Gender Neutral

My son is over two years old now, and aside from a very minor trim session (not a double-entendre), he’s never had his hair cut. His hair is quite long and very curly, and as a result, strangers occasionally mistake him for a girl.

The first ten times it happened, I was annoyed. But eventually it got me thinking:

Would my son make a good-looking girl? Would my life be different if I had a daughter instead of a son?

The answer to the first question is an unequivocal YES. He would be a beautiful little girl. He has perfect skin, gorgeous hair, and absurdly long eyelashes. Pretty sure he’d be walking runways, if he were a she. kitchen, toys, toy kitchen, gender roles, sexuality, stereotypes, trucks, dolls, sons, daughters, boys, girls

The second question is more complicated. I only have the one kid, so obviously I’ve only done the son thing. But even without having a daughter, I’m pretty sure the early stages of raising a girl aren’t all that different from the early stages of raising a boy. The first few months are a total wash (literally; you’ll be doing laundry NONSTOP for the first year at least). Once the personality starts to emerge, it starts out pretty gender neutral and likely remains that way until about the year-and-a-half mark. That was when my son started doing more boy-centric stuff.

He’s barely over two and he’s just now really getting into cars and trains and playing catch and etc. But he also loves his stuffed animals and plays with my wife’s makeup brush and occasionally wraps things around his neck like a boa. So while he’s been gravitating towards more stereo-typically male interests, there’s still a bit of overlap. Which is totally fine; he’s two! And my wife and I try not to stifle any instinct he may have, one way or the other. He’ll figure himself out, eventually, and we’re not going to stand in his way. After all, I’m at home all day doing women’s work, so what right do I have to limit his choices?

So when he seemed to really enjoy a friend’s play kitchen, despite objections from some traditionalists in our circle, we got him one. And when he wants to play catch with his little football, we let him. Maybe he likes trucks and fire engines more than the average girl, but it also seems like he likes to dance more than the average boy. Parents seem to agree that boys are dirtier and more rambunctious, which may be true; my son is certainly a bit of a spaz these days. And he is usually pretty filthy. But he also HATES when his hands get dirty, whether it’s from eating or playing in the sand or picking his nose, and begs us to clean them off immediately. I’m not actually sure if that’s a gender-based thing or just common sense. Sticky hands are nasty!

The TV shows and music he likes are pretty gender neutral too, or so I assume. Every kid likes Elmo, right? And Yo Gabba Gabba is pretty devoid of any gender signifiers, unless you want to have a discussion about the geometry of Moono. (I do not.)

I really feel like the only thing that would be significantly different about having a two-year-old daughter would be the clothes she would wear, and that wardrobe would largely be under my wife’s control (and full of dresses and hats and sparkly things). I’d also guess that a little girl might be more into princesses than superheroes, but that needn’t be the case. To be honest, I’d make damn sure my daughter liked Superman, regardless of whether she liked Cinderella too. The same way my wife is going to make sure my son enjoys musicals, even though I’m pretty sure Die Hard will be his favorite movie. These things needn’t be mutually exclusive.

gender, hair, haircut, toddlers, parenting, parents, dads, boys, sons, girls, superheroes, sports
He’s mad, I tell you! MAD!
We really don’t care about our child’s gender; we just want it to be happy. If that means veering outside the lines of stupid, often arbitrary gender assignations, so be it. It’s not our job as parents to decide who our son will be; it’s our job to help him become the best version of that person. So he’ll get exposure to a whole world of interests, regardless of what gender they’re typically associated with, and then he’ll get to choose what he likes best, without judgment. Odds are it will be a mix of boy stuff and girl stuff. And if strangers want to keep mistaking him for a girl, that’s their problem. Hopefully we’ll instill in him enough self-confidence to be himself, regardless of what a still-largely-traditional world may think.

We won’t go so far as denying his gender, or pretending he’s something he’s not. We’ll let him decide for himself, somewhere down the line. But we will probably get him a haircut soon. He looks like a mad scientist when he wakes up.

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122 thoughts on “Gender Neutral

      1. I’m not wildly popular. lol. I can’t guarantee your stats will spike, but I really do think this is the type of post many of my readers would enjoy. I know I did. Good luck!

  1. Our kid got confused a lot when very small, cause she had very little hair. People would say “Oh, he’s so cute”, to which I’d respond. “Pink shirt.” Sometimes they caught what I was saying.

