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Natural and Normal: Not Gender Specific

Innocent Curiosity

By E.L. MartinPublished about a year ago 10 min read
Top Story - July 2022
Natural and Normal: Not Gender Specific
Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

I always knew this day would come, and I honestly always knew how I would react to this situation. My dad would be livid with me if he was still alive, but I surprisingly don't give a shit. The majority of my family members would reactively respond as well, and something small and unproblematic would be escalated to an insane and ridiculous level. However, I don't have a problem with it and I don't care. They could list off examples of what one small action is going to do to "damage" my child's psyche, but it won't happen.

"Do you want him to grow up to be gay or to think that he is a girl? Do you want him to get picked on and made fun of? Do you want him to be transgender? It'll be your fault for letting him do some of those things. You should be ashamed."

I'm not ashamed, and having their reactions and opinions would be far more damaging to my child. My child is three years old and has natural curiosities. Should I deny him that stuffed pink sequined unicorn after he has requested it three times? I set the rule that he can pick whatever toy within a certain price range that he wants at certain times of the month or for great behavior (like potty-training rewards). When that time period came around, and he chose the unicorn, should I have informed him, "No, you can't have that because it is a girl's toy?" Absolutely not. That is absurd. He is naturally curious about other kids as a whole, including the toys that most girls play with. That is normal. Unicorns are a fascination of the human imagination, and children are nearly always attracted to shiny items. It only means something more if adults add their input into it by shaming him for choosing something he innocently and genuinely likes. Children do not wholly understand the gender specific roles that adults assign and honestly, I'm with the kids on this one.

By June Gathercole on Unsplash

As a kid, I always asked for the boys' toys. I wanted them because I liked cars and things that moved. I played with action figures instead of dolls. I didn't want to play house or school, I wanted to play superheroes. I was constantly chastised and corrected for this, but it did no good. My dad was surprisingly ok with me liking the boys' stuff, but the inverse was certainly not true for my brother if he would have shown an interest in girls' toys. Reservations and biases were still present, and still exist today. My family feared I would develop into an "unsavory" sexuality or gender identity and pushed me into romantic relationships I was not ready for with males who I was incompatible with in the first place. They feared that if I turned out other than they intended that they had failed in raising me. This mindset, in my opinion, was their real failure.

A child is a child, and closest to their genuine self in their innocence; do not destroy it. While my family did actively try and successfully did destroy parts of me for a time, my husband accepts me for whom and what I am even if I have more traditionally "masculine vibes." I am a woman who has no reason not to enjoy activities that are stereotypically male. Sometimes this even helps us bond. I would be denying parts of myself if I refused to enjoy wrestling, MMA, and outdoor labor solely because these activities are not typically interests of women. The truth is we don't have to assign gender to activities and interests; activities are just activities and interests are merely interests. How my family overreacted did have its role in shaping me. Because I felt their approach was far more damaging than helpful, I devised at a young age to not react the same way with my children.

Thus when my son became jealous of the hair ties and bows the girls at daycare wore in their hair, I didn't react in the same way. It took a little while to see what was going on as I kept signing forms saying that little girls in his class were biting him. Then, he started coming home with hair ties and bows he had smuggled in his clothes. He would put them on his wrist in the car and wear them like bracelets. It finally made sense to me why he was getting bitten; he was stealing their hair accessories! If you think about it from a child's perspective, he noticed that those hair accessories were things he didn't have but that those girls did. This made them special and desirable in his mind. We returned the ones we found and I explained that taking things from others is wrong. I let him wear similar hair ties that I bought instead. Thankfully, this also solved the issue of him getting bitten. And when he found flowered hair clips at my grandmas and asked for them to be put in his hair, I let him give it a try. The result? He swiftly found out how uncomfortable they are, and no longer had an interest. That was all there was to it.

By Alexandra Tran on Unsplash

When he gets into my jewelry cabinet (which is mostly filled with costume jewelry), he wears my bracelets, necklaces, and rings. I don't throw a fit about how boys aren't supposed to wear necklaces like my father did when my brother asked for a simple gold chain. I don't have a colossal episodic meltdown like my family did about certain relatives and me. I simply separated the items that are safe for his play exactly where he can find them, and he freely gets into it whenever he wants. Children want to do "big people" things, including dressing up like "big people" do. My son simply sees that others wear necklaces and jewelry on occasion, and wants to give it a try. Kids love to play dress up, and there is nothing wrong with that. To him, dressing up like a superhero or playing with Mommy's costume jewelry is the same darn thing. Funnily enough, my son's favorite necklace happens to be the one my mother tried to dissuade me from on a beach trip because it was "a men's necklace." But regardless of whether he is wearing it or my colorful heart and butterfly rings, the important thing is that he is having fun, and learning things about the world through imaginative play.

