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"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life." - Steve Jobs
“What’s wrong with pink?” I said to my husband. “Are you threatened by our son wearing a pink baseball cap?”
“Well, no. Not until my brother said something, then I thought twice and agreed with him. Pink is just not a color for boys. Any other color but pink. Kids will make fun of him.”
“He’s two,” I said. “Nobody is going to make fun of him. Alessio picked it out. He likes it. What’s wrong with that?”
We both knew we were talking about more than a color.
“Are you worried our son will be gay?” I finally said. “Do you actually think wearing pink or blue makes any difference to sexuality? Besides, so what if our son is gay?”
The real thing the pink hat symbolizes is the outdated prejudices in our society. How will they change, and when? It depends on us. Do we simply accept and enable the outmoded thinking, and worse yet, pass it on? As parents, one of our jobs is to teach our children to honor who they are - exactly who they are. In teaching tolerance and acceptance, we are contributing to a better world. It’s a little hat with a big meaning, at least for me. My dad is gay.
My dad is an incredible man. I seriously couldn’t wish for a better father. I’m so proud he is my dad. Granted, I do have concerns for my kids if they are gay - for the discrimination they would face in daily life, and not just as kids, but into adulthood. This has to change!
It’s a touchy subject: How to raise open children in a culture that is often closed to those who are different.
The best thing I can do as a parent is encourage confidence and independence in my children, by letting them know they are loved for who they are, not who I want them to be. Creative expression comes in all colors.
Gender exploration is a natural part of growing up. The princess craze of dressing up pink and frilly extends to little boys, too. Kids emulate whoever is around them, whether female or male. It’s totally normal for pre-schoolers to gender bend as princesses, pirates, mommy, daddy - any number of roles.
My son’s best friend, Leo, likes to wear his mom’s high heels and jewelry. At the same time, Leo is all-boy and loves kissing girls.
Experts say, let them play. They are trying on the world around them and what it is like to be in other people’s shoes (literally!). Parents who are too rigid about gender stereotypes can damage their children’s self-esteem by teaching them to dislike their natural feelings. Not only that, if your child is going through a phase you would like to discourage, rigidity will often make the phase last longer.
Between two and three is the age of anatomy, exploration, and defining just what a boy or girl is. Sometimes Alessio announces, “I’m a girl.” At other times, he asserts he’s a boy. He asks me what I am. “A girl,” I say. “And daddy?” Children this age do not understand gender constancy. They are able to correctly identify males and females, but are too young to understand that genders (ordinarily) do not change. Alessio and I have long conversations. I patiently try to answer his questions, though it went a little too far when Alessio asked to see my friend’s boobs!
Whether your daughter wants to play football or your son loves bright colors, be proud of your children and support them unconditionally. Teach them to hear their own voice above the clamor of all the others. This is the only way to raise healthy, well-rounded kids.
Do I really want to teach my son to be afraid of a color? Alessio still wears the pink hat. It’s his favorite one.