When I was almost a mom, preparing to adopt our daughter, I told my dad all about my plans for my child.
In my house, my daughter would play with blocks, legos, and Tonka trucks. She would wear overalls and play in the mud.
Oh, sure, she’d have dolls and dresses, but I was determined to expose her equally to toys that are traditionally separated by gender.
I told my dad that it’s all about nuture.
I told my dad that it’s a myth that boys are different than girls in any innate sense. I based this on the fact that I love backpacking (and my brother Jeff loves hotels) despite my dad’s every effort to put backpacking in the Boy Category along with burning stuff, cutting stuff, burping, and getting dirty.
My dad laughed at me.
I was offended. Offended in only the way that the Righteous can be offended.
I proceeded with my gender-neutral child rearing plan knowing that only my results would validate my plan and eagerly anticipating the day my dad would eat his words.
When my daughter turned two, she was old enough to verbally express herself.
That was the end of overalls. Only dresses and tights would do.
A year later, when she went to preschool, her teacher suggested that she wear pants so she wouldn’t burn her wee little legs on the metal playground slide. I no longer knew how to make her wear pants. I finally found pants with flowers and ribbon and lace. I called them Princess Pants and spent two weeks convincing her that Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Ariel, and Snow White would SURELY wear pants like these. No dice. Thank goodness for poofy-pants-wearing Jasmine, without whom my daughter would never have worn her Princess Pants and would never have met her preschool slide.
At age 3.5, my daughter picked a favorite movie. Sleeping Beauty. I’ve watched it 57,218 times. I can still sing “I Know You” word for word while pretending to waltz through the forest (my living room) with an owl in a hooded cloak (Winnie the Pooh and a towel). Now that my daughter is 12, it humiliates her. I consider it payback for the 114,436 hours I’ll never, ever get back.
The only redeeming quality of Sleeping Beauty is that my daughter used to call it Seeping Booty. Which is disgusting, but awesome.
I did not, however, admit to my father that he was right. No matter the tights. No matter the dresses. No matter the Princess Pants. No matter the Seeping Booty.
After all, my daughter could have been an anomaly.
I needed a bigger test sample.
Now I have five kids. I have all the test sample I’m ever gonna get.
As evidence that I’m right, I offer the following:
- Although Aden, my 9-year-old daughter, insists on having long, “princess” hair and loves dresses, she also thoroughly enjoys being filthy and wrestling with the boys.
- Although Ian, my socially-aware 11-year-old son, insists on saying, “Ew, that’s a girl thing!” about just about everything his older sister loves doing, it doesn’t seem all that long ago (6 years, to be precise) that he was begging her to paint his nails and do his hair, too.
- Although Cai and Cael, my 4-year-old twin boys, insist on marking our entire backyard with their personal hoses (Seriously, God? You gave little boys their own hoses?), they do like playing dress-up:
Unfortunately, I got some tough news last week. News that undid all my feelings of successful gender-inclusion.
Enter my twin 4-year-old boys and their 3-year-old boy cousin.
They play together regularly, nicely, actively and rambunctiously.
They have great ideas for games. They build forts, slide down my stairs, jump off the furniture, throw things, and they think that tooting and burping are the funniest things in the world.
Last week’s latest and greatest activity?
Cael, to the other two: Hey! Guys! Come watch the poop come out of my butt!
And, of course, they did. Because they’re boys. And boys do stuff like that.
That right there is the boy version of Seeping Booty.
For your information, I told them never to do that again. I don’t expect them to listen to me, but I couldn’t help myself. I’m a girl, and we tell boys stuff like that.
So, Dad, here it is in writing.
You were right. I was wrong.
Yeah, actually… me, too.
P.S. I don’t love backpacking. I thought I did. I was wrong about that, too. I can’t shave my legs while backpacking, and I like shaving my legs. You know that canoe camping trip, Dad? The one with mattresses, cast iron skillets, gourmet food and magnums of wine? The one where you have to take more stuff than you can use because the canoe needs ballast? The one where I can shave my legs? Yeah, I wanna go on that one. The one for boys and girls. Hey – I may be wrong, but I never give up.