Joshua will be turning three years old in a few months and before he was even born people have been determined to treat him like a ‘proper boy’ (what even is that?). Before Joshua was born we always knew that the thing we would hate about raising a child would be how others treat him because of what’s between his legs. Society was gonna try to restrict him and influence his personality, based on the fact that he’s a boy. That’s the one thing I dreaded about having a child – trying so hard to raise our son being free to explore the world in his own special way for people to then try and undo it all.
When we were about to tell everyone that we were having a little boy we were, of course, excited and happy but we both had this underlining dread – we knew what was coming. Shortly after, we were gifted with a lot of clothes, toys and little keepsakes and while we appreciated all of these gifts, you couldn’t help but notice that absolutely everything was blue (blue vomit everywhere!) and we hated it. We hated it because they let our son’s genitals influence what they bought.
Now that Joshua is a bit older, we allow him to choose out his own toys, clothes, shoes… essentially everything that reflects his personality and identity. Most people would agree that this is perfectly fine because he knows what he likes. However, a lot of these people soon change their mind once they find out that we don’t stop him from picking out anything. Whether it’s blue, pink, cars, dolls, Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol… he can have whatever it is he prefers.
People only seem to like that we give Joshua this freedom until they realise just how varied his interests are. Essentially, freedom is good until it’s truly freedom. The only freedom society is comfortable with is when it’s still what they deem gender appropriate. Joshua’s most favourite toys are diggers, cars, anything Paw Patrol but he also loves make-up, dresses, heels, dolls and Peppa Pig – and we encourage it all.
Over the past (almost) three years we have had people refuse to buy him ‘girl things’ (ugh), tell him that he needs a hair-cut because boys have short hair, that he shouldn’t watch My Little Pony because it’s for girls, refuse to buy him Peppa Pig things because they were pink (despite knowing that it was his favourite thing in the world and would have loved it!) and reward him when he ‘acts or behaves like a boy’. We’ve even been shopping with people and when we have let Joshua pick out a toy, they’ve tried directing him towards something Marvel, Thomas the Tank or blue because the alternatives weren’t to their liking or comfort. They didn’t consider our sons feelings, what he likes or his personality.
It has always been important for us as a family to never put restrictions onto Joshua and these restrictions work both ways. We don’t refuse to buy Joshua blue things or anything that is typically ‘boy’ focused, just as we don’t automatically steer away from purchasing anything pink or typically ‘girl’ focused. When we shop, we walk around both ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ aisles and buy whatever it is that we know Joshua would like. We also don’t label or gender anything, because to us nothing is gendered.
We want nothing less than for our son to be allowed to freely explore the world around him and to develop his own personality and identity, but other people don’t seem to share that idea. All we want is to give Joshua the option of choosing for himself rather than restricting or steering him to ‘boy’ things (because in our eyes, they don’t exist).
Joshua has a mixture of both ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ toys and clothes. While his wardrobe is mainly t-shirts and jeans (because that’s what he likes) we don’t restrict ourselves, or him, to choosing from just the ‘boy’ aisle. We will buy whichever clothing Joshua picks out. Joshua owns a dress, a tutu, ‘girl’ t-shirts and trousers as well as ‘boy’ clothing.
What I will never understand is why everything has to be so gendered in the first place. What do we get from restricting our children? Does it even matter what they’re into? Can we not all agree that they are JUST colours and pieces of material?
Joshua has no idea that people label clothes, toys and essentially everything into categories based on gender and when the time comes we hope that he sees it as the silly and potentially harmful idea that it is. Children are growing up being restricted from wearing and playing with whatever they like as well as being expected to go into certain careers and having particular hobbies.
We should be teaching our children how to be free, live and explore in their own unique way. Whatever our children are into or passionate about should be encouraged, never restricted.