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Posts Tagged ‘clothing’

May 2.5 year old daughter loves pink. And wears it a lot. What does this mean?????

ImageAlso, she’s hilarious. Thought I should mention that.

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I’ve had a few identity conversations lately with Q. Not of the “what’s your identity” type, as he doesn’t seem to have many questions around that, but more of the type that gets into the grey areas of how he plays out his preferences. Like about his hair and his clothing choices. It’s interesting to notice how ensconced he is in his staunch view that choices he makes are because he LIKES things. And that clothes should be for KIDS, not for boys or girls. And on and on down that line of reasoning. I think he’s so settled in this place, for now, that he told me today that thinking about “boys liking girl things” is sort of outside of the domain of his thought. Today I was chatting with him about The Princess Boy. And, in many ways, Q’s response was, to one extent or the other, “What’s all the hullabaloo. He’s a kid and that’s what he likes.” I’m intrigued by this all, particularly as there are still parts of who Q is that make life quite hard for him at times. Our biggest struggle of late involves locker rooms and the pain that he’s experienced there…for both being mistaken for a girl and for being questioned about his fashion choices.

 

Choices, mind you — as in, “choosing what I like to wear.” Not “choosing to wear girls’ clothes.” I appreciate that there’s a nuanced distinction for Q. And that he can voice it to a certain extent. I don’t think the world is yet that nuanced, unfortunately, but there are many paving the way. Thank goodness.

So, identity. It’s an intriguing thing.

 

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Thanks for all the congratulatory wishes on W’s arrival. More on that in days and weeks to come, I’m sure.

A few of you asked if Q is excited for the start of school, and the answer is a resounding YES! He is a school lover. In spite of the extra social pressures he feels there and the insipid need to monitor himself, he loves his school, his teachers, his friends, and, most importantly, the routine of it (he is a seven-year old, after all!). So, luckily, he’s excited.

We’ve been talking a lot about back-to-school. For us, we talk about non-traditional things, though. It’s not the type of pencils to buy, who he hopes to sit next to, or what he’ll learn in science but rather how he might respond to a kid who teases him about his newly-achieved ponytail. Or how he might respond to other children who, we learned over the summer, persisted in making him feel unsafe and uncomfortable (not just for what he chose to wear, mind you).

This year, though, I’m trying to push him a bit in these conversations. We’re talking a lot about power. To this point, Q has talked about ignoring kids who tease him, and I think this is his general M.O. But, the teasing has, in the past year, gotten the upper hand. An example or two: He was teased about wearing clips in his hair, ignored the teasing in the moment, but stopped wearing the clips. He was teased about wearing a bandana, again ignored it in the moment, but then ceased wearing said bandana and anything else pink, for that matter.

So this year, I added the layer of power to our conversation. That the teasing and teaser end up with the power if Q stops doing/wearing the thing he’s teased about. And I think he got it. At least got it on a new level. He declared that if he gets teased for his ponytail, he’ll “wear it every day for at least a week!” In my mind, that’s progress. Standing up for himself in a new way.

So, as we inch towards school, it’s with excitement, some new tools of communication and self-expression, and always with a bit of trepidation about what lies ahead. Thanks to those of you looking out for Q on this part of his journey. As always, I’ll keep you updated!

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Gender markers, that is. I’m continually fascinated by how folks read gender markers on Q. For example, this weekend, he was wearing jeans and a turquoise shirt (not too “loud” turquoise). He declared it “a blue day” — nothing about gender, just really about style. We were walking around our liberal town and he was on his scooter. His helmet, by the way, is VERY boyish — sort of monstery, in fact (who knows HOW we ended up with that style…). We passed a 3 year old in a stroller who asked her parents, “Is that a boy or a girl?” First, so intriguing that that’s the question she asked. I know that young kiddos are all about organizing their world by what’s like them and what’s not, but still…fascinating. Her mom replied, “It’s a girl.” The only clear reason I can point to for the response was the tip of purple bandana peeking out below Q’s helmet. That’s it. Just a glimpse of that marker and for sure it’s a girl in there.

Fascinating.

So fascinating, in fact, that it really makes me want to know more about how people read faces, hair, etc, as I know we as humans are “supposed” to be able to discern sex/gender by faces alone. Not sure I agree with that premise at all.

Earlier this weekend, at cello class, Q had a substitute teacher who referred to him as “she.” I stuck by our agreement not to correct, but later, when explaining what solo Q was practicing, referred to him as he. Clearly, I’m his parent. In spite of this, the teacher kept referring to Q as “she” through the rest of the class. Q was wearing brown shorts and an orange shirt. And boyish sneakers (though they do have lots of silver on them!). His shorts have the slightest gather at the pockets, which I think is the clue that they come from the “girls’” side of the aisle. I think that the gender markers that the teacher picked up on, whatever they might be, were even stronger than my referring to my own kiddo as a boy.

