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Is it really so awful I told my DS he could grow up to be a mommy?

post #1 of 108
Thread Starter 
When my mom was over the other day, my DS (age 3) insisted that when he grew up he was going to be a mommy. [To give you context: For a few days, DS has been telling me that he doesn't want to have any more birthdays because he doesn't want to grow up. He just wants to be three years old forever. When I talk to him more about it, he gets very teary and says that he doesn't want to grow up because he doesn't want to have to move out of our house and leave us. When he gets to this part of the story, his voice gets very quavery and teary. My DH has been living in another city and working for the past two months, and my DS is very afraid that he might get have to leave our house like his father. When we have these conversations, I tell DS that he can live in our house for as long as he wants, and we will never make him leave. But he's very, very worried. Usually, that is as far as the conversation goes, but this one time when my mom was over, DS said he was going to grow up to be a mommy.]

So when my DS told said he was going to grow up to be a mommy, I said, "Ok, you can do that," because (1) it's true and (2) I was trying to address his feelings of feeling unsafe and insecure. I think he was really trying to do was find a way to piece together a coherent story that would allow him to grow up and not be exiled from his home.

But when I said he could grow up to be a mommy, my mom said, "No he can't. You're lying to him. You need to stop that." And then my mom started trying to aggressively inculcate male/female gender distinctions into him with a bunch of aggressive questions like, "Do boy chicks grow up to be hens? No." "Do boy lions grow up to be lionesses? No.
Etc. Which was completely not what DS needed at that moment, and I should have jumped in and stopped and I regret that I didn't. He felt really upset and alienated, and confused by mom's aggressive tone

But apparently my mom is really freaked out and thinks that I am warping DS for life because I'm not shoving him as hard as I can into prescribed gender roles. I know this because she has been calling my extended family up one by one and telling them how I am warping my son.

She is citing "developmental psychology" which sounds vaguely Freudian, about the "penis phase" (?) and how I am warping him if I allow him to identify with me, his mother? According to my sister, my mother sounds genuinely upset about this stuff.

I am baffled by the strength of her reaction. Why does she care so much? She is not a religious person and does not have moral objections to homosexuality/transgender. So why is she so convinced that I'm a horrible person for letting my three-year-old entertain lots of possibilities about the world. It's true that it's unlikely that he'll grow up to be a mommy, but it's even more unlikely that he'll grow up to be president, and it wouldn't bother her one bit if he said he wanted to grow up to be president.

I feel really sad about the thought of my little boy being shoved in a gendered box, becoming ashamed of his purple parasol, hiding his feelings, pretending to be aggressive and tough. I know that's going to happen someday, and it's going to be a painful transition (because right now he so does not live up to gender norms). The last think I want to do is speed up that transition. So what if he wants to grow up to be a mommy?

I don't know how I am going to handle this. Underlying all of this is that my wish I could use my mother to babysit because she's so convenient, but that's starting to seem unlikely. DS is afraid and just wants her to leave him alone.
post #2 of 108
i agree with your mom. i don't understand how you think your son can give birth. ??? why don't you tell him he can be a daddy? im assuming that when he says he is going to be a mommy he has no intention of having his penis made into a vagina and becoming a transexual and then adopting. if that is what his intentions are, then yes, you are right to tell him that he can do that, but he can never be a mommy in the traditional sense which is what i think he probably means.
post #3 of 108
I don't think you're a horrible person or that you're warping your son. I do, however, think that you are being less than truthful with him. The fact is, he can't grow up to be a mommy unless he has some pretty significant surgery. Men who are parents are called "daddies" and women who are parents are called "mommies". Some children have two mommies (or two daddies), but that doesn't automatically transform one of the parents into the other gender, if you follow.

I personally think that a discussion of transgender surgery at age 3 might be a bit much, but it's the only honest way to tell your son that he could grow up to be a mommy, IMHO. And he can still be a daddy with a purple parasol!
post #4 of 108
Here's my take on it. My three year old dd didn't want to turn 4. I said fine, you can stay three. I told people. Dd had her birthday, but she decided to stay 3.

dd has decided she will be various animals, now alive and extinct. She's travelled the world (mostly be plane and sometimes by boat) while sitting on the bed. She's taken 54 babies with her to these far away places on special sleeper planes. She's been a mermaid and a firefighter and a vet and a midwife and a birthing woman.

