“That’s such a cute baby! How old is he? Six months?” The British grandma invades my pram’s personal bubble in a tsunami of potpourri perfume. The small elevator restricts my escape.
I am too tired to correct her. She has good intentions.
“Yep. Six months.”
“Oooo, what a smile,” she coos, before allowing me to push my child out of the lift toward the supermarket café. I need coffee.
This is how it goes. I’m used to it. I dress my kid in anything but bubblegum-vomit-pink from head to toe and everyone, even other kids, thinks my daughter is a boy.
To be fair, she was a boy for the first thirty seconds of her life when my husband incorrectly identified her genitals. (No one told him everything is swollen down there; he thought he saw testicles.) I managed to breathe out “Jack” as the last numbing remnants of epidural wore off before my midwