Monday, January 21, 2008

The Hypothetical Game

A Hypothetical Question For You:
O.k., so, hypothetically, you've got twin three year old boys who are definitely "boys' boys" (i.e., they love a good truck, they make motor noises all day long, they're loud and rowdy and obnoxious most of the time, they run --not walk-- everywhere, they can hit balls [with golf clubs, baseball bats, rackets of any kind, or just plain use their hands/feet/heads/butts] for hours on end, they are big fans of extreme sports, they can't help themselves from peeing all over the bathroom or dropping food all over the floor, they could not care less about any of the items of clothing on their bodies at any given time, they detest any form of shopping, and there's nothing they enjoy more than 'playing airplanes'). In other words, they are stereotypical boys in many ways. But, hypothetically speaking, these boys of yours also love their baby dolls, their tea set, their Fisher Price Kitchen, and their dollhouses too. They say their dolls are boys, but they still insist that they wear their pink doll clothes outfits instead of any other color ones, all the time. Imagine that hypothetically, the neighbors find it "odd" (they've told you so right to your face) that they regularly see your boys pushing their doll strollers around the driveway one minute then riding their trucks around the driveway the next minute. Even some close friends have confided in you that they're not exactly "comfortable" with the gender bending that they see going on in your household. More than one person has outright asked you the question: "Do you think you're taking this too far?" But, hypothetically, you feel confident in what you're doing. Hypothetically, you're a Sociologist, and you've read a lot of the literature on this stuff, and you know how important it is for boys to be on board too if any progress is going to be made regarding gender relations in the future. You remind yourself how *MESSED UP* it is that in 2008 little girls are generally encouraged to play with trucks and play sports and wear overalls, but that little boys are generally discouraged from playing with dolls and having their own kitchen sets and wearing dresses. You remind yourself of your values, of your beliefs about egalitarianism, of your devotion to raising your children to be anti-sexist. But still, hypothetically, you can't help but notice that not many folks are raising their sons like you are (and you're even part of a Waldorf school community where there is a hugely disproportionate number of self-identified "Liberal" families amongst the population). O.k., so now, hypothetically... you're with your two sons in a craft store one day to buy supplies for one of their school projects. Hypothetically, you are walking down one of the aisles and your boys start jumping up and down when they spot a rack of pink tutus. Hypothetically, these children of yours have rarely asked you for anything in a store (you can probably count on one hand the total number of things they have ever asked for -- ever -- in their entire lives), but they are now pointing to the tutus asking "That!!! Please!!! Can we please have THAT?????" You've actually played through this hypothetical moment in your mind's eye before, so it is now very strange that this is actually (hypothetically) happening in real life. Years ago, long before you ever had kids of your own, you and your husband used to talk about stuff like this -- you'd play "The Hypothetical Game" -- asking questions of each other and discussing your answers for hours ("What if your daughter wanted to get a large tattoo at age 12, would you let her???"/"What if your kid really wanted to go away to boarding school starting in 7th grade, would you support that???"/"What if your son wanted a pink tutu, would you get him one???"). Hypothetically, you can remember the actual discussion about the pink tutu. You can remember your husband being adamant that boys should most definitely be able to run around in pink tutus. You can remember that you yourself had played devil's advocate -- talking about socialization and risk of ostracization and the very real consequences of bucking the sexist system. But now, hypothetically, you are in the moment. You're in the middle of the store. Your sons are looking up at you awaiting your answer. You look at the price tags. The pink tutus are on clearance. $3.99 each. Your boys ask again, excitedly and anxiously, "Please mommy?! So please?! Please can we have these????!?!!" So... what do you do?
P.S. The three photos above show you what my answer to the question is/was. ;) ~HBJ


Mrs. Incredible said...

I'd buy them. Along with all of the pink Polly Pocket cars they want to play with. And when I find some fire-truck jammies that are white, I'm going to buy them and dye them pink, because that's what my boy wants, and that's good enough for me.