My Son's Favorite Necklace

Today, he wanted to help me clean out our storage room. Low and behold, he found a coveted container of blue nail polish. Initially, it perplexed him because I ordinarily do not wear nail polish. He often gives a similar look when we have visited my mother or when other female family members show him their freshly decorated nails. He has made note that I do not wear nail polish, and likely thought that I didn't wear it because I didn't have any. So, he naturally wanted to try it out. I will also note here that my son loves arts and crafts, particularly paint of any kind. After he asked, I decided to show him how it works (which is often the question he asks me about everything) without hesitation. I keep in mind that my son is observant about the world around him. Just as much as he sees many women with nail polish, he also enjoys watching music videos from our favorite artists. He sees that individuals like Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach wear nail polish too, and let me tell you-it does not detract from his masculinity (or attractiveness). Therefore, why should it be avoided for those dumb, inaccurate reasons?

I painted one fingernail on each of my son's hands and one toenail on each foot, and asked him if he liked it. He then wanted Mommy to paint hers and finish painting the rest of his nails, so we did. It was a fun, improvised activity that I did not have planned for today. What did it hurt? Nothing. Much like his temporary tattoos that my family has shamed me and others for allowing their kids to put on because "heaven forbid they decide to get real ones later on and then they'll be covered", fingernail polish is removable. Temporary tattoos are temporary. My son usually leaves the tattoos on from anywhere between ten minutes and a half an hour before he asks me to wash them off. My son enjoyed his colorful fingernails and toenails for a while, and then asked me to take the polish off too (just as I suspected). He is not permanently psychologically damaged from having blue painted fingernails. In fact, I doubt it even made a substantial impact on his mind other than, "well, that was fun."

He will be who he wants to or chooses to be; it's as simple as that. He is who he is, and we have no stipulations about our love of him. Allowing him to play with fingernail polish under supervision is no different than when he paints himself while finger-painting. To him, the activities are similar; they are both painting. They are both about playing and learning. He is curious about everything. It is normal and positive to be curious, so I'm going to indulge the curiosities that do not cause him any harm or danger.

My family wonders why they are not as active in his life as they deem they should be. However, they do not learn or ask themselves important questions about matters of mental or emotional health. They care about the viewpoints of society, and gloating upon the success standards regarding them. They focus on the imagery without realizing the depth beneath it; their image is their own mirage. They must accept the things they do not wish to understand; that not everything or everyone fits into a perfect box-especially children. Individuality is important for loving a person, and children need to know that they are accepted and loved. Adding societal criteria to love makes it meaningless, and contradicts the point of love's existence. Essentially, adding stereotypical societal criteria is equating love to a form of possession and something that has to be earned. Love isn't a standard to achieve or a word to empress someone; it is a way to live.

Which is more damaging to a child; chastising, scorning, and imposing your own and societal will onto a child or allowing the child to express their own individuality in a healthy matter?

My husband and I believe in being encouragers to our child. We believe in loving our child for the individual he is; interests and all. I can tell you that reading some of his favorite books, especially the one on the parts of a tractor and equipment are not in my catalogue of interests. Yet, I do not dissuade him from that interest. Because he loves and enjoys them, I am going to read him those books with as much enthusiasm as I can muster because I am supporting him and what he enjoys. His development is not about me; it is about him. I only restrict him in regards to safety.

There are enough detrimental things in this world to harm a child's psyche. Giving them a safe environment to explore and learn about their curiosities and answering their questions is not one of them. By contrast, shaming them for doing natural and normal things is toxic, and I do not abide by it. It creates a problem where there would otherwise be none. I'm making an active choice not to create or continue that problem. If we cannot accept that human beings, especially little ones, are naturally and normally curious then we deny the very nature of humanity itself. Let them be little, and let them be curious.

By Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash


About the Creator

E.L. Martin

Powered by Nature, Humanity, Humor, Food, Lifestyle, Fiction, and Culture; Oh, and a questionable amount of coffee.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

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Comments (4)

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  • Ufreleyi12 months ago

    Very well said, I like it.

  • This comment has been deleted

  • Carol Townendabout a year ago

    My boys explored shoes, dolls, make-up, women's clothes and many other things considered 'female.' The girls explored trucks, construction, fire engines and many things considered 'male.' They both explored toys considered gendered to the opposite sex while exploring those gendered to their own. They were creative, imaginative and explorative. I am with you because I too let them explore as that is what kids do.

  • Ashley Calleaabout a year ago

    Amazing story! Thanks for sharing!

  • Amanda Nicoleabout a year ago

    I love this story!! I'm so glad your raising your son to be whomever he wishes and to express himself however also! I love that you let him wear your jewelry and wear nail polish!

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