    1. I was this kid. Worse actually. I didn’t grow any hair until I was three. Shiny bald and the inability to say my Rs left me with the nickname “fuddy”. As in Elmer Fudd. (Yes I did also have a pet rabbit. No I did not try and kill it.)
      I still get made fun of by my parents because now, I have ridiculously thick hair that is half-way down my back. Oh the irony. I’m actually really grateful for the teasing and the early life baldness. Of all of my friends, and my husband’s friends, I am the only person I am aware of who knows exactly who I am -good and bad- and is totally cool with it. Considering I am in my mid-twenties, I think thats pretty awesome. I fully attribute this to my parents and how they never tried to direct my interests or personality traits. If I wanted to play basketball, I got to play basketball. If I wanted to name all of my stuft animals and make them their own rooms. That was cool too. So maybe being referred to by the wrong gender, and then being teased about it, is the best thing for kids because it allows them to decide who they are not who they should be. So lucky you Matt Conlon and good job Dad and buried.

      1. I would have a boy. If I test it now, it says I will have a boy again… I guess we will have to wait and see. Everything else points to girl (heartrate, sptmyomes) etc

  2. Dropping in from Doggy. Don’t have a kid, so I can’t vote for who the child is like – though if you ask my wife, you’d need an entry for the father to be like the kid, which in our case, is a 120-pound Mastiff. ( I have been accused of actually speaking “dog”. To which I can only respond, “woof”. πŸ˜€ )

  3. Well in my opinion that is a signof true beauty! Someof the most beautiful little tykes I have ever seen had me confuzzled what gender they were! And he is certainly no exception! Take care, and happy holidays!

  4. I am with you. Let your kids be kids. You know when my little man was smaller he used to want to have his nails painted when I did and my daughter did. I would paint them without hesitation. Let them be who they are. As he gets older his a very sweet boyish boy but if he ended up wanting to wear dresses, I would let him. My only care is that as he gets older it would get harder because of society. I would just find ways to expose him to people where it was more the norm. I love him so very much.

  5. Thanks for this. My oldest, a 4-yr-old boy, loves trains and dinosaurs and Cars 2 is his favorite movie EVER, but he also plays mostly with girls at preschool and adores Disney princesses and My Little Pony (enough to wear princess and pony underwear and ask Santa for princess pajamas last year for Christmas). We struggle with letting him express his interests while wanting to protect him from the cruelty that I know will come from his “peers” and supposed well-meaning adults. But the more he expresses his fondness for all things pink, the more I want to empower and stick up for him, rather than discourage his interests and risk him feeling even a tiny bit ashamed.

  6. I was the single mom of a little girl. I gave trucks and dolls, dancing and running, cultural events and sports events equal time. She’s turned out just fine. Sounds like your son is on a wonderful adventure of self-discovery…so nice you can tag along! All the best, M

  7. I love this post, and I totally agree! My older son is four and a half, and he has love love loved Ariel the Little Mermaid since he was 3. He also loves soccer, cars, trucks, and all that “boy” stuff (I hate to even call it that), but he picked an Ariel lunchbox and an Ariel towel for his swim lessons. On our last trip to the shoe store he picked a “girl” pair of shoes that are black and white with pink trim, and I let him have them. I love that he is still young enough to just be exactly who he is, without worrying about what his peers think–they’re all too young to care, either. I know the day will come when someone will tell him that he’s not “supposed” to like pink or Ariel or any other “girl” thing, and that makes me sad.

  8. My Godchild, a boy, grew up with an older sister and at your sons age, insisted on an ironing board and iron for a birthday present. He’s 11 now and the most boyish boy you’ll find. His parents reacted much like you. Just let him do what he felt like, irrespective of the “norms”. He also had long, stunning hair (truly not fair that the boys get that!!!). I don’t believe any of it makes any difference at that age. Let them play with whatever they like (well, maybe not lighters and fuel πŸ™‚ ) and they grow up to be what they truly are.

  9. I love love love your son’s crazy mad scientist hair! Truth be told, if my kid had hair like that (boy or girl), I’d never cut it. I’m not a parent, so I can’t say whether I’d be annoyed or not if someone misidentified my child’s sex. I can say, though, that I have often made mistakes. It’s not always easy to know what’s between a kid’s legs, based solely on hair and clothes. Or even names.

