Friday, April 11, 2014

Boy Shoes

I overheard the following conversation this morning as the kids were getting ready to go outside:

Sean: I have boy shoes.
Kegan: Yeah, and I have girl shoes.

I stopped in my tracks and suddenly felt slightly nauseous that my kids just labelled shoes as only for boys or only for girls! Shoes! We have spent the past five plus years being gender neutral and now within the last four months we have become a very gender aware family.

I never took my kids to the "boys department" to shop, I took them shopping. Yes, we navigated to the boys section and generally bought "boys" clothes, but I never told them which section we were in. I bought legos, dolls, strollers, groceries, trains, trucks, and craft supplies with equal enthusiasm and very little disparity.  I bought Kegan a pair of pink sparkly shoes when she was two because those were the shoes she picked. I also bought her green camo (which I despise) shoes when she was three because those were the shoes she picked. I have never said "girls should...", "girls can"t...," "only girls...". I have also never said, "boys must..," "boys will be boys," or "only boys..." I have talked about people or "boys and girls," I don't tell my kids they are "good boys." (Or obviously "bad boys."

And suddenly the shoes in our house have gender labels. This is tough. I believe it is necessary to Kegan's transition that she become aware of the gender expressions that show the world "I am a girl," or "I am a boy." Her whole life, everyone has assumed she was a boy, not suddenly she has to make the world see her as how she sees herself. I can't come up with any other ways to do that than:

1. Make a sandwich board for her to wear that says, "I am a girl. Please use female pronouns."
2. Dress the part the way society sees girls.

In order for her to do that she is figuring out what makes society see a child as a girl versus a boy. She has figured out if she wears a dress, people tend to see a girl. If she grows her hair long, people see a girl, If she wears certain shoes, people see a girl. She is else do you distinguish between two kids of opposite genders in size 6?

We have dresses covered, we are getting there with leggings, more fitted shirts, the Mary Janes. But her hair is still too boyish. I have actually talked to my husband about splurging for extensions. For my five year old! I know what it is to have a bad haircut, one far too short. I remember with far too much clarity getting ten inches of hair cut off with one snip of the scissors when I was ten. I burst into tears. I was devastated...I had no idea how drastic it was going from long to so short. I had no idea the patience required to go from all those layers to long again. I think if Kegan had long hair, NOW!, she would easily be assumed to be a girl 99% of the time. But extensions? Really? Outrageous and yet...I am still trying to figure out how to justify the cost. No, actually I am not, I am okay with the cost, I am trying to figure out if it would be okay to do that to a five year old.

Pierced ears are my next thought...short hair gains a a total girl attitude when paired with cubic zirconia or pink sparkly studs. I am pretty okay, not perfect, but comfortable enough, with my five year old getting pierced ears. But not if it is my idea. I want a bosy change like that to come from her. But my kids don't know enough about how girls are defined to even know to ask for pierced ears for Kegan. She knows what earrings are, she sees people wear them ,and has even often admired them...but to think to ask for them, I just don't think she is there yet.

Nail polish was suggested to me. That is a pretty girly decoration, despite the male polish that some men wear. But if Sean wanted to wear it too, I could not allow myself to say "No." I cannot tell him it is only for girls. Sean likes his short hair, so I don't worry about him asking for extensions. I don't think he would ask for pierced ears, especially after watching Kegan scream from the pain...and honestly, I do have a problem with my two or three or even four year old having pierced ears, so that is easy. But nail polish? I specifically bought Piggy Paint in matching colors to my nail polish a few times, so I could let the kids wear nail polish if they asked, Which they never did. 

I sometimes wonder how much of this stuff is my issue versus Kegan's. Kegan is happy. In fact, I sometimes feel she is much happier as a girl than she was as a boy. The changes are subtle, I don't think of her as a pouty or melancholy boy, but she is different. She is kinder to Sean, almost as if a level of self-imposed competition has been removed. I think her being a girl, being who she is, is all she needs right now. The dresses and leggings make her a girl to the world in her eyes, and for the most part they do. Maybe it is my impatience, maybe I am the one who needs this all now. I don't like the occasional stares of "Is that a boy or a girl?" that I see directed at her...very occasionally. I am sure she doesn't even see them, but I do. I just want her to look the part she now stars in.  And yet, at the same time, I don't want either her or Sean to recognize exactly what makes the role of female versus male look legit to our society. 

1 comment:

  1. Keep in mind that pig tails don't need nearly as long hair as pony tails do and look very girlish, especially with barrettes and shiny elastics.

    Look around in jewelry stores. My daughter didn't want her ears pierced for ages but loved the look of earrings. Some store sell sticker earrings for kids.


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