Here's a response you could go with: Honey, if you still want to be a mommy when you grow up, I'm sure we'll figure out a way. But you'll always be my baby.

Have a talk with your mom and tell her you believe that imagination is critical to his development. It's normal for her to worry about her grandchildren, but please don't contradict you in front of your kids again. You'll be happy to talk over any concerns she has away from the kids.
post #5 of 108
Well, I think I'm with the OP, not because of concern about gender issues -- but just because sheesh, he's 3, he'll figure out what he can and can't do soon enough, why not just say sure? Why does a 3 year old need to have these limits placed on him, if he said he wanted to live on the moon when he was grown up would you launch into a big lecture about how it's highly unlikely? No.
post #6 of 108
Quote:
Originally Posted by chfriend View Post
Here's my take on it. My three year old dd didn't want to turn 4. I said fine, you can stay three. I told people. Dd had her birthday, but she decided to stay 3.

dd has decided she will be various animals, now alive and extinct. She's travelled the world (mostly be plane and sometimes by boat) while sitting on the bed. She's taken 54 babies with her to these far away places on special sleeper planes. She's been a mermaid and a firefighter and a vet and a midwife and a birthing woman.

Here's a response you could go with: Honey, if you still want to be a mommy when you grow up, I'm sure we'll figure out a way. But you'll always be my baby.

Have a talk with your mom and tell her you believe that imagination is critical to his development. It's normal for her to worry about her grandchildren, but please don't contradict you in front of your kids again. You'll be happy to talk over any concerns she has away from the kids.
I love this!

It is true that your boy could gro up to be a mommy even without surgery (not sure why people are saying that!). I'd say your mom may be picking up on some of your son's natural uneasiness--which I find quite common in 3yr olds because they're not quite babies and not quite kids and it's scary for them. So she thinks she's settling his insecurities by imposing strict codes and ideas on him. It's probably time to let your son know that everyone has different ideas and he is just as free to come up with his own and you'll support him. It sounds like you are doing wonderfully at not limiting his ideas and thoughts due to our adult preconceptions, which totally rocks!
post #7 of 108
Unless your ds has specific understanding of the biological ins and outs of reproduction, which I doubt he does at 3 yo, he is most likely desiring the maternal nuturing role when he says he wants to grow up to be a Mommy. I have no idea about your particular family situation (SO, DH,) and again IMO, I don't think it matters, but if your SO/DH has a breadwinning position and is out of the house to work, your ds might just be wanting a "stay at home mommy" role. We all know that there are SAHD's. Or dc might just be going through a developmental phase of being very attached to you and wants to be just like you when he grows up. I wouldn't let your mom get caught up on the gender assignment of "mommy" and "daddy," but rather have her look at the sentiments and emotions under it. Do you have any brothers and/or nephews or is your mom only used to raising girls? Maybe she doesn't understand little boys. Does she also have issues with boys who play with dolls, play with kitchen sets, or other traditionally girl items?

If it makes you feel any better, my ds went through a phase of this on and off from about 3 to 4.5. At 5.5, my ds gets a big kick out of dressing like daddy and now wishes to be an astronaut when he grows up. My brother went through a phase where he would steal my underwear when he was about 8 years old. He is now happily married, has 2 children and owns his own successful business.

I definitely think your mom is overeacting and I think more damage can be done by trying to "correct" your ds' thinking by telling him that he can never be a mommy. He'll get it later on that he will never be able to birth a child, but at 3, I'd let it ride.
post #8 of 108
Tell Grandma to back off and talk to YOU later, and STOP talking to your family. She is being a bad busy body.

I don't think you should say very much to a child at all about this. I would and will address this issue with my son the same way I addressed it with my daughters. When they told me they were going to grow a beard, I told them "okay you do that."

Or when my DD2 told me she was a boy (she likes to tease, so it is mostly just her teasing and playing with gender concepts as being funny) I looked at her and said, "REALLY? Wow. Where is your penis?" She thought that was HILARIOUS. You could do the same with your son, if he has been introduced to what vaginas are for (mine have).

