Yesterday, in effort to help a friend find some winter boots, Avi and I hung out in the shoe department of a consignment store for about 15 minutes. He began by stuffing his cars into the shoes – a beloved pastime at home. I love when I’m getting ready to leave the house and find his loving gestures unexpectedly meeting my feet. It wasn’t long before he grabbed a pair of black, sparkly high heels and brought them to me, “Take off my shoes, Ema”.
Before long, he was walking in these high heels proudly through the store. Finding himself in the mirror and having a private conversation. “Do you like these?” he asked. “Yes, I do,” said his reflection.
My heart melted a little as I watched him walk effortlessly in these shoes. That’s my son. I love that my boy was drawn to a pair of shoes that I would never in my life, not even for a costume, wear.
But quickly I thought of our society and of older generations that question this behavior. The time my mom said, “Don’t you mean, handsome” when I called my newborn son beautiful. The judgment of others that my son has a stroller (a gift from my mom – good job mom) and a baby doll or sews buttons or loves his ironing board. The exaggerated apologies when people are corrected that my long-haired beauty isn’t a “she” (Note: I rarely correct). Or that we encourage the whole spectrum of feelings.
I know many parents are raising their boys with dolls and girls with trucks these days, but because I’m queer… and our son has a two mama family… I think there is an unfounded fear that if we don’t raise our son to be “manly” (whatever the F*** that means) that he will be gay. (gasp).
I do many things to challenge gender stereotypes. I change gender of some of the diggers and excavators and bulldozers in his books. (Why do diggers all have to be male anyway?) I change the words of dated books, firemen become firefighters, mailmen are mail carriers, etc. In the telling of the Three Little Pigs, our woodcutter who gives the pig sticks is a women, so is the farmer who gives the pig straw and the mason who shares her bricks.
Gandhi said, Be the change you wish to see in the world. In raising my son to know that a women can be a wood chopper and cry when he is hurt or sad and push his dolls in the stroller and sew buttons on fabric, I do so because I want him to grow into a man who is respectful to women, can express his emotions, and be loving to his own children and a jack and jill of all trades. This is the change I want to see in the world.