At two year’s old, Penni F’s son happily enthuses over both fairies and trucks. But, she worries, what happens when pressure to be a ‘real man’ kicks in?
I have a toddler, a two-year-old boy. Like ‘most boys’, he likes running around and making loud noises, playing with trucks and watching Bob the Builder and Fireman Sam on the television. He likes riding his rocking horse so enthusiastically that he flies over the top of its head. He likes throwing things, hitting things with sticks, bouncing on the sofa, and generally doing whatever any sane and sensible parent would rather he didn’t.
He also likes pink. He loves fairies, and will spend ages poring over a book of fairies that his best friend (a girl) is completely left cold by. If he sees anyone crying, he wants to go and hug them. I can’t leave the house without him picking “a pretty flower for you, Mummy”. His hair is longer than people expect on a boy (and blond and curly, too). He always insists on taking large numbers of cuddly toys (“friends”) to bed with him, and when he wakes in the morning, he comes in and offers me one – “Would Mummy like a friend?”
Often I take my son out in his favourite bright pink top (with a flower on it), and when I’m complimented on my “beautiful little girl”, I explain that he’s a boy. I see the strangers’ faces change, and I feel guilty about allowing my boy to dress in clothes he likes, to have his hair a length that he likes. I can almost read their minds: “Oh, poor child. I expect his mother really wanted a girl…” Actually, I find my child delightful just as he is, and I am thrilled that he’s a boy. If he were a girl, I’d probably be equally thrilled, albeit less likely to feel bad about dressing her boyishly if she preferred it.