I am lying in bed trying to summon the energy to do some much needed chores: calling in sick at work due to another ‘relapse’ of back pain; calling a good friend to arrange her to visit so I can countersign her passport; checking on Winter Boy who is doing goodness knows what in his bedroom, and well, er, going to the Loo. My reluctance to call people is because this involves a game called ‘Hunt the Phone Charger’; my reluctance to do that, aside from the pain this produces is also largely for the same reason as not wanting to go to the loo and not wanting to check on my boy – Every Single Room in this place looks like we have been burgled and I cannot bear to wade through toys, clothes and other debris just to find a phone and to find my son.
So, instead I am sitting here with the skylights open, the sun on my face, putting it all off in the name of ‘writing’. I have been thinking, with a smile on my face, about my little boy (who has, during the time of writing this wandered upstairs with the iPad asking me for daddy’s password so he can upload a Toy Story game) and his love of dressing up; it has got me thinking, not for the first time, about our values in this family of ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’ especially with campaigns around such as Let Toys Be Toys (encouraging retailers to change the way they advertise their toys to ‘boys’ and ‘girls’) and with some surprising attitudes of those in our social circle.
Like my daughter as a toddler (who, apart from occasionally forgetting to put knickers on before going out, has developed a sense of shyness about her body in front of friends and strangers in the last 6 months), he much prefers to be stark naked than trapped in the constraints of clothing; often discarding his clothes the moment he gets home. And even when he concedes that he needs to wear clothes, getting dressed can be a battle as he changes his mind about what he wants to wear for pre-school or to the park every 30 seconds or so. When Winter Boy has clothes on, he adores dressing up; between him and his big sister they have an ecclectic mix of princess dresses, doctors outfits, nurses uniforms and cowboy clothes, along with a few of my old clothes from when I was a size nothing (can’t believe I ever fit into some of those things).
But Winter Boy is never happier at the moment than when he is dressing as a ‘girl’. He has recently been photographed wearing his sister’s emerald-green sparkly party dress which shimmers in sunlight. Apart from being huge for him, he actually looked quite stunning in it and looked the spit of his sister at the same age. He wanted to be a princess and go to sleep as a princess that night, and so after a few enormous, sad, rolling tears of protest dropped onto the dress we let him get into his Thomas the Tank Engine adorned bed as Princess Winter Boy and after a princess story, he insisted we say “goodnight princess” to him.
We have just been given a big bag of clothes from a parent at Summer Girl’s school for Winter Boy. It’s all too big, but that hasn’t stopped him insisting on wearing his new Ben 10 shirt for 4-5 year olds to pre-school and his new 5 year old ‘Cars’ PJs to bed. However, despite his love of his new ‘boy’ clothes, he insisted, at 8pm on Friday evening, after stripping out of those much-loved ‘Cars’ PJs, that he was going to bed as The Queen of Hearts. After a few attempts at refusing by us parents (purely on the basis that it’s not jimjams), we gave in and let him dress up as the Queen of Hearts, have a story about Queens in bed; he went to bed without a fuss, tucked up in his Gruffalo duvet, with the little fluffy sleeves of the dress poking over the covers. He corrected me again when I gave him a kiss goodnight “say ‘Goodnight Queen of Hearts’ not Winter Boy!”. About 5am when he woke proclaiming that he no longer wanted to be The Queen of Hearts. R changed him back into himself and he snuggled with us, happily announcing that he loved being a Queen, but prefers being Winter Boy before going back to sleep.
I have been shocked at some of the things people around us have said about these events. Seemingly intelligent friends of mine have made comments such as ‘you can’t do that to him! it’s cruel!’ and ‘he won’t forgive you for that [photo]’. When he has had a colourful wrap in his (apparently far too long) gorgeous blonde hair, there have been cries of ‘but he’s a booooy!’ and one time a male friend actually took the hair braid out when I wasn’t there (I was a little cross about that one I can tell you).
Seriously, what do those who have a problem with him twirling in a dress or having fun braids, or wanting to be called ‘Queen of Hearts’ think is going to happen to him, other than growing up to be a well-rounded, well-adjusted child, and then into a well-rounded, well-adjusted man? Wearing dresses and having long hair and hair wraps wont ‘make him gay’ or ‘transgender’. If he is ‘gay’, well, then that’s just how he is anyway; as parents, and as his peers around him, we should be supporting and developing that aspect of his character as he grows, not stifling it by providing negative labels, which could lead to issues around sexuality, and ultimately unhappiness, as he grows into a man. If his sexuality is not already defined as ‘gay’, being the Queen of Hearts is not going to change that, it will just mean he is being a child having the time of his life. And I am loving watch his fun, cheeky, happiness grow.
Interestingly, my Summer Girl has just started a football club, as a result of a local good football club bringing coaches into her school. No-one seems to bat an eyelid at the notion of her dressing in a masculine manner, having her beautiful blonde hair scraped back, wearing football boots, shin pads, and football shorts, as she will ‘grow out of this phase’. She too is being the child she wants to be, not constrained by the expectations of adult society. And it’s fabulous. I should probably get up now…