One doesn't need to correct gender play - just like my daughters won't probably grow beards, your son isn't going to be incubating a baby anytime soon. Their understanding of reality will grow with them, regardless of grandma's Freudian Temper Tantrum.
post #9 of 108
My dd wants to grow up to be a fairy princess. Do I sit her down and tell her no, dear, that's simply not realilstic....? Good grief, no! No doubt, soon enough, she'll figure out that this will not be her ultimate destination, but why why why should I dash her dreams now? There is no harm in letting your ds pretend that he will grow up to be a mommy. I will bet that at some point he changes his mind.
post #10 of 108
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeannie81 View Post
i agree with your mom. i don't understand how you think your son can give birth. ??? why don't you tell him he can be a daddy? im assuming that when he says he is going to be a mommy he has no intention of having his penis made into a vagina and becoming a transexual and then adopting. if that is what his intentions are, then yes, you are right to tell him that he can do that, but he can never be a mommy in the traditional sense which is what i think he probably means.
Ah, he is 3. I don't think he REALLY wants to grow up to be a mommy. Why not just let him be a 3 year old and think in the way a 3 year old thinks? Of course he isn't making lifelong plans, he is just seeing the world through 3 year old eyes. So shaming him for these feelings is better than allowing him age appropriate thoughts and behaviours? My 3 year old is pretty convinced he is growing a baby because I am pregnant. I don't think he really thinks he is going to give birth, he is just excited and identifying with me/my pregnancy the way a 3 year old does. Imagination and reality are so inter-mingled at this age that most kids don't think in rational (to grown ups) way anyway. That is part of the beauty and magic of childhood!

OP, I think it is wonderful that you are so open and accepting of your ds' feelings. I wouldn't be too hard on yourself for not saying anything to your mom at the time, it can be hard. Next time you will be more prepared
post #11 of 108
Quote:
Originally Posted by FreeRangeMama View Post
Ah, he is 3. I don't think he REALLY wants to grow up to be a mommy. Why not just let him be a 3 year old and think in the way a 3 year old thinks? Of course he isn't making lifelong plans, he is just seeing the world through 3 year old eyes. So shaming him for these feelings is better than allowing him age appropriate thoughts and behaviours? My 3 year old is pretty convinced he is growing a baby because I am pregnant. I don't think he really thinks he is going to give birth, he is just excited and identifying with me/me pregnancy the way a 3 year old does.
who said anything about shaming him?
post #12 of 108
Well, I'm with the PP who said boys who have kids are called daddies. But I know what you mean about people inculcating gender roles. I got very uncomfortable at my friend's house when she started quizzing her 2.5 yo DS on the genders of all their friends and family (none of whom are ambiguous or trans). Like it's some big deal and crucial that he have it exactly right (and like he can't figure it out on his own, anyway?)...I love my friend to death but if she started that line of questioning with my own kid I would have slapped her silly. Oh yeah and she also told him that the reason not to mess with my ball of yarn (when the real reason was that it was interfering with my knitting) was that yarn is for girls....:
post #13 of 108
I have had prescribed gender role issues with my DH regarding our 6 yo son, so I can kind of relate to where you are. You did the right thing. Don't allow other people to force you into pigeon holing your son. By the time he hits 18, and older, he will have changed his mind 8 bazillion times as to what he wants to be when he grows up. Trust your mommy instinct, there is nothing wrong with what you said to him.

Namaste,

Michelle
post #14 of 108
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeannie81 View Post
who said anything about shaming him?
Well, the OP seemed to imply that grandma giving him the third degree about hens and chicks was a negative experience for him, which seems kind of like "shaming" to me.
post #15 of 108
my ds1 is in a current phase of "I'm mommy, you are Anthony". He is exploring roles and imagination.

I don't think you did anything wrong by saying "yes, you can be a mommy when you grow up." I agree with PP that your child was most likely NOT asking about conceiving, gestating and birthing a child, but rather asking about BEING LIKE YOU.

Have you talked with your mom about why she interpreted his comments so literally or so passionately, or why she felt it was so important to dispell his desires on this topic? I think it could be a very interesting conversation, espeically if you raise alternative perspectives on what is his TRUE question - i.e. can I grow up like you?

