Kade is growing like a weed. New clothes are lasting a few months, sometimes weeks and with preschool starting, it was time for a new wardrobe. His summer clothes are worn from play- knees faded, shirts unraveling, socks missing and black on the bottom.
We took a long bus trek to Target and things started out great. We got pizza, chatted about our week. Ezra slept while Daddy wore him. Mama leaned in for lots of Kade kisses and we all bustled to the kid section in search of some new duds. Everything was going swimmingly well.
That is, until, we chose underwear. The underwear section is divided into two very distinct sections. To the left, bright pinks, hearts, sparkles. To the right, blue and cars and superheros. Kade was immediately drawn to the sparkles because hello, who doesn't like sparkles? He chose a package of pink, sparkly Minnie Mouse underwear. Then, his eyes caught the Elmo ones. They were even more pink, more sparkly and were embellished with hearts and a loopy lace-like waist band. His face lit with excitement as he held them up to us. "I want these ones."
Daddy and I just stared at each other. We work hard to let Kade just be whoever he is. I don't think it's right to tell him he can or can't do something because it doesn't meet his gender typicality. I won't ever tell him what boys play with or that a certain color is "just for girls." It's not fair to snuff out his joy when he comes to me proudly pretending to breastfeed his baby dolls. It's not fair to be more excited when he plays with cars for hours on end (which he does daily). Both instances make him happy and proud and so they do the same for me. I don't feel uneasy when he sometimes chooses what society considers "Girl Stuff." And I certainly don't feel more proud when he often chooses "Boy Stuff."
For the last four years, this has worked for us. We let him be his own little self; a perfect little being who loves cars, kissing babies, painting and baking. He's a spectacular dancer, has one hell of an arm and insists on cuddles and singing before bed. If life had a "Boy Section" and a "Girl Section," Kade would be right in the middle.
Now, with preschool starting, we're feeling raw and confused. Because yes, we wanted to let him have the pink Elmo underwear. But no, we don't want the kids at school teasing him. Where does the line of expression end and the line of protection begin? We got down on his level and tried to explain: "Baby, I know you want those. But some kids don't understand that. They think those are for girls and we don't want them to tease you. They just don't understand..." My heart broke, literally ached in my chest. This was absolutely not fair. Steam might have been coming out of my ears as I thought, Fuck Society. My baby loves Elmo and they don't have them in the "Boy Section." Why should I make him settle?
"But I want them."
The options were to let him get the pink ones or insist on the "Boy" section. We thought about getting him the pink to wear at home and buying Cars for school. What would that teach him though? That he has to hide? I felt so helpless.
The thing that really just gets me is that it doesn't have to be this way. We have this fresh little generation- eager and incredibly smart. They could end the line drawn in the gender sand. But it has to start with us as parents- We have to stop deflating their self-esteem when we don't agree with their preference. We have to let them choose what they want and most of all, we have to teach them to be accepting of others. Kade doesn't notice if a girl plays sports or has short hair. He won't notice if a boy wears pink. He just wants to play, laugh and especially learn.
I want a society in which we focus on education, charity, growth and faith more than the color of our underwear.
In the end, Kade chose the Cars underwear. It took some serious talking and none of us felt great afterwards. We didn't tell them they were only for girls- we told him that some people don't understand that they can be for boys too. We felt, as parents, that we needed to protect him. Kids are mean and I don't trust his teachers to protect him. At his last doctors appointment, the nurse let Kade pick a sticker. She pulled out Jake and the Neverland Pirates. She stated, "I have princess ones too but you don't want those. Those are for girls." Turns out, Kade wanted the princess ones. Who was she to say what he wanted? This is obviously deep rooted- generation after generation being told what's acceptable. I think other things matter substantially more.
No, society isn't ready for our Kade yet. That's so hard and frustrating.
But my baby will change the world, I know.