I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cross-dressing at any age

This is NOT a picture of my two daughters. This is a picture of one daughter and one son - yet they are both wearing dresses! Jackson's secret is out... he wears girls' clothing. But in my book, he has an older sister and that's exactly what one should expect.

And this picture looks ordinary until you see that Jackson has fairy wings over his sweatshirt. (Although, it seems perfectly okay with another team sweatshirt - I would never dare with a Pittsburgh team.)

Jackson constantly wants to do whatever it is that Ayla (or for that matter, myself or Gregory) is doing. He wants to look at books, play with markers, brush his hair, unload the dishwasher - as long as someone else in our home is doing it. He's smack in the middle of the imitation phase. He likes to put on makeup with me when I'm getting ready and wear the pink flamenco dress when it makes Ayla happy.

I'm sure some people would have a problem with this.
Boys should be boys!

But my question is: why? Why do boys have to be boys and girls have to be girls? What does that mean? Should I be encouraging stereotypes? Isn't it a waste of my time to push my kids' personalities into tiny, definable squares?

When I was first pregnant with Ayla and we had decided not to find out the sex of the baby before s/he was born, I heard a lot of complaints. People were dumbfounded that I could proceed with planning for a child without knowing whether I was having a boy or girl. I can understand the argument of just not being able to wait - the anticipation is intense. I get that. But when people told me that we should find out just so I could decorate the baby's room... that seemed so shallow and minimally important. Really? I'm going to give birth and become a parent, but I should really be focusing on either a pink or blue paint color.

Our non-decision to keep it a mystery has worked out. When I became pregnant with Jackson, sure we had a lot of pink clothing - but we also had tons of greens and yellows! We had toys that would suit either a boy or girl.

I've never understood the intense desire some parents have to have BOYS and GIRLS. And by that I mean, boys can only express themselves in masculine ways, and so on for their daughters. Baby girl clothing is covered in frills and bows (which are pretty damn adorable), but baby boy gear almost always has something to do with sports. I don't find this over-generalization very cute.

We give our kids toys based on what they seem interested in - not what WE think they should be interested in. Yes, Ayla has tutus and Jackson has cars. But they are also interchangeable toys that they both enjoy.

I sometimes get the question, "Have you found that it's different raising a boy after having a girl?" Yes, sure I have -they're two different people. But not because of their gender. It's in fact, the opposite of what one would expect. Ayla is a the jumping-off-furniture daredevil and Jackson is a timid, cuddle bug who likes necklaces. I think this would cause anxiety in a family of severe male/female gender roles - but thank God that isn't us.

So, the secret is out - I let my son wear dresses. I let Ayla be gross and "unladylike" in our house. My two children are just people, trying to figure out what they like. Who am I to push either princesses or footballs? Let them decide for themselves.


  1. love this post, Alexis! So true! There is enough to worry about in the world that daughters playing with trucks and sons playing dress-up should never be a concern. rock on you inspirational mother you :-)

  2. Right on!

    The way I figure it, they will get plenty of gender socialization outside of the home, no need to pile on.

    The weird thing is that, for the most part, it wouldn't even occur to me to press certain things on her. Someone anxiously asked Sara once, "When did she start doing 'girl things'?" Sara was like, "Uh..." I mean, Evie's a girl, so by definition, anything she does is a girl thing, right?

    It's weird how people press things on your kids. And by things, I mostly mean princesses. Evie has 0 desire, and why would we want her to? Why even bring it up? People have this weird proudness, where they force their kids to have everything princess, and then they roll their eyes and say, "Oh everything just *has* to be princesses with her." They act put out, but they're clearly very proud that their daughter is so girly. Evie is more likely to identify with the cat in the story, then the princess.

    I'm sure there is more pressure with boys. It's somewhat okay for a girl to be a tom-girl, but a boy doing something girly? Watch out! So we'll see how that goes.

    Also, I talk a good talk, but I'm sure I fall into the trap sometimes too. For example, it really used to bother me when Evie was an infant and people would say she looked like a boy. (But she's wearing pink shoes!)

  3. People that don't look for ANY gender clues when commenting on an infant are just self-absorbed! I mean, we want our babies to look either female or male, right? That's why we put identifying markers like pink shoes!

    But, on the same note, Jackson has always worn hand-me-down pink pajamas. I should have mentioned that in the blog because people seem to have issues with it. Am I ruining his life? No, I'm just not in love with spending money on things I don't really need.

    Yes, there are princesses in our house - but some are "cool" princesses like Mulan (who clearly has her own gender identification!)