Monday, August 19, 2013

Boy, Oh Boy*

Sometime during my pregnancy my husband and I decided we didn't want to know what the gender was of our little Sprout. We wanted to be surprised. Of course we didn't really care what the gender was, as long as we had a healthy baby, but deep down inside I knew I had a baby boy. I just knew it. I wouldn't have cared if baby had come out a girl but I would have been surprised. I vowed to myself that no matter what I would never thrust gender roles or gender stereotypes on my child(ren). My sons would play with dolls and my daughters would play with action figures. Everyone would love blue as well as pink and "boy things" and "girl things" would have no place in our house! I used to secretly roll my eyes whenever I heard a mom talk about her son being "such a boy" or "all boy". "Right," I would think. "Only because you have shoved 'boy things' in his face since birth." I honestly thought these often gender-defining characteristics of loving loud, mechanical, dirty things were 100% nurture and not at all nature. That would never be something I would say because MY son would play house and paint his nails and paint neatly and love his baby doll. And then I had my son.

My son, BC, is fifteen months old. He does have a baby doll that he does love. Here are some of the things he also loves: tractors, semi trucks, dump trucks, regular trucks, motorcycles, lawn mowers, edgers (one of his first clearly articulated words), insects, bugs, gooey things, trains, Bob the (for the love of god) Builder, sand, mud, dirt, and his penis.

BC fell in love with lawn mowers and edgers while staring out our front window and watching our neighbor obsessively mow and edge his lawn (3 times a week, roughly). I'm not sure what first sparked his obsession with tractors. He didn't own a single tractor or even remotely tractor-shaped toy until he lifted one from my husband's parents house last month. As for dirt, well, that's been a solid relationship for him pretty much since birth - much like the one he has with his penis. I didn't set him in front of all of these quote unquote boy things, dress him only in blue, and make him practice until he perfected the subtle differences in the sounds of heavy machinery. I just followed his lead which, it turned out, went directly down Boy Alley.

It's not that I'm concerned about BC's overtly "boy" interests. It's just that, while fretting over the idea of his identity being defined by his gender and of him only being exposed to "boy things", it never occurred to me that he would gravitate towards those things himself. And if I am to let my son be my son, to not interfere with who he innately is, if I am to allow his interests to lead him and encourage him to trust and follow those interests, then I need to be okay with whatever those interests may be. I wanted so badly to be the mom who encouraged her son's love of thing that defied stereotypes that I forgot to be the mom who encouraged her son's love of whatever he chose. That's a hard one to swallow. Since I'm new at this, I'll cut myself a break.

*In writing this post I realize I take the terms "gender", "boy", and "girl" quite prescriptively. I understand the complexities behind gender identity are vast and I have over-simplified them here. My apologies to the LGBT Community, whose members are heroic.