Navigating Gender "Norms" as a Parent

Thursday, February 4, 2016

One of the most frustrating things when I was pregnant, was finding gender neutral clothes and baby items. We didn't find out the gender of our twins until our 20 week Level 2 ultrasound at the Maternal Fetal Medicine doctor. But, as every parent is, we were eager to buy new things for our two bundles of joy (buying for baby is exciting!). As soon as you walk into a Carter's or any baby store, really you're immediately faced with a decision: walk one way for GIRL stuff and walk another way for BOY stuff. You had to dig around for clothes that weren't obvious "pink" or "blue," not that either gender couldn't wear those colors - but where's the section for non-gender conforming babies?

The day we found out we were having two girls, we were shocked. For some reason we thought there was at least a boy in my belly and the thought of twin girls really never crossed our minds! But we were super excited because we KNEW what section of the store we could go crazy in! We ended up dropping $80 on our first gender-known shopping trip - mostly in the girls section, but still looking for items that were gender neutral too. I remember a specific time being out shopping for the girls and wandering to the "boys" section and found an adorable pair of black and white space/planet pjs. We didn't buy them because they didn't have our size, but I realized how eff-ed up these gender norms really are. Why can't girls like planets and space? Why is that a "boy" thing? We ended up nabbing two pairs of fleece "puppy print" pjs from the boys section because girls can like puppies too.

Recently, gender categorizing is something that's frequently in my life. I have one baby with flowing locks of hair and people immediately point out that she's a girl - they KNOW she's a girl (based on her hair) and I have never (ok maybe once when she was super tiny) had anyone call her a boy. Her sister, my sweet Holland, however, is just starting to grow her hair in and she gets called a boy on a daily basis. It doesn't bother me that people refer to her as a boy (because being a boy or a girl is not a bad thing) but what's infuriating is that they associate lack of hair which gender ... even if she is full-on wearing all pink. I constantly get the "Twins?! How awesome that you have one of both!" to which I always respond, "Well, they're both girls ..." So, is not awesome if I have two children of the same gender?
Typical day at the grocery store when Holland gets called a boy. :)

I'm not hung up on gender identity myself. My girls are girls until they tell me otherwise - and if they are in fact boys in a girls body, then we will figure that out when the time comes and it will be okay. They have your typical "girl" toys at my home - a kitchen (which is pink because I found it on Facebook garage sales for $20!) because I think it's important they play chef ... boys and girls can cook! Mommy cooks! They have baby dolls and strollers ... because they want to be like mommy and I think it's important for them to learn to be a good parent. But they also have blocks and trucks and cars, etc. I recently picked out a puzzle for them and purposely chose the one with trucks on it (it's a matching puzzle) because girls can like trucks and emergency vehicles. It's important for them to know what those vehicles are too!

Harper and her school bus!
I think it's important for parents to foster creativity in their children's lives and to not limit them to "boy" stuff and "girl" stuff - we determine that, right? Who cares if your son plays with a doll - don't you want him to grow up and become a great daddy and help his partner care for their child? Who cares if your daughter plays with trucks - maybe she'll become a mechanic or an engineer! They're kids! Let them use their imagination! Let them not have their interests dictated to them by companies that are gender conforming! And for the love of all that is Holy, let's not let hair dictate gender either.

Stacking blocks at the library!
Sound off! How to do you feel about gender norms for children? Do you support pink/blue for girl/boy or are you on the "whatever goes" team? I'd love to hear back from you!

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