One of my son's favorite books is a flip the flap Superman book, called My First Superman Book. He's on his third copy. We got the first probably right after he turned one, and he delighted in pulling the tabs and looking underneath the flaps. To be fair, he loves all flip the flap books—I'm sure most toddlers do—but this one in specific was especially special. But being so little, he also loved to tear, and number one was soon in shambles beyond repair. I kept the pieces that are intact and stowed them away thinking they'd make cool framed pictures at some point.
Then we moved onto number two because he just really liked that book and I had ended up giving him a Batman book in the same series. This one too met an untimely end, but he was a little more careful with it. The third time around was last Christmas when he was two-and-a-half and able to understand the rules: Don't rip it. I'd have to say he's doing pretty well with it, although a little worn in some areas, he's taken care of this one. But my point isn't the Superman book or even the Batman book, it's the Wonder Woman book, also in the same series, that I also bought him more recently. I knew it existed and I kept thinking how I wanted him to understand that women could be superheroes too, so I ended up buying it for him.
He took it to his pre-school class recently and his one teacher looked up at me and said, "This is awesome." If he wanted to wear pink, I would let him too. He also thrust a pamphlet into my hand about a dance class at school, and when I asked him if he wanted to take it, he confirmed with a "Yeah, yeah," and several nods of his head. He's been taking the dance class for a couple of months now. When I went to buy him jazz shoes, the woman at the shoe store asked me if I was looking for a girl, all the while my son's hand was in mine and he was standing next to me. I was happy when I went to a different shoe store and the woman didn't bat an eyelash when I told her I needed dance shoes for my son. Boys like to dance too.
There's been stories where parents didn't tell friends what gender their baby was because they didn't want to push the child into gender roles. I'm sorry, but I think that's a bit over the top. Girls and boys ARE different. That doesn't mean one can't do something the other can and vice versa. But we're built different, we have different hormones, we have strengths that sometimes stereotypically play out. Sometimes they're the same strengths, sometimes they're different interests. But there is no shame in being different. There's also no shame in being the same.
In many ways, my son is so very much a "boy"—the dirt-love, the wrestling, the bad guy comes to take down the good guy play, the rough housing with daddy and the dog. . . I didn't put Hot Wheels in his hands until he expressed a deep interest in cars. But, his number one wish for this Christmas is a doll house. His pre-school teacher recently told me he was caring and kind. If I can raise a kind, caring, happy, self-aware and loving human being, then that's all I care about. Purple, pink, blue, cars, doll house, Superman book, Wonder Woman book . . . As long as he can be himself triumphantly, then I feel like I'm being a good mom, gender roles or no gender roles aside. He still knows he's a boy. It's a part of his growth, understanding that there is a difference. But I also don't specify whether an interest he has is "girly" or "boyish." If he wants to play dolls, go ahead. Build huge Lego towers, have fun. His father will say, "He has your heart." OR "He has my sense of humor." But there's no dwelling on where our son's interests lie. It's just about letting him have the freedom to discover who he truly is. And it's one of the most joyful aspects of parenting. So here's my poetic ode to his growth since I couldn't quickly find a poem that fit the scenario. I'm a writer, but I've never claimed to be a poet, so if you know of one better, please share.
A child stumbles and picks up the step
Walking has happened and running is next
He grows to love play, little cars run into trucks
Sesame Street happens and, at fun, Elmo is the best
The 'choo-choo' sounds from his thin little lips
Puckers, however, come from the same popsicle kiss
Wonder is written in the bright of blue eyes,
As Auntie's old dollhouse comes as a surprise
He runs fast and twirls strong
He wrestles 'Puppy' and sings songs
He likes to be the good guy of the day
He likes to dance and keep Mommy in sway
He likes to play, and it doesn't matter if it's with Peppa or Jake
He's just using his imagination or dreaming from beyond the frosted birthday cake
He knows girls are just as strong as boys in this world
Because no one has told him there's those who've thought otherwise at all
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.