  10. I think a natural gender (brilliant expression) is fine for a small kid – one of my friends when his son was in the same age .. he was fascinated with hair … all the time – wanted to make hairstyles on everyone that sat still long enough. Today is he a teenager and into engines big time.
    We can’t do anything – the small people turn out the way they do. That’s nature.

  11. My son has a 4yo sister so this overlap is a bit more pronounced I think just because he wants to do whatever she does. If she does makeup, he wants makeup. Same thing with headbands and heels. He also loves football and basketball (she loves basketball too). Just like you said, we also try to focus on the happiness of the kids. What can be wrong if they’re happy?

  12. My son, who’s 20 now, used to play with play kitchens and dolls (he’d steal his middle sister’s barbies). The number of people who informed me that allowing him to play with “girl” things would turn him in to a girl was insane. He plays rugby now and does all sorts of “manly” things. His little sister (who is 8) is in to superheroes, transformers, comic books (she reads my old collection), and she’s a little gamer (thanks to big brother!). The whole gender “appropriate” thing is ridiculous.

  13. Great post! Reading about your son reminds me of when mine were 2. [They are 8 now.] One of my little boys had tight, lovely curls in his hair and an affinity for some things stereotyped as female — example: his favorite color was pink and he wanted me to paint his half of the bedroom in a ballerina pink. But then school started and he lost his curls and began rejecting anything “girly.” He still denies that he ever liked pink!

    Hold on to these days when he is just himself tightly. It’s lovely to see them just as they are in those preschool years, before the world has a chance to change them! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  14. You’re absolutely right. Kids should get to be who they want to be, and maybe when they grow up they’ll help us overthrow this terrible society that wants to shove us all into categories and tell us who we’re supposed to be and what we’re supposed to want. Enough with the stereotypes. On another note, your son’s hair is awesome. He looks like a little rock star.

  15. You and your wife seem to be doing pretty well as parents. I’m also happy that you’re not trying to deny your son his interests whereas other parents would be hesitant to let their kids do something that defies old traditions.
    And I can see why your kid gets mistaken for a girl sometimes. His hair is pretty long. Godd luck with the haircut, and let’s hope he doesn’t start thinking haircuts are painful or scary like many kids do.

  16. Cute blog. I remember when my brother and I were 4 years old and after school, he used to wear my favourite skirts and used to play with my dolls (walk like a boy though). I think it happens, I am going to email this blog to him. Now at 22 he’s totally a man. But good to know that you are not stopping your son from this interest.

  17. He’s beautiful, nice post! When Nerd Child (boy) was a toddler/young child, haircuts were traumatic, so we avoided them, as he got a bit older, he just liked his hair long. A dumb thing to fight about, in my opinion, so he kept his hair long. At 14, he still does. Wasn’t until his mustache started coming in that people stopped calling him “she.” I have two boys and a girl, all three had favorite “babies,” all three played trucks and Legos. πŸ™‚

  18. I don’t think it’s important to discourage what they play with, but I don’t think there is any harm in just saying he’s a boy or she’s a girl. Parents can, and should, speak the truth. By the way, he is really cute! He could be a runway model.

    1. Thanks! And I totally agree: biology is biology. He’s a boy, would never deny that. But neither will we let society decide what’s appropriate for him to play with, based on oh-so-slowly fading stereotypes.

      Thanks for reading!

  19. I agreed with most of what you had to say, but what really stood out for me was your line about raising your son to be the best human being he can be. Well done and congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  20. Your parenting, and the kind of actions you write about, are just what kids need! Biology is biology and they all grow up to be their own little beings. Supporting their choices however they want to explore the world and ‘grow up’ is what’s needed. Not just more trucks for boys and babies for girls. Glad this made FP.

  21. Long live long hair! My 16 year old son has hair to his waist and it has never been shorter than to his shoulders (except when he had none). However, I don’t recall anyone ever mistaking him for a girl (unlike my daughter who was always being mistaken for a boy until she was 3) I’m so proud that he hasn’t caved in to peer pressure or followed the trends. At the tender age of barely three, he noticed that his wrapped present was the same as his sister’s and said “It’s a girl’s thing” – it’s amazing what kids pick up from their peers even when you as parents try so hard to keep away from gender-specifics. Congrats on being FPd. Great post πŸ™‚

  22. Your son is adorable. I think kids like what they like my niece was walking around in my high heels as soon as she could walk. She is very girly all on her own. However she likes superhero capes, fire trucks, and soccer balls. I think individuals have labeled objects boy or girl.