Gender is a very very important topic in this world - I think discussing how it influences us is critical to understand our assumptions and biases.

Siobhan
post #16 of 108
In our culture, mommies are different from daddies in more ways than giving birth or nursing. Shouldn't be, but is.

So it's really quite understandable if your son specifically chose the role of mommy instead of daddy - he wants to be the things that he considers to be a mommy role, possibly comforting, encouraging, spending a lot of time, whatever "mommy" means to him. To him, "Mommy" probably doesn't mean "a person with a vagina who copulates with a male, grows a fetus and gives birth through said vagina," lol.

Gender "confusion" is very common at this age, and nothing to be concerned about.

My husband recalls being afraid as a small child that he would have to give birth, and he was relieved when he was told he wouldn't/couldn't.

The whole Freudian thing is, I believe, why boys and men are having such trouble these days. Boys without positive and strong (meaning their presence is strong rather than fleeting) male role models aren't able to understand what it means to be a man, a daddy, etc. As the only alternative, they then REJECT all things female. Therefore a man is a NOT-WOMAN. Whatever a woman does, a man must not do. Boys must reject their mothers, rather than embrace their fathers. This is not healthy for either sex.

I don't know how to undo the damage your mother did, as your son almost certainly understands there is something wrong here. It seems that some people feel you shouldn't have allowed your son to believe he could be a mommy (I don't agree) but either way, your mother almost certainly did some damage in her response.

I'd like to add that many young children think they can grow up to be dinosaurs or whatever, and nobody gets upset.

Your son is not going to grow up to think he can give birth just because you reassured him he could do something he categorized as being a mommy when he was 3 years old.

Maybe just have a laugh with your son about how grandma is scared about some things, and of course he can be a mommy, and we call men who are mommies "daddies."

ETA: Wow, this was a hot topic. As I wrote my reply, many others replied right before me. Some had the same ideas as me. Some had better ideas. I'll leave my post stand anyway.
post #17 of 108
Obviously your mom got a button pushed, and of course your son really can't grow up to be a mommy, but geez, mom, pick your battles. I mean technically it IS telling your son a "lie," I'm pretty sure I would at least have started out with "Well, boys can grow up to be daddies," but we are going through an "insisting" phase right now so I'm pretty sure that if my son had gotten upset, I too would have just conceded the point and left the discussion for some other year (if ever!).

I don't see why your mother is suddenly out as a caregiver. If there have been no other problems in the past and you can talk about it with her privately, I don't know why there would be an issue.

I understand where you're coming from about mothering a son and disliking the gender boxing that goes on. I don't want anybody to make fun of my sweet little sensitive guy either. But I think that one of my duties as his parent is also to help him navigate the big bad gender-defined world with grace and be accepted in it. Age 2 (mine) and age 3 (yours) are too young to hit them with lots of explanations of gender expectations and who can biologically be a mommy or daddy -- but when they're feeling secure, I think it's OK to be honest with them. Careers are not gender-dependent; the names of parents are. Favorites (colors, foods) are not gender-dependent, but sometimes people think they are and it's OK to stand up for yourself -- that kind of thing.
post #18 of 108
Quote:
Originally Posted by jeannie81 View Post
i don't understand how you think your son can give birth. ???
What does giving birth have to do with being a mommy? I've very offended by this. Yes, I gave birth to all 3 of my boys, but I don't think that makes me "more" of a mommy than if I'd adopted them.
post #19 of 108
Quote:
Originally Posted by dancingmama View Post
No doubt, soon enough, she'll figure out that this will not be her ultimate destination, but why why why should I dash her dreams now? There is no harm in letting your ds pretend that he will grow up to be a mommy.
ds walked into my office, picked up a breastpump, put it to his breast and said "I'm pumping milk!". He sometimes nurses his toy bears and cars.

It was cute and not needing any sort of intervention, in my opinion. Does he need to know that he will never be able to lactate? Why? He is three. I just thought it was great to see a mini-lactivist at work.
post #20 of 108
I don't think you did anything wrong. He really can be ANYTHING he wants when he grows up, even a mommy. There are plenty of transsexual men out there, probably a few mommies as well!
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