I have a girl and a boy. In that order. She is almost 3 and he is 6 months old. I have to say, insane energy levels and generally contrarian attitudes aside, the amount of comedy provided by my daughter is unparalleled. Seriously, how is your kid asking if your doctor is Doc McStuffins, or telling you that she wants to breastfeed her baby brother NOT funny? The level of cuteness of the two combined is off the charts. I feel blessed.
Being the mother of a girl and a boy has also has me realizing how hard it is to keep gender neutrality in the picture.
When my daughter was first born, I dressed her in gender neutral clothes some days and in "girly" clothes or "boyish" clothes other days. That's not because I wanted to make a point. If I liked the clothes, I'd put them on her, and I wasn't bothered if some people called her my son.
I saw my friends, who had boys of a similar age, take the same approach to gender neutrality, but somewhere along the line, at around 2 months, I noticed that while my daughter's clothes were vibrant pinks, purples, oranges, blues and greens, her male friends clothes came in grays, reds, creams. And for those kids with intrepid mothers with a commitment to fashion, they'd have clothes in oranges and teals. Maybe some pink tops here and there, but not many.
There would be days when I wondered to myself, if I had a boy, would I just buy girls clothes for him, because I thought they'd look cool or would I hesitate? At the same time, dressing girls just seemed like a more joyous proposition. That said, I didn't want to over do it with the pinks, so I replaced them with purples, and her clothes would always be quirky.
I was mortified when I realized how I nearly finished that sentence: " ... It's for boys."
Then I found out I was pregnant with a boy. My friends started telling me that they had saved clothes for me. I was excited. I started to go through the clothes my daughter had worn when she was younger—the ones I had saved in case we had another child. Going through those clothes was a revelation. I didn't have many dresses because I tended to dress my daughter in leggings or jeans. But even then, I sweated over some of the jeans that had pink bows on them. I struggled less with the neutral green leggings or plain black jeggings. I secretly patted myself on the back, but acknowledged that I had a little way to go on the area of dressing my kids in gender-neutral clothes.
A friend of mine, who had two kids—a boy and a girl—revealed that she made the same discovery when her kids were babies and pointed me in the direction of this study. She'd learned that the colors weren't the issue; the labels that we placed on them were. Or, as social scientist Rebecca Jordan Young put it in the case of girls and the color pink: " We create that love when we inundate a baby girl with pink, along with all the cooing and love, with time, her brain comes to associate pink with pleasure, comfort and safety."
With that in mind, I started to relax about the whole thing and bought her clothes essentially based on her preference. I was totally cool about it, or thought I was until the day she grabbed an outfit that I had selected for my son, but realized was waaaay too big. It was a salmon pink polo shirt with pink and blue plaid shorts. The outfit was classically male in design, but I was drawn to the color. I liked the idea that it wasn't a "typical" male color. I was proud of myself. As I stood there weighing whether to buy and save the outfit for much later, my daughter declared,
"Mummy, I really like it. I want it!" she declared.
I replied, "No ... That's not for you … "
I checked myself. And was mortified when I realized how I nearly finished that sentence: " ... It's for boys."
I'd been caught and I wasn't feeling so smug anymore. I tried to resolve the situation by saying, "I was going to get it for your brother."
I didn't feel any better about it. But, thankfully my daughter didn't care. She lobbied hard to get the outfit, which was a perfect fit for her, by the way.
Rather than protest, I weighed the situation: She loves plaid and she loves polo shirts because her dad and best friend wears them … and I bought her a polo shirt when she was a baby, so, what's the problem?
I bought the outfit. And she loves it, probably as much as her pink and black Dora the Explorer sneakers, her truck, her princess Tiana crown and her Elmo T-shirt. She also loves to dress her baby brother up and do his hair as much as she can. Whatever my kids' styles are, I'm all for it.