  23. You know, I remember learning in medieval history about how women used to spin yarn, and knitting was coded as male. Knitting guilds were formed, which were exclusively male. Arguments were made that it was too complex and mathematical for the frail female mind to grasp.

    I bet little boys who grew up back them just “naturally” gravitated to knitting because it was “natural” for boys to do it. I’m sure that, had they known about natural selection, some idiot someplace would have said that knitting was naturally male because it helped cavemen secure mates or one of those evolutionary psychology just-so stories.

    Nowdays, knitting is coded female, and little boys (and the men they grow into) “naturally” can’t do it, fumble when they try, just don’t have what it takes, because it’s domestic and simple and hence suited for the more limited female mind.


    Little boys don’t gravitate to “naturally” male anything. They gravitate to what the culture identifies as male. The majority want to do what other men around them do, whether that is knitting or playing with trucks.

    Wodaabe men in Africa wear makeup, tons of it. I bet that the same little boys who “naturally” choose to play with daddy’s cosmetics would, if they grew up in the US, grow into men who, if they had to make themselves up for a Halloween costume or something, just couldn’t get themselves to do it without fumbling because, “Hey, I’m a guy, I can’t do this sort of thing!”

  24. Excellent post!

    We did not cut our son’s hair at ALL until he was 3 (cultural thing). By 18 months, he was regularly mistaken for a girl… despite the truck-covered clothes. He also has absurdly long eyelashes (I regularly wonder how strong his eyelids must be to lift them up).

    That said, he wasn’t rambunctious at all as a little one (he’s 6 now). He played quietly with cars and trucks for hours on end. By 12 months, he was enamored with them. He has some favorite stuffed animals, but just carried them around.

    He does now have a little sister. She is definitely into sparkly things, but it turns out so is/was he. I picked him up once (circa age 4) from a friends’ house to find him wearing a Little Mermaid outfit and some other dress-up gown on his head as – wait for it – a head-dress (his words).

    He likes to color and paint, and at 9 months started getting picky about his clothes. He always had to have his hands clean (he was a neat eater at 9 months too!). But, for the longest time he could sit enthralled by construction vehicles (check out Mighty Machines DVDs, they’re awesome).

    It was hard when his sister got some very sparkly shoes as a gift and he wanted some. I had to explain that they don’t make shoes for boys that are sparkly. Thankfully, we found flashing lights!

    His sister is more prone to being messy and rambunctious (although she too hates having dirty hands compared to most kids), but he has gotten a lot more physical in the last few years. His games are less “house” and more “space explorer.”

    That said, he’s spent a lot more time playing with girls, so when it comes dating time, I think it will be easier for him.

    Two things are for certain – he’ll make an excellent father some day and he makes an excellent shopping companion as his fashion sense is better than mine (of course, my husband has more shoes than me…).

  25. “These things needn’t be mutually exclusive.

    We really don’t care about our child’s gender; we just want it to be happy. If that means veering outside the lines of stupid, often arbitrary gender assignations, so be it.”

    I like these statements especially! Being someone who has always objected to gender stereotypes (before I could say the word stereotype) I learned to weld (awesome fun) and do carpentry and change a tire, etc, additional to learning to cook (survival… I can’t eat PBJ every day, I’d go nuts!), knit (because my grandmother wanted me to and I love her. It was very difficult and I gave up several times), and how to neatly wrap a present (I do get lazy though… they’re gonna open it either way!).

    And I’m super happy. I always want to learn more and more skills and activities. I’m sure if I were a guy, I’d still have long hair because I love how it feels and looks on me, and my lifelong favorite color would still be purple because either way I got bullied for it being a ‘gay’ color, and cats would still be near and dear to my heart because they’re awesome. There are a lot of things that I don’t think would change. I’m grateful I was raised by parents who value my happiness far above my ‘femaleness’.


  26. Your son’s hair is my hair and was my hair when I was his age. My mom always kept it cut short because it was just plain easier to deal with and she didn’t know the first thing about curly hair. I had short hair until middle school and was often mistaken for a boy, mostly when my family camped with the Cub Scouts. When I was 12, I tucked my longer hair under a hat and participated in a Boy Scout camporee as “Mark.” And a couple of weekends ago, I did the same thing and participated in a Civil War reenactment. The old guys dubbed me “Magnus” and it was awesome.

