20130801-233305.jpgI have two sons. They are handsome and smart and sweet. They are curious and honest. They are silly and naive. They play light sabers and princesses. They draw butterflies and ice cream cones, space scenes and robots. Their birthday cakes have been rainbows and airplanes, pink snowmen and blue pigs.

Just a few weeks ago, they insisted that I paint their toenails a soft shade of blue and I obliged. Because painted nails are a treat that no child should be denied.

And despite their bookish tendencies and confusion as to why girls get to wear all the cutest clothes and be princesses, they are all boy.

Not just part boy. All boy.

Boys can, in fact, be nurturing and kind. They can abhor violence. They can be sensitive to others and they can have little interest in karate chops and shooting bad guys.

Somewhere along the line, that fact has gotten lost. Somehow the definition of “boy” became very limited. Somehow it became okay for girls to wear boy clothes, to play on boy teams, to have boy names. Girls can be girly-girls or tomboys and that’s cool. They are free to be themselves. They are encouraged to do anything, to be anything, to dream big and to challenge limitations.

But not boys. Boys have to be more careful. Ballet lessons are suspect. Pink is off-limits. Ponies are for girls only.

The wider the door opens for girls, the narrower it becomes for boys.

Boys who disdain pink and opt to play with guns and swords over dress-ups and wands are said to be “all boy,” but where does that leave those who have no such reservations over the color of their clothes or the toys they play with?

Guess what: they are all boy, too.

And before I go, can I tell you a secret? Pink is a really nice color. Actually, I shouldn’t have to tell you that. Even my 3-year-old son knows it.

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  1. Beautiful. Today I’ve been talking a lot to friends about labels. What are we saying to our sons, our daughters, others, and ourselves when we say “they’re all boy”?… Or all anything? Or gay, straight, smart, stupid, quick, slow, ugly, pretty, or a hundred other labels? Why can’t they be just them?
    I have a male friend who is married to a man. When others say to him “so you’re gay” he says “no, I’m Adam.”. He refuses to be reduced to being “gay” and asks that he is recognized as all of him, as Adam.
    If we allowed that for ourselves, others, our children, and right now especially our boys, we’d be allowing for those we love and care for to flourish as themselves, and not be forced to languish because they don’t fit strange boxed conventions we’ve come to accept as right. Can we allow that? #flourish


    lizzie Reply:

    So true, Abby! I hope to be able to teach my kids to be confident enough to be as straightforward as that. “I’m me, and there’s a lot more to me than being smart or pretty or shy or whatever.” I feel like you’ve just opened up another aspect of this that I hadn’t thought much about. Thanks!


  2. It’s funny you should post about this today because I’ve been thinking about it. With my little boy, I’ve always tried not to limit him to stereotypical “boy” things. If he wants to dance, or play kitchen, or wear pink, than that’s fine with me. Today we were picking out bedding for his new bed and I asked him what he liked and he pointed to the tinkerbell bedspread. I had to draw the line. Partly because I’d like his bedding to be a little more timeless, but partly because he’s a boy. It made me stop and think that maybe I’m limiting him more than I thought.


    lizzie Reply:

    I’ve been through the same thing, Rachel. A few months ago we were looking at pajamas and all the boys’ and girls’ pajamas were together. It killed me to know that I wouldn’t think too hard about it before letting my daughter pick the boys’ pajamas, but I couldn’t let my boys choose girls’ pjs. However, when I got Simon some new swimming shorts a few weeks ago and he wanted the hot pink pair, I was glad to let him do it. I hate the double-standard, but I’m not confident enough to challenge. Even for pjs that only our family will ever see.


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