Our youngest loves all things pink, often tells me he wants to be my daughter/he wants to be a girl, always chooses the female character on TV to be him, etc. I don't think it means much at 3.5. And even if it DOES, I'd rather he grow up feeling totally loved and supported (and free to be whoever he truly is) than have to conform to how the neighbors want him to behave.

Much love,

Kristen said...

I would have done the EXACT same thing!

Anonymous said...

Rock on! You are doing EXACTLY the right thing!!

Anonymous said...

Um... very interesting... I wouldn't have bought them. I'm not liberal, I'm conservative. I personally wouldn't have a problem with playing with kitchen stuff, or babies (they will cook and be fathers one day), but tutu's? If they had an interest in dance I would get them the proper clothing and sign them up and let them explore that. But cross dressing? Um... no.

But, that's just me, and the beautiful thing is we're all free to choose. I'm glad you and your husband have talked about these things, and are in agreement.

The boys are adorable, and I enjoy your blog.

Mayhem said...

OF COURSE they should have the tutus! There's just nothing else to say about that!

The social/behavioral expectations for boys really bother me sometimes.

Life in Fitzville said...

At this very moment, one of my 15yo daughter's best friends ( a MALE friend) is over here straightening her hair for her.

People can be so dumb... I am glad you don't listen to them. They look adorable.

Cathy Resmer said...

Love the tutus!

We have a tutu book, about this little girl who wears her tutu everywhere, and it's one of Graham's favorites.

He hates dancing, though. But he likes to "cook."

Renee said...

I would do 9 year old son has worn more than one pink tutu in his life. I think he was about 4 when on Halloween we were waiting for my hubby to come home and pick us up to go to my 3 older daughters classes for their halloween celebrations..TJ wanted to dress up..I got the girls cutest pink tutu, headband, sticker earrings..tights and white tap shoes..I will try to find the pics..and we were ready to go. When my hubby saw it, he wasn't too thrilled at all. His sisters freaked as all their friends asked "is that your brother??" Hey, girls can dress up as guys (one year my daughter was a 50's boy..) why is that ok and not the other way around? TJ is a perfectly normal boy today..every boy hormone imaginable!! He is ALL boy in every sense..even if he has a history of wearing a pink tutu! (We have 4 daughters who took a lot of dance classes so pink tutus were everywhere!!)
Thanks for sharing, you are a great Mommy!!

Renee said...

TJ also took dance lessons!! Until I found out he really only wanted to go for the candy they would occasionally give him! :)

Life in Fitzville said...

And BTW... you fired me up to do my own post. I linked you in it.

Anonymous said...

This post is so interesting. Nobody talks about this but it is so true: it is fine (actually promoted) for little girls to be "tomboys" but it is not fine (actually very much discouraged) for little boys to be "girlie" or "soft" or "feminine" at all. I was just thinking about this the other day. We've always bought trucks, overalls, sports stuff, etc. for our 2 daughters... but our son... NO WAY IN HECK that I'd ever buy him a doll, let alone a tutu. I just would be too afraid of what people would think or how other kids would treat him. But this isn't to say that I don't think what you're doing is o.k.-- I think it takes a lot of guts to do what you're doing. You definitely have a lot more guts than me. It is different raising girls (easier) and I'm sure none of your neighbors will think it is "odd" that your soon-to-be-daughter rides on trucks some day (even though they think it is "odd" that your sons have strollers and dolls). The most amazing thing to me is that your husband agrees with you on these things. My husband would probably die of a heartattack if he ever saw our son in a tutu!
Alicia (a regular Johnson-McCormick blog reader)

Anonymous said...

I haven't stopped laughing yet. Absolutely can't wait to see what the neighbors say when they see the boys ride their bikes wearing tutus.

Yes, yes, yes!

from Braydon's mother who hasn't figured out how to identify herself.

Glen and Andrea said...

I've always considered it normal for young boys to love prams, dolls, pink etc. When you think about makes sense. Prams have wheels and are excellant ways of taking your dolls, teddies, trucks etc around the house. Pink is just another colour of the rainbow, why should it be off limits? Wearing a tutu is a real novelty, it's all poky outy and fun!