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  27. Can I just make clear how much I love your post! This was absolutely, undeniably true and very insightful! Not many can step away from the ideaologies society imposes on gender and I sincerely commend you for doing so. Beautifully written, especially your last paragraph on how it is not your job to determine who your son will become. Did I mention I loved this?

  28. Well gender stereotypes are much much deeper than the toys your kid play with (This is my first post so I’m not familiar with your son) but does he a stereotypical masculine name, do you refer to your son with masculine pronouns like he/him/his? All this and more still push our children into the rigid gender categories that our society has set up.

  29. I just reblogged this, love it. You have a beautiful son, and at that age everything is gender neutral !! so what if he wants to play with a kitchen (the best chefs in the world are male).. playing pretend is part of a heatlhy childhood. I have a 3 yrl old girl… and she loves dressing like a princess (cinderella her fave) loves barbies and all girly stuff… but at the same time she is into sports, she plays basketball, soccer and baseball – and she has a couple of little hotwheels cars (women drive too) !!!

    1. Female, definitely a geek, and into self-tracking and exeirpmentation (although I think of it more like kaizen relentless improvement). I thought about that make it easy for me to do this kind of lifehacking. Even just thinking about the first one that I have the privilege of time and space to think about these things reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s essay, , which argues that having that little bit of independence goes a long way towards encouraging certain kinds of creativity and accomplishment. What do you take for granted, and how can we start reducing those barriers for others?

  30. The overall tone of the post is great. “It’s not our job as parents to decide who our son will be; it’s our job to help him become the best version of that person he can.” Yep. 100%.

    But this sentence caused me some genuine confusion: “We really don’t care about our child’s gender; we just want it to be happy.”

    Are you referring to your son — you know, that little bundle of energy with a penis and not a vagina — as “it”? Are you saying that you want his life to be happy no matter how s/he perceives him/her/itself in the future? Or is there some other meaning here that I’ve altogether missed?

    Gender neutrality seems to be pretty popular these days, but I’m not sure why. I was born in ’61 and over the years I played Barbie dolls with my older sisters, and Fisher Price “Little People” with my younger siblings. I also had a bow and arrow and a pocket knife — and I felt bad when I killed a squirrel with a borrowed BB gun.

    My dad was a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. I’m a writer. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. My oldest sister is a lawyer and has no kids. No, my parents didn’t call me “it” — but neither did they try to make me into something I wasn’t.

    Imagine that. My parents, born in the late 1930’s, believed it was their job to help their son become “the best version of that person” he could be.

    Why do some people seem to think that’s a radical new vision of parenting?

    Anyway, kudos on being Freshly Pressed!

  31. Great post. I love how accepting of your son you are. Though I must say, you shouldn’t be subjecting him (or future children) to the likes of Superman. We all really know that Batman is much more awesome πŸ˜‰

  32. Reblogged this on coffeepoweredmom and commented:
    This! Yes, this! This is exactly why we have cars, trains, dolls, construction toys, kitchen toys, skipping ropes, hockey sticks, jewelry and legos four our two girls. The kids get to choose whatever they like and we let them express themselves freely.

  33. Awesome parenting. Not that I know ANYTHING about parenting, but sounds good to me. Cute kid–I can relate to looking MAD when I wake up with a mop of curls!

    1. Funny thing is, I don’t know anything about parenting either.

      It’s all a guessing game and anyone that tells you different is either wrong or selling something. You gotta do what’s right for you.

      Thanks for reading!

  34. Interestingly enough studies have shown that adults treat infants differently based on their gender. Girls are often spoken to in higher pitched voices and held close while boys are treated less delicately and spoken to in lower tones.
    You’re great parents for not restricting your son to the gender binary πŸ™‚ And obviously he’s adorable.

  35. I love to hear those stories about parents letting their children express themselves as they wish, not trying to correct them. I wish there were more people like you. my parents did the same to me (and till I was 9-10 yo people used to mistake me for a boy hehe); one xmas they gave me the lego firefighters station as present (lol) which i loved so much and the next year they gave me an electronic doll, it came out I was more interested in discovering where all its sensors where placed rather than play the mum thing, they let me and today i’m an engineer and I have a huge range of interests =D (and i definitively look as a girl now πŸ™‚
    Greetings from italy!

