit to having enjoyed wearing dresses as kids. I've watched bands of little boys in dresses playing war games. I've watched big burly men throwing around telephone poles while wearing kilts. I've also met grown men who could barely take care of themselves because they were so tightly wound up about "being manly" and not doing anything that might be construed as "girly". My opinion is that what your son is doing is normal and healthy, and that he'll be a happier healthier person throughout his life because he has parents who accept him instead of trying to mold him into their idea of who he should be based on his genitals.
So days latter we're shopping and cart by this shirt and my son expresses interest. So we stop and look at it. It's stripped with black, green, purple, and pink, lines. I tell him I'm willing to buy it for him but folks are more likely to call him a girl. He says "I don't care. I won't even correct them." Blew this mamma away. Of course I bought it for him. But such serious social understanding for such a little one. My son is 6 now has even longer hair still loves all the colors and I leave the correcting to him. Sometimes he does. Sometimes he doesn't. And no we don't live in a liberal town.
You're doing great Ruthie!
My son went through this when he was 4 years old and I supported him. He is now almost 9, healthy, adjusted, very happy, confident. He knows he is loved and supported. He looks just like a normal boy. He is interested in boy things (legos) and seems to respect girls/women. I try to talk about gender issues that come up in our context frequently with him.
I let him wear whatever he wanted. He cried for a tutu dress in a store and I bought it for him. He insisted I buy him a princess set with high heels, wand, tiara, etc. He insisted I buy him princess dolls. I did all of this.
He wore the tutu the first day of preschool. Everyone thought he was a girl. He would tell everyone that his favorite colors were pink and purple. I never reacted, just supported. I asked his preschool teachers not to laugh or say anything about the fact that his favorite color was pink (favorite color seems to come up a lot at that age).
His dad (we are not together) felt incredibly threatened. He accused me of brainwashing our son and was not supportive of what our son wanted. One day when our son was wearing his pink top with ruffles and a butterfly on it and was due at his dad's house, I said to son, "Dadda has a hard time understanding your shirt. Do you want to change your clothes?" My son said, "I WANT people to understand!!!"
A family member who has a PhD in psychology was so concerned that she pulled me aside and told me that I was setting my son up for gender confusion. I trusted my process of providing unconditional love and support instead. It strikes me that oppression and suppression of exploration could indeed create problems.
He grew out of it by the time he was 5 I think. Just an anecdote for you.
My son was a lot like this when he was 3-4. He's been outgrowing it slowly. He just turned 9 and still has long hair (like Daddy!) but now chooses "boyish" clothes purposely because he prefers that his peers recognize him as a boy and don't question him a whole lot.
His preschool classmates often asked him questions like, "Why are you wearing girls' shoes?" and a teacher taught him a good response: "It might be mostly girls who would like these shoes, but this pair is mine, so they are boy's shoes."
We frequently encountered strangers (for example, on public transit) who would refer to him as "she"; it still happens once in a while, actually just yesterday: "Oh, her hair is so beautiful! [to his shorter friend who was with us] And your hair is very cute too! Are you two sisters?" His friend just said no, and we moved on, laughing about the people who think so strongly that long curly hair means a girl that they don't notice his gray coat, black church pants, and navy blue boots.... Anyway, when he was younger and much more dressing "like a girl", he wanted me to correct anyone who used the wrong terms. I told him I would not do that unless I thought it was important; if he wanted people to know, he could tell them himself. Although we argued about this quite a bit, in the long run I think it showed him that the sex of a person does not matter all that much in casual public interactions.
How would you know? If you are in the supermarket and see a child with shoulder-length curls wearing a pink T-shirt, purple pleated skirt, and glittery shoes with ankle straps, do you assume that is a girl, or do you consider that it might be a boy? Personally, I assume it is a girl, but because I do not know for sure, I would not claim that I have never seen a boy dressed this way. It is a LOT harder to tell the sex of a child by non-genital body parts, voice, etc., than to tell the sex of an adult.
I highly recommend the blog "raising my rainbow" www.raisingmyrainbow.com to anyone and everyone. A kindergarten teacher cousin of mine sent me the link back when my son was very gender-non-conforming, and that mom's stories helped give me the language and strength I needed to deal with the very small-minded people in our very small rural town.
For my son, the hair and the skirts were just a phase- though I think he would have kept the hair if I hadn't eventually told him he would have to start brushing it himself. And he still loves pink- who wouldn't? It's a bright happy color in an otherwise dreary "boy" palette of greys and black and navy blue. KIDS WANT COLOR! All kids, not just girls!
And now? My daughter (two years younger than my son) told me a couple weeks ago that she wanted to be a boy, and would I please cut her hair and call her my son? I asked her why, and she responded that boys get to do all the fun things, like climb trees and build things and play football. I don't know where this came from, since I am the ultimate tomboy myself, and my daughter has been doing these things since she could walk. So my husband and I showed her all the female role models we could find that did those things (there are quite a few if you bother to look). She did get the haircut, and she is no longer asking to be called a boy, she is happy being a girl with short hair who climbs and plays football.
He has his own tastes and he's pretty adamant about what he likes or doesn't like. I generally let him make his own choices although I may guide him from time to time. For example, he's free to wear anything he wants at home during playtime but he must wear pajamas at bedtime. And he must wear shoes outside. And sweaters or jackets if it's cold. And some clothes are appropriate for preschool whereas others are not.
If I and my DH do not guide my sons on how to become men, who will?
I would be disgusted to find my DH dressed up in my clothes. So, would you be able to marry a man, that wore dresses?
I also *know* I'm not that odd because I've NEVER ever, not even once seen a cross dressing child. So go ahead and gang up on me if you must. It always turns into this...
This attitude is extremely damaging to boys.
. In your opinion. What if my kid only wanted to eat jelly beans and McDonalds? Is that not damaging? Now I might be the bad guy in my kids mind when I refuse to allow him to make this unhealthy choice and offer guidance to healthy choices. But ultimately I have done my job as his mother. This is essentially the same concept in my mind. If children are making choices without their parents guidance that is what is more damaging IMO
This isn't a very good analogy (bolding mine). If I made a list of foods that will best help my children have healthy bodies, jelly beans and McDonalds probably wouldn't be on it. However, in my list of lessons, guiding principles, and characteristics that will best help my children become good people, what they wear isn't anywhere close to being part of it (this applies to both my son and daughter). That my three year old son likes to dress up in fairy clothes will have no bearing on the man he will become.
OP: I wouldn't worry about your son or what others think.
EnviroBecca: I LOVE your son's preschool teacher's response. She sounds like a gem.
If my kid ONLY wanted to eat jelly beans and McDonald's, yes, I would steer him away and insist that he eat some healthy foods as well--just as I have insisted that he routinely wear the clothes he has, which are boys' and unisex clothes in my opinion, instead of toss them all aside and wear nothing but glitter tutus and high-heeled plastic shoes.
But I am happy to let my kid eat a few jelly beans or a fast-food meal once in a while, to see what they're like and to have direct experience of their effects, just like I let him go out in public wearing a skirt sometimes and experience how that changed the way people treated him. The "girls' shoes" he wore daily for a while in preschool were purple and had ankle straps, but they also had good grippy soles for rock-climbing; I would not have bought them for a child of either sex if they hadn't.
I have offered guidance about his choices, both in gender-typed clothing and in food, but I sometimes allow him to make an INFORMED choice about what he will eat or wear.