Again, fascinating. Clearly, we are pulled to organize our world based on how we experience our world. And we experience so much through seeing. And what we see is filtered through our stereotypes, our prior experiences, etc. It’s so interesting how much is revealed when we hear folks talk about what they see through those lenses. Suddenly, the invisible filters in our minds become highly visible. And strong. So strong that they can withstand “correction” even by the parent of a child whose gender might be in question.

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Of course we know what that pink schoolbag means...

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I’m so not a fan of “holidays” that are trumped up opportunities for commercialism. For me, Halloween is one of them, though not as bad as some.

We don’t do much in our family for Halloween, though Q usually has some sort of costume — last year, an entirely purple fairy. This year, a vampire. Mighty flexible in his presentations, that kid!

What irks me the most is how maddeningly stereotypical we (society) are about costumes and costume choices for kids. We expect boys to be pirate and girls to be princesses. Or perhaps boys to be lions and girls to be cute puppies. Or pandas. But the moment a girl dons a ghoulish costume or a boy puts on a fairy costume (or a tutu, for that matter), it’s shocking. Furthermore, that girl is accepted, and is perhaps “daring” to take on such a scary identity. The boy — the on in the fairy costume — he gets little more than sideways glances, perhaps a few whispered comments passed behind his back. Because society isn’t okay with that type of crossing the lines. Not for boys. And Halloween just turns a huge magnifying glass on those dynamics. Hence contributing to my distaste for the holiday. Call me uncool, lacking in the ability to have a good time…fine. All I’m saying is read between the lines a bit, and Halloween provides us a perfect chance to do just that.

 

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This photo fails to capture the accompanying patent leather shoes.... :)

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Q has been in an interesting phase of playing with his identity lately. I love watching this develop, as I think it’s all about the development of 5 and 6 year olds, the ego, considering oneself in relation to others, etc.

Here’s how it’s played out: Q is now very conscious, when he’s choosing his clothing, about whether he’d like to be perceived as a boy or a girl that day. If he wants to dress as a girl, he will often choose a skirt, but most definitely a sparkly headband and other acoutrements. While much  of his other clothing still has others perceive him as a girl (think string tank tops), he feels that he’s seen as a boy in the rest of his things. Most importantly, though, to him, he won’t mix and match. This is mainly in the area of accessories. Lately Q has wanted to grow his hair longer. We’ve been letting it grow a bit, but it’s quite shaggy right now. In our family, we wear thick, stretchy “yoga headbands” to keep unruly hair out of our faces. But Q will only wear those (and other headbands), if he’s dressing like a girl and wanting to be perceived as a girl.

I’m intrigued by this move to dressing in order to be perceived in a certain way. It’s moving a bit away/beyond/to a different space than just dressing because certain clothes strike Q’s fancy. I like hearing Q talk about these kinds of choices because in doing so, he really shows how much he has his finger on the pulse of gendered stereotypes and how he’ll be perceived in certain clothing. An astute boy, he is.

The yoga headband

The yoga headband

The hat

The hat

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We were talking today about going clothes shopping.

Q: “Oh! I LOVE clothes shopping!”

Me: “Do you have something in mind that you’re looking for?”

Q (considers for a bit): “Well, a few more ties. Kids’ ties. (pause) And dresses and skirts.”

How cool is that? Ties and dresses and skirts. He’s definitely got a penchant for the fancy, that one.

For a glimpse of the currently beloved tie (always worn with velvet pants), have a look at this video. A bit grainy, but nevertheless….he’s in the back row. (And yes, this is a shameless opportunity to show my pride at his cello-ing).

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Recently, we attended a family wedding. When we first told Q about the wedding, he proclaimed his desire to wear his butterfly skirt and “get all fancy.” He was excited. But it wasn’t really the kind of place where that would work. I know, I know, we could have used it as a growing/learning/pushing boundaries opportunity, but really, other peoples’ weddings are about them, not about us and I think that toning things down, for want of a better word, was totally appropriate.

So we tried to get Q excited about a tie. It could have sparkles! Or Donald Duck! Or rainbows! Or something else wacky. He wasn’t buying it. I was certain we’d have a boy in black velvet pants (fancy yet hard to discern the material from afar) and a knit shirt. Not even one with a collar, as he’s really really not into collars.

Then out comes my brother at Christmas with a tie — a green, purple, and blue tie — some great colors. He bought it, cute guy, failing to realize that it was a kids tie (he’s got his first real out of college job, so we have to cut him some slack). He asked if Q might like it. We told him perhaps, but he never got to actually ask Q.

A month or so later, the tie arrived in the mail. And gracious could this boy have been more excited?!?!? A tie from Uncle S? It was like the best, fanciest thing he had ever gotten, according to his reaction. We had to put it on IMMEDIATELY. This involved wearing a tie with a knit shirt. And me watching a video to learn to tie it (I sheepishly admit). Thank goodness for the internets.

