Our son is sweet and funny and charming. He is currently obsessed with dressing like his soccer coach, builds jails for his dinosaurs and is often, as I once saw a boy described, "noise with some dirt on it". I don't quite know where this boy came from because as recently as 3 months ago he threw a tantrum over the fact that he did not receive "Fancy Nancy" dress up clothes like his twin sister did at birthday time. Poor boy.
Some well-meaning mother had bought him "boring" doctor and train conductor outfits while our daughter was decked out in ribbons and pearls and high heeled princess shoes. Anyone would be jealous! I handled this one by rushing off to Target to buy Tinkerbell and Ariel costumes so he wouldn't feel left out. This meltdown wasn't really a surprise since he had coveted her silver, sparkly princess slippers at Christmas time (again, I bought him a matching pair)
At Halloween, he had thrown an enormous tantrum when she was a fairy princess and he was Superman. This one I managed to figure out, was actually about the fabulous fairy wand that she had and luckily I happened to have a spare, although different, wand in the closet. When he was really young, he was obsessed with bracelets and rings. He wore them all the time, even to sleep.
I think everyone who has a daughter expects her to go through a princess stage. I didn't really expect my son to be quite as enamored of them as he was. Part of it, I think, is because he really likes his sister. And he wants what she has. Plus, girl's stuff is just so much more festive/sparkly/pretty! At age 3, this is all developmentally appropriate. Most children don't differentiate between "boy's things" and "girl's things" until they are a bit older. It's often hard for the parents to deal with because, as I said, we have our expectations about what our children will be like and we usually expect the standard: boys play with trucks and trains. Girls like dolls and dress up and if your child is "different" you don't know what to do!
For us, it actually seemed harder for strangers to handle our son's predilection for being fancy. We didn't really care that he liked this "girly" stuff or that pink was his favorite color. But strangers would comment or older children would say things, and I would begin to wonder if my comfort with his self-expression was going to end up having him feel bad about himself.
I ended up allowing him to do whatever he wanted at home or at play dates. We didn't bring tutus or bracelets to the park and I told him pink UGG boots would get too dirty, so we bought brown ones (for both of them). I never made him feel as though he "shouldn't" like those things or that he "should" play with other toys. But I found myself secretly thinking these things. Before the kids were born I always felt that I wasn't sexist and that I held no rigid stereotypes when it came to boys and girls, but once our son's love of all things pink and girly began to take hold, I realized this wasn't entirely true!
I notice how much more at ease I am with my son's love of his basketball shorts than I was with his tutu wearing. And that makes me sad. In very little time I am sure my son will no longer be asking for my daughter's hair clips or for me to paint his nails. I'm glad I indulged him while the love of color and sparkle lasted. Now that it's almost passed, I already miss it.
Gina Osher is a former holistic healer turned SAHM to boy/girl twins, parenting coach and author of the popular blog, The Twin Coach. There she writes about everything from how Halloween candy clued her in to the meaning of life, to tips on what to do if you cant breastfeed your infants. One part friend who's been through it all. One part mom of twins trying to figure it out. One part mentor willing to share. Gina's work has appeared on blogs such as The Mother Company, RookieMoms and A Child Grows. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter!
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