  36. HI, I was like you, I went with the flow and didnt really get bogged down in what mine should and shouldnt wear and what they could and couldn’t play with and have to say my two little darlings appear to doing Ok – Independant, balanced and happy teenagers capable of making wise decisions that they feel confident to carry through and happy with. We don’t always agree on what this constiutes but that’s the fun part. How to grow up myself. Love the blog. A free book to down load before the 21/12/12, if your interested. No strings attached, no hard sell, just looking for a little feedback even if is what you thought of the front cover. Have a lovely Christmas, it’s lovely when they are so little.

  37. Great post – I don’t have kids myself, probably never will, but I do think if i ever did, regardless of gender, they would be encouraged to do the things they enjoy the most. It’s how we were was raised, and it worked out pretty well for me and my siblings! Congrats on Freshly Pressed!

  38. I was just reminded of my childhood days when my mother was trying to push me into dance classes and all I wanted to do was play with Legos, Hot Cars, basketball, and video games, haha. I was a “tomboy”. Really, I was just into adventure and creativity. I was into “girly things” to like dress-up and glitter, but I still wish that my mom wasn’t so focused on making me a princess and allowed me to take karate classes with my brother.

    It’s kind of disturbing just how many “girl toys” are pink, full of fake babies, pretend cooking/baking, dress-up. At a young age, it gets ingrained into our minds that “this is how a boy should act, and this is how a girl should act”. Why shouldn’t a boy be allowed to dress-up or bake, and why shouldn’t a girl be into building or fast cars?

    Anyway, nice blog post. Your kid is cute. πŸ™‚

  39. YES!! I love this. I was having this same conversation with some of my coworkers this week and the way they looked at me, they clearly thought I was nuts. Why do we give everything a gender? Let kids be who they are.

  40. It’s kind of funny the things we call “manly” or “womanly” and how they change. I was watching “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and it was okay for burly men to dance and sing. Now, musicals are girl stuff. Showing affection between men in other cultures is sexually neutral, but provocative here. Funny world.

  41. First, congratulations on FP!

    Second, you have an adorable child. I just love that hair!

    I think it’s wonderful how you’re allowing your son to just _be_. As for the kitchen set, how many of the most recognized chefs are men? It’s not considered girlie now days. If anyone thinks so, watching Gordon Ramsey will disabuse them of that notion.

    It also made me stop to consider my childhood with new eyes. My parents also just let me be who I was instead of cramming me into a gender model. I had stuffed toys and Barbie dolls. But my clothes were all tough, durable things able to endure mud, grass-stains, tree-sap and fish-slime. Which was good. I ran in the rain barefoot, climbed the old oak trees in our yard like a monkey, picked blackberries at the edge of the bayou behind our house. Many of the golden days of summer, I spent on a dock, fishing and catching crabs. I learned to shoot. If I’d tried any of that in a frilly little girl’s dress, it would have been in tatters and ruined. Climbing a tree in those shiny Mary Jane shoes they often stuff on a girl’s feet, I’d have broken my neck before age 5 because, like my brother, I had to be rescued from trees even when I was 2 and 3.

    As for my brother, he was always into boy things. Except once when he suddenly demanded I put make-up on him one morning while I was getting ready for school. I was about 15 and he was a little over 2. I actually did the same make-up on him as I used which was nice muted tones and colors. He ran out to proudly show it off to our parents, his shoulder length, golden natural ringlets bouncing. My parents took it well, though my dad’s expression did look a little wild in the eyes. He never said a negative word about it.

    1. Sacha, I love that you frame it as kaizen imorpvement. I think that would resonate much better with women (and many men) than experiment. Not that experiment is dirty word. It’s not. It’s adventurous, it’s exciting. But I think experiment hits some women the wrong way because, as a very, very, very broad generalization, women tend to be risk-averse compared to men. Especially with relationships (see the great comment from Teresa about how men talk of experimenting with their children, while most moms would never describe it that way).(If you don’t believe me, consider the enormous success of the book Women Don’t Ask. Summary: we don’t ask for things we want, because we’re worried we’ll overstretch and ruin the great stuff we already have. Women can learn to ask, and do it well. But it’s not natural in our culture). But I digress. Experiment may sound chancy to some. In truth, however, QS experiments don’t risk much, if anything. And in truth, women try all kinds of things β€” experiments β€” every day to improve the way we do things. So it may only be a matter of framing. Kaizen imorpvement is a wonderful way to characterize it, instead of experiment. Thanks again, Sasha, for your excellent comment.

