What I didn't count on was that the object of his affection would be the pinkest, glitteriest, heart-shaped bejeweled princess shoes you've ever seen. Complete with a bow. And here's the thing...I've dated people with every kind of body part, or lack of body part imaginable. I've always believed it's the person you love, not their parts. And I was totally floored by the pink shoes. Which shocked me more than his wanting them did. I mean hell, I want them. They are sparkle fantastic. And way more exciting then the "proper" brown leather dress up shoe or the navy blue sneaker that I picked out for him.
I guess I was pretty surprised to find that when it came to my son, I was pretty reluctant to step outside of pre-defined, societal gender roles. And I was dreading the judgement that he might get or I might get for his pink shoes. Which contemplating it a minute more just made me pissed. Because if he were a girl and waltzed around in a pair of spider-man shoes, no one would bat an eyelash. So the pink shoes it was. And I have to say, he looked pretty snazzy 5 minutes later running down the supermarket aisles, his pink shoes a-twinkling on his happy little feet.
Later that day, I called my husband to give him a heads up about the shoes. The conversation went something like this:
Joe: I guess that's ok as long as he just wears them at home.
Me: Babe, he's 2! Don't you think he's a little bit young to be imposing gender roles on him. And do you want to be the one to explain why he can't wear the pink shoes?!
Joe: But, I'm concerned about what the other kids will say.
Me: You mean the other two year olds at library storytime might call him a fag?
I feel like I should qualify something here. I don't throw the word "fag" around lightly. I was trying to unveil to my husband whatever unconscious thought people have when they make a judgement that it's ok for girl's to be a tomboy - heck, it might even be considered cute, or as they got older, sexy - but there is almost no tolerance for boys to be anything outside of a very....VERY... rigidly defined definition of BOY. At this point he saw where I was coming from. And when he got home and saw the shoes himself, he got a wry grin on his face and said "I totally get it". Have I mentioned I adore my husband?
I guess I'm bringing this up because it brings up for me a critical part of my parenting philosophy - celebrate who your kid is and give them the confidence to be happy in themselves, even when they don't follow a traditional mold. The pink shoes may be a one time thing, like a fish drawn to a shiny lure. And given that the child is only two, this is almost surely the case. But if in the long run it's not, I would rather be prepared to support my son in his choices. Even if it's uncomfortable. Even if it means that he swims more upstream socially because of it. Because I'd rather give him the tools to deal with other people's judgements from an early age than make him feel like he has to feel ashamed or suppress any aspect of himself. I never understood how to follow a traditional mold. I wasn't the most popular kid in school. But my parents gave me the love and the support to be whoever I was in the world and I'd like to pass that gift on to my son.