To capitalize on this excitement, I got two button down shirts the next day and he eagerly consented to trying them on with the tie. And then practiced cello in soft pants, button down shirt, and tie. My lovely wife’s jaw dropped upon viewing him.

Fast forward to the wedding and the real point of this post (other than getting back on the blogging bandwagon which I have recently fallen off hard). Q wore his tie, his button down shirt, his black velvet pants (and his snazzy zipper boots) to the wedding. And I can’t tell you how many people said the following,

“That boy or yours is so beautiful!”

And that, my friends, is amazing. Because, yes, I think he’s beautiful all the time. He loves feeling beautiful. But boys are so rarely equated with beauty. Especially in their “male fancies,” such as ties. And it’s not that I want the world to think Q is good looking. It’s the fact that folks could look at him and reach in their hearts to name their reaction and to call it beauty. Not to say he’s handsome. Or dashing. Or good looking. Or will make all the girls swoon. Or some other gendered compliment. No, they saw beauty. Which is what I see every day, but I think it’s hard for some to name when it comes to boys.

My beautiful boy!

My beautiful boy!

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Looking, looking

Looking, looking

Yesterday Q wore a skirt to school for the first time this year. I admit that I was glad he held off until after the first week…for many reasons. There are lots of new kids in his class, and I guess I wanted them to know he’s a boy before he wore “non-boy” clothes. I know that one could argue that point, but it was a gut feeling that I had. No matter how pretty or ugly.

So yesterday, it was skirt day. Totally cool. I was, though, intrigued (and yes, nervous) to see how the kids reacted. His teachers embraced him immediately, as did a few of the parents who know him already. It was a great reception. I don’t think it really struck him as great in a different way, as it is pretty much the normal reception he gets every day: warmth, love, and a welcome.

Q then climbed up into a loft where a few kids were playing. He was aiming to join a beloved friend. As he got to the top platform in the loft, a kid Q doesn’t know too well yet flashed him “the look.” It was followed by a poke to another friend. As a mom, I knew the look. It read, “What is he wearing?!?!? That is weird and strange.” Q didn’t notice. So it was just my mama hackles that were raised, my alarm lights blinking wildly. The poked friend didn’t respond, but the newer kiddo did look right at me, since I was there helping Q get up and saying good bye. So, instead of saying anything, I gave my own version of “the look.” Having been a teacher, I have a pretty good one. I think it says, “think about what you’re doing right now; be careful.” I think the kiddo got the message. I didn’t want to talk to him, I didn’t want to call attention to Q, but I wanted to let him know I’d seen his look and give him a tiny bit of feedback.

I do think I could have had a nice chat with that kiddo, but I don’t really know him too well. And I really didn’t want to make too big a deal. And I also don’t think it was a “squash your reaction right now!” kind of look. Who knows how he took it, but he didn’t dissolve into tears or anything. Just kept playing. I think that’s how it mostly is. A kid looks at Q, perhaps has a reaction, maybe says or thinks something, but then gets back to the important stuff of learning and play.

Q’s teacher reported that she had a conversation with a second grader out at recess about Q wearing a skirt and just acknowledged to that kiddo that it’s not something we usually see but that it’s what he likes, and doesn’t he look great?. I thought that was such a great way of handling it. Perhaps that’s what I should have done in the loft. Instead, we communicated through looks. They say a lot, the looks. And often it’s “the looks” that I fear most when I’m out and about with Q and folks know he’s a boy in “girls’” clothes. But it’s me who cares, and it doesn’t seem like he notices too much. Or cares too much. Interesting how that goes.

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Recently in the land of the internet, both on blogs and a message board or two, I’ve read (and sometimes been a part of) conversations about boys who cross the boundaries of social norms. Often, parents are hesitant about what to do.

Do I let my son wear purple to school? Will he be ostracized or made fun of?

What does it mean that my son likes to play with dolls?

Are my relatives right that letting my boy wear a dress will “cause” him to be gay?

Parents worry. I worry. We all worry. And it’s because we want the best for our kids. And it can be a tough world out there, and we just want to protect these small extensions of our hearts.

In these kinds of situations, I do really think that it’s the kids who are the wisest. These boys who buck social norms have the strength to listen to their hearts and to follow them. And often, especially when they are first entering school, their peers, too, have the open-mindedness to embrace the expanded notions of gender that children can play out. When a boy enters a classroom, confidently wearing a dress, he’s taking the lead in changing our world, just one tiny step at a time. And we, as parents, can support him in doing so, thereby taking a step alongside him.

And I know, believe me, that walking alongside “world-changers” is most often harder for us parents than for our children. But I think that the parents asking questions like those above, and all of us, really do know how best to support our kids. If we’ve given them the love and acceptance to develop, for instance, into a boy who loves purple, we will know how to love them through a transition to school, through the small steps that they take to help others expand their ideas about what boys and girls can and should do or be, no matter our fears about how others might accept them.

Just going along for the ride, I am.

Just going along for the ride, I am.

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