  42. In Sicily it was traditional to have boys grow their hair when they were little, in fact very often we couldn’t distinguish a boy from a girl. In the 1950s women never wore pants in Sicily, but my mother, being from Russia, did and so she also made pants for me. The people in our town used to tease me and ask me are you a boy or a girl, I would get angry and say of course I’m a girl. Now you should see…All women in my town wear pants, and nobody says a word. Greetings from Trapani, I am a new folllower.

  43. I am just beginning to realize how ‘strange’ my upbringing has been: my colleagues at work talk about how they loved their kid dolls, and I remember only getting one (from someone who didn’t know me) and cutting its hair and ripping its limbs off after one week. I didn’t like dolls, I liked microscopes, animals, books, mechanic constructions… not very girly. At 16 I drove an all terrain motorbike and was able to fix it when it needed it.
    With time came cooking and sewing (but well after 20). πŸ™‚
    So I approve of nt quenching anyone’s inclinations. Great post!

  44. Since when is a play kitchen only for girls? Aren’t most chefs men? Why not give him a head start to a great career, or at least encourage him to learn to cook so that he won’t starve in college. πŸ™‚

  45. My story is very similar. Our son is 14 now, and he has always had a youthful face with baby like features, dimples and long curly hair. He likes his hair long and is mistaken for a girl all of the time, but he just shrugs it off and says ” meh, I know I look like a girl…and I don’t care”. He also played with many gender neutral toys, as well as the usual boy toys. He did ask for an Easy Bake oven one year and we bought it for him, and he only used it once. I think it was because it was more work and waiting than it was fun for him, lol. Now, it’s mostly video games that he plays.

    Same thing with his music tastes and everything else though. He loves the Beatles and Joni Mitchell, and a lot of classmates will bust on him about that, but he doesn’t care. It’s not based on gender, but I guess it seems odd to them that he likes music that was not made in their own time. I’m proud that he is not afraid to be himself no matter what…that is so rare and precious in this world. Too many people live unhappy lives suppressing their true selves, just so they can’t fit in with everyone else and be ” the same “.

  46. This is great – you and your wife obviously have a very balanced view on raising your little man. I just wish more parents would take a similar view as I can see your son growing up to be respectful of others and a well rounded individual. More power to you!

  47. Fantastic post. The cultural norms of gender roles are, I think, largely arbitrary. I’ve raised a daughter and now I’m raising a son (just turned two) and I think they should be allowed to like and dislike what they want without us, the parents, getting overly concerned with whether or not that thing is “girly” or “boyish”. Good on you. And keep up the great work (with the kid and the blog)!

  48. First of all, your son has gorgeous hair. πŸ™‚

    As a kid I liked dolls and My Little Ponies, but I was also into toy cars, dinosaurs, and science/mechanics-for-kids sets. I read voraciously, mostly dinosaurs, science, how stuff worked, second-hand boys annuals, classic novels, and novels written for people far beyond my age level (I’d mostly moved onto adult novels by the time I was eleven or twelve). My parents raised me to develop my intelligence, ethics, and interpersonal skills, regardless of sex or gender. They didn’t raise me to be gender-neutral: as I said, I had Barbies like every other little girl. But they let me choose, so that I grew simply being who I was, not one thing or the other because of expectations. I’m now a feminine, geeky archaeology student. But most importantly, it wasn’t my interests or belongings that made the biggest difference to me. It was being told that I could be smart, and be assertive, that I could dress how I wanted. It was my parents backing me up when other people trying to discurage me from doing something because ‘girls don’t do that’ and refusing to let excuses like ‘boys will be boys’ and ‘it’s natural that the boys wouldn’t want to play with the girls’ be used to bully me out of doing things I was interested in. And showing, through behaviour, that my opinions and rights were as important as anyone else’s – whether it was refusing to allow the boys to kick me off the best play equipment when I was a kid because I was a girl when the teachers turned a blind eye to it, or insisting that I pass mathematics class even though I had problems with maths, because it was important and being a girl wasn’t an excuse for failure.

  49. Well, my son (who is 21 months) is pretty much the same, and we handle him the same way, too. Actually, we push the dolls and strollers, because we value that. He’ll figure out that he’s a boy around age three, probably. And I think he’s already started to. But, boy or girl, he has to help around the house, and we want him to play with dolls. However – I REALLY pray that he ends up deciding that he is a boy and being happy with that. I guess that’s our more traditional side showing.