I have three younger brothers now aged 19-28 yrs who are men's men, but they all wanted a doll's pram etc. My 28 yr old little brother even went to a school drss-up day as a 4yr old dressed as 'Sally Strawberry' from the Munch bunch. And the costume wasn't bought either, it was made by my mother and Dad never had a problem with it. And they are seriously conservative, typical sheep farmers.

We will have our 2 yr old (finally) by about March, and I plan on letting him have free reign in this department. In my experience they slowly grow out of it. And stopping them from cross dressing now isn't going to stop them from doing that as an adult if they desired it!

trish said...

If I was your neighbor's neighbor, wow, the fun you and I could have with this! But seriously, I think it is great and I especially think having them nurture their dolls can only be good.
-from a household where the man is the primary cook and he loves shopping. I think he had a pink shirt when I met him... wonder where that went?

Michelle said...

Three cheers!

I say, whatever exploration a young child wants to make (given it's a safe exploration) let them. Hypothetically speaking, a single female my age (28) would much rather date a guy who isn't conforming to society and doesn't hold standards to the women he dates. Hypothetically, I feel that the kids who are comfortable with exploring society and it's boundaries, who push dollies in strollers and like pink, it's these kids who grow up with the big heart and who aren't afraid to put themselves out into society and make a difference. And they are more often the most interesting people at the party.

Kids make up stories when they hear the word 'no' and sometimes it's those stories that give them tunnel vision later on in life.

Stella said...

Oh my gosh, you are totally doing the right thing!!! You guys are some of the best parents ever! I really admire you.

sara said...

I haven't had to deal with this situation yet, but when we have a little boy, I will make the same decision you did. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education, and have been a preschool teacher. I currently work with children with special needs under the age of 3. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to explain to parents why I am letting their little boy do pretend play with a baby doll or with the kitchen stuff. I know I haven't convinced everyone, but when I mention that it might help them be "gentle" with younger siblings, it often helps:-) I say let the kids be kids... they don't understand why everyone makes such a big deal out of it. It's just play!

You're doing a great job. I love reading your blog.

Rony said...

LOL. I say let them explore their feminine side. That's the probably with our society. Boys aren't supposed to show their soft side nor are they supposed to cry. I see nothing wrong with this. We now have girls trying to get into the Boy Scouts, however a boy would not be approved to be in the Girl Scouts. Double standards! Rock on baby girl....

Malia'sMama said...

I love it! I teach highschool and very often, spawned by something in the lit we're reading, this kind of discussion will come up. Even teen boys say it's okay for girls to do "guy" things, but not the other way around. So we discuss the importance of encouraging the nurturer, the creator in boys, and the healing properties of "talking it out" and tears. Funny, though, how even the girls will say it's okay for a guy to cry "if it's b/c of something really important". It's hard to break through this kind of thinking and I love that you are doing it so naturally with your little men. BTW, in Haiti, gender roles are very defined, BUT it is not unusual to see a man wearing women's shoes, or a t-shirt that says "Baby on board" (LOL) or the brightest/softest of pinks. If O & K showed up in Soleil in their pink tutus, they'd be mobbed by BOTH sexes wanting to try them on! :)

Anonymous said...

People object to dolls, strollers, and play kitchens for boys? Seriously? I mean, my brother pushes his baby in a stroller and cooks in a kitchen and no one raises an eyebrow. So it's ok for a 35 year old but not a 3 year old? (And now that I think about it, he had a toy doll when we were kids.)

I would have bought the tutu, although I think there is probably an age cut off (7?8?) where I would have been less comfortable with it, admittedly because of what their peers (and/or my peers) would think.

M and M said...

Ooooh, I have done the exact same thing with my precious and delightful and delicious son who is now 15 years old and is a soccer playing, snowboarding, weight lifting, sweetheart who remembers to tell me he loves me and thanks me for helping him grow up to be the nice young MAN that he is! This son wore barrettes and tutus and all manner of tights and his sister's dresses. Your boys rock - and you make me proud to be part of this motherhood scene to toddlers once again (I'm adopting from ET and am a regular and delighted reader of your blog!). Rock on K and O!

erin said...

