No Boy Box Needed

Stop Making My Son Such a Boy

Yes, my son is a boy. I hope he is always a boy. Not for any trans-phobic reasons one might think of, but because I would hate for my child to feel so wrong, so out of place in his own skin, that he would dare to think God made a mistake when He created him. It would destroy my heart for C to think he was incomplete in any way. He is perfect to me and I hope he loves himself the way he is. So yes, my son is a boy.

He will one day do things just because he is a boy. He will learn to pee standing up. Maybe. Perhaps I will convince him that everyone sits to pee these days. We will start a revolution. Clean toilet seats for all! But how he plays as a child, as a toddler, does not have to be one of those “boy” things.

He does not shout and run and throw things just because he is a boy. He does that because he is a child with energy and a great big world to explore. He does not love dirt just because he is a boy. He loves dirt because he is curious about how it filters through his fingers. And how it tastes. He is actually learning to garden from his mama! He does not love dogs just because he is a boy. He loves dogs because, well, who doesn’t?

My son also loves shoes. Every morning he plays in my closet and leaves a trail of my shoes from the bedroom to the kitchen. Oddly enough, he prefers mine over my husbands. He wants to put them on and take them off. He wants to toddle around in them and yet, I never hear anyone comment on his love of shoes as “such a boy thing.” In fact, I would think it stereo-typically a girl thing for a child to love shoes. If a little girl wanted to put on my heels, which my son has attempted, (he does not quite have the posture required to master the art of wearing heels) I could hear society pelting her with calls of “She’s such a girl” or “That little diva” and yet no one sees my son in my shoes and says “He’s such a girl!” because he is not a girl. He is a boy.  And he is just being a child.

Putting on mama’s shoes does not make a child more one gender than the other. He knows his shoes go on his feet and while my shoes are [much] bigger than his tiny Nikes, he sees that they are, in fact, shoes and should be on feet. I see him putting on my shoes not as a gender roll stereotype, but as a child learning about his world and putting forth effort to accomplish something he wants – even if that is simply putting on an oversized shoe.

When I was a child, I loved to climb trees in my princess dresses and pretend my hair barrettes were tiny knives. I built forts in the woods behind our house but also kept my baby dolls in pristine order. I did not do any of these things because I was a girl or a boy. I did these things because I was a child with a vivid imagination and a desire for adventure but also an appreciation for orderly things. I was not always “such a girl” but yet, I was always a girl.

Toddler shoes, Toddler play
Enjoy the peak into my sloppy closet

I have a niece who hates to be called princess and she loves dinosaurs. Does this make her any less of a girl than her princess-loving sister? Of course not. It makes them both little individuals with opinions, likes, and dislikes. Children’s activities neither determine their gender nor are they dictated by their gender. Let them be children and play as they please.

I do not want my son put into a tough-guy boy-box where his inappropriate or wild behavior is excused with a proclamation of “Boys will be boys.” I want him to be free to run wild, at time, but I also want him to learn to be gentle and kind and not throw things in my house. I want him to learn to cut the grass but also to vacuum the carpet. I want him to learn to shout but also whisper I love you and mean it. I want him to be a “such a good kid” rather than “such a boy.”

So the next time my son picks up a stick and waves it wildly around in the air while shouting, instead of seeing “such a boy,” try to see his imagination and excitement at the small discoveries in life. When he picks up a Barbie, don’t see him playing with a “girl toy,” see him pointing out the fact that she has a nose, just like he does. And shoes! oh my, the shoes!

Don’t try to make him “such a boy.” Just let him be.


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