The feeling wasn’t a creeping, growing knowing. It was a kick to the solar plexus, concrete lump in the guts, kind of realization. I am a hypocrite.
No rationalization or creative spin could change the ah-ha moment when I realized I was creating the kind of double standard I’d rallied against my entire life.
I grew up in a family of four children—three boys and one girl. The matriarch of our clan was (is) stubborn, wicked smart, and fierce. And she made sure I grew up with an internal narrative, which said, “Whatever my brothers do, I can do—and maybe, I can even do it better.”
There was no stopping my interests and passions—there was no stopping ME, because of my gender. Yes, I was a girl. And yes, I could do and be whatever and whomever I chose.
You want to play basketball, even though you’re outnumbered by the boys on the court? Do it anyway. You want to wear jeans and cowboy boots instead of skirts and leotards? To hell with anyone so small-minded as to judge a person for what they wear. You want to be a leader? They might call you “bitch”. So what! Be who you are. You’ll be miserable in the long run if you try to be anyone else.
I had no problem perpetuating this message to my daughters.
It was the moment when the words, “Boys don’t…” came tumbling out of my mouth, I realized I was making a terrible mistake.
My four year old son, nicknamed Ninja for his wild ways, loves cars, jokes, and dance music. Anything with wheels and an engine revs him up—pun intended. He knows the makes and models of dozens of vehicles by sight. If the weather would allow, he would be outside every minute of every day driving power wheels. This kid misses nothing. His ability to remember detail is mind boggling. He is wicked smart (like his grandma), and at times, he can be explosive and wired. He is also kind and disarmingly charming.
And…his favorite color is pink. He feels his best in his sisters’ dresses, nightgowns, and mom’s heels. Anything that can be construed into a wig, he will wear with swagger. He is particular about jewelry—diamonds and rubies, please. And his attention to detail is as strong for handbags as it is for wheels.
Yes, he is four. Yes, he has older, feminine, sisters he idolizes. Yes, his interests might change. And… they might not.
This post has nothing to do with projecting into his future as a cross-dresser, nor does it have anything to do with his sexuality, for those readers who may be headed in that direction.
Again, he is four. I’m going to intentionally steer this conversation in the direction of what it is really about.
One day, my fear of judgement wrestled with my love of my son. And you know what?…It won.
Fear is a crazy strong thing. And even though I believed my love for my son was stronger than any force in nature…I was wrong. Because as soon as those words crossed my lips and landed in his ears, “Boys don’t wear dresses to school,” fear became the strongest. Fear won.
“To school” is operative. It was fine for him to wear whatever he chose in the confines of our home. To school? No way! What would people think? How might he be treated? Someone could say something hurtful to him?
That internal dialogue is fear winning.
There are people who will read this story and be on either side of an imaginary fence. And they will feel strongly about it. I’m not here to stand on one side and argue, nor am I looking for comrades in support.
I know my truth. It rages inside me.
I would never, ever, have said to either of my daughters, “Girls don’t wear ____ to school,” in the interest of fitting into gender stereotypes.
But I said it to my son.
I am a hypocrite.
Thank God, I don’t have to stay that way. I can stop. I can change.
The narrative I supplant in my son’s mind can be exactly what it is for my daughters—exactly what it was for me, “Do what makes you great. Be YOU. You might feel alone sometimes. You might face difficult choices and difficult people. Be you anyway. Because you will be miserable in the long run if you try to be anyone else.”
And that is exactly what it will be.
Because hypocrites make lousy parents and love wins in our house.