Totally tutus! I have hypothetically gone through this in my mind, mostly because when I taught preschool, there was a boy taking ballet. When the day came for the girls to don their tutus and the boys their capes, he wanted to wear a tutu. No black leotard and cape for him. And he did. Along with some barrettes.

I remember asking my dh, and he said. Hmm, tutu ok, but no barrettes!

Our younger guy picked out pink hello kitty slippers all on his own, and routinely wears my costume jewelry to school. He's three. He's exploring and experiencing the world, and I don't ever want him to feel that his penchant for pink is "wrong."

Go you guys!!

Story of our Life said...

I can't agree more w/everyone else!

I'm glad you bought them.

My suggestion would be...enroll them in dance classes!! SERIOUSLY!! I'm sure they will love it and you will to.

:o) Gala

Robyn said...

You are so cool! I love your openness.

Kristi said...

You know some day K & O are going to probably have to cook a meal or take care of a child and pretending to do it now is a good step in the right direction. Plus, kids simply do in play what they've seen adults do. Anyone in your house wearing pink tutus? :)

I say hurray for you for not making a big deal out of something that just isn't, well, a big deal. And even in pink tutus those two still look like "all boy."

K & O can play at our house any time. We have a kitchen, baby dolls, trucks, airplanes AND tutus!

There's a good essay in the current issue of Wonder Time about a little boy who wanted a dress and his mom who bought him one and then let him wear it to school.

Kristi said...

You know some day K & O are going to probably have to cook a meal or take care of a child and pretending to do it now is a good step in the right direction. Plus, kids simply do in play what they've seen adults do. Anyone in your house wearing pink tutus? :)

I say hurray for you for not making a big deal out of something that just isn't, well, a big deal. And even in pink tutus those two still look like "all boy."

K & O can play at our house any time. We have a kitchen, baby dolls, trucks, airplanes AND tutus!

There's a good essay in the current issue of Wonder Time about a little boy who wanted a dress and his mom who bought him one and then let him wear it to school.

julie said...

This post made me laugh. I don't know if I would have bought them the tutu's but I really don't see any harm in it.

I have girls and boys and my boys play dress up right along with the girls. The younger ones put on the princess outfits and run around. I think it is funny.

The only time my husband got a little irritated is when I painted my 7 year old sons nails hot pink like his sisters. That was a little over the top for him. My son could have cared less.

You have a great blog. I will be back to visit again.


Bek said...

My poor son (the same age at K and O and not NEARLY as verbal and observant as your boys your previous post and your pregnancy...) has two sisters. We never bothered to buy him "boy" toys. In our house, barbies were turned into bats and guns, dolls became cars, etc, etc. BUT, he also loves to dress up with his sisters, is obsessed with "makeup" and loves to push the stroller.

I think that they emulate what they see, they see moms and dads pushing strollers, taking care of them, etc, etc. Why not copy it? My son also loves all "boy" things. I see no difference. I would have bought the tutu's and wouldn't worry about it at all. Neighbors can be nosy and strange, who cares?

My son is currently obsessed with the toy broom and vacuume. He was out side "vacuuming" the car last week while I was cleaning out the car. My neighbor asked (and I quote exactly) "aren't you afraid he will turn gay if you let him play with girl toys?". It was SO absurd I just laughed and him and rolled my eyes.

My dad taught me a long time ago two very important lessons 1) People can be dumb (apply this as you see fit..) and life will be better if you just "be a duck" ie, "ignore the crazy". ;-)

My comments have become posts. I think that this is all part of them figuring out what they like. BTW... the baby stroller was THE most argued over toy in our playgroup. Second was the vacuume. Go figure.

This Mama said...

What fun!!
My guy enjoys the sterotypical "boy things" but once in a while (as captured in my blog) he likes to borrow a dress and a hairstyle from his older sisters...and why not? I hope we get out of this gender-in-a-box stuff in my lifetime!
Good for you and your boys - tutu's are fun :)

Mrs. Baker said...