I am not someone who has a natural rapport with kids. I’ve never known what to do with them and my interactions always feel forced and awkward. When I found out I was pregnant with our first baby, it was difficult to envision myself as a parent. I naturally assumed we would have a girl because well, I’m a girl. I figured that because I grew up a girl and partook in girly things it would be easier to relate to a little girl. You can probably imagine where I’m going with this…
Sure enough, at our 20-week ultrasound there was no mistaking- I was quite clearly growing a baby boy in my uterus. It was kind of a religious experience for me- I wanted a girl, but I felt that God knew I needed a boy. I am a child of divorce, as well as a survivor of domestic violence from my Mom’s second marriage. To say that I had my share of trust issues with men would be an understatement. So I felt that it was my duty to raise my son to be a kind, gentle, and compassionate feminist.
I wholeheartedly believed in gender as a social construct; that boys will play with Barbies just as quickly as girls will play with trucks, if given the opportunity. Although I did my best to steer my oldest son toward gender-neutral toys like musical instruments, blocks, books, do you know what he was drawn to? Our lawn mower. Or any lawn mower, for that matter. Our vacuum. Trucks. Trains. Tools. My gender theory was blown out of the water. I realized that there is something about boys that are drawn to things that go “Vroom!”
This realization has completely altered the way I parent. I thought that by avoiding not-specifically blue or pink-marketed toys, I was giving him the freedom to be whoever he wanted to be. In actuality, my preoccupation with steering him away from traditional “boy” things was a refusal to acknowledge that who my son is, is a little boy through and through. So this Christmas, Charlie will unwrap his very own miniature drum set, but he will also unwrap a play toolbox and train set. Because I’m learning to accept that my little boy can love mowers, and motorcycles and wants to hammer ALL THE THINGS, and still be a kind, gentle, and compassionate feminist.