  50. It’s awesome that y’all are letting your son be himself instead of imposing stereotypical “male” interests on him. I think the world would be so much better if all parents let their children be themselves, regardless of where on the gender line their interests/behavior/whatever else falls.

  51. Great post. I would like to say that there is no “boy” or “girl” stuff and only what we label as such to stifle our children into our own gender paradigms. I remember being so embarrassed as a young child, because I thought that only boys were meant to poop. Boys ARE the “dirty” ones, while girls are meant to smell and look pretty at all times. I legitimately thought there was something wrong with me. That is what arbitrary gender “norms” do to our children. (From a mother of another very beautiful boy).

  52. Awesome post! My son also has very long (and unbelievably shiny-curly-blond) hair and thick, long eyelashes to go with it and we leave any body modification, including haircuts, up to our kids so he’ll get it cut when he wants. He too is automatically assumed to be a girl to people he has just met. He chooses to tell them that he is a boy who has long hair. We do our best to avoid gender stereotypes at home and try our best to urge our families to do the same. My husband and I share in all the house hold chores and we urge both our children to join in (we have a boy and a girl.) He also happens to be in love with cars, trucks and monster trucks, all of which neither my husband or I have much interest in and which his younger sister is starting to get into as well. It’s nice to know that we are not the only ones experiencing these things. πŸ™‚ Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  53. this. It’s a point I try to make in my writing, that we are all naaturl experimenters (it’s in our genes), but the language of science doesn’t make sense to everyone. I have an artist friend who is very successful, and when I told her about the idea (and used the word experiment ) she was totally turned off. I just couldn’t get it across (my failing). However, when I talked to her husband later, he said in fact she *does* experiment with her work quite a bit trying different media, approaches, etc. So the language seems to be part of the problem.> I’ve sometimes wondered if men need to distance themselves from the emotional aspect of parenting by using the language of experimentation in relation to children.Busted! In general I talk about the value of getting a healthy sense of detachment at the times a pause or some distance is helpful. I didn’t think of this as having a male feel, but I’ll look at it.> inject emotional language into the discussion of self-experimentation and you might attract women. Self-experimentation + emotion = self-help? Or something like it?Brilliant! So well put, Teresa. A while back I started using love , even in business correspondence, a direct result of Tim Sanders’ book Love is the Killer App . Thanks a ton for your comment.

  54. I’m so glad to read this. One of my earliest memories is wearing one of my sister’s dresses (I’m a biological male). A few years later in my adolescence, my crossdressing desire having persisted, my dad found me in women’s clothing. Our relationship changed after that, like he was ashamed of me. 15 years later, we still don’t have a good relationship. I doubt we ever will. Kudos to you. Support that kid whatever direction he goes (like you already do). The world will be hard enough on him without the loss of a parent.

  55. I am in my late teenage years, surely straight (although single), and has longer hair than an average young man. You would not see my neck you were facing my back. Anyway, I simply like having long hair, and I see no correlation between hair length and orientation. See, female infants are born almost bald, if not completely bald… and baldness, you would correlate that more towards men. Thus, it should be okay for men to have long hair too. And I don’t find it offensive when people think I am a girl, after all, it’s not wrong to be female.

  56. I don’t care when people mistake my 7 month old daughter for a boy. I am curious why they are cross with me when they learn he’s a she and challenge my choice to not dress her in more girly clothes (I am delaying the princess phase until she requests it), as though I’m trying to fool them.

  57. I’ve read articles about parents who almost seem to force their children to be gender neutral, shielding them from the “norms” of society so they can “naturally” choose the gender identity. It’s all crap, just as much crap as not letting your boys play with dolls and your girls play with cars. You’ve got it right, let them out in the world, let them choose based on what they see and learn I personally think the best parenting involves a laid back attitude towards all things except love. If it’s not going to hurt them, hurt you or make a permanent mess you have to ask is it worth stressing over. No! Great post!

  58. Great post! Keep it up, dude, you’re on the right track. Gender-specificity will be unavoidable once he goes to school so instilling him with a strong sense of SELF now (regardless of his gender) will go a long way toward helping him be a well-adjusted, confident kid who isn’t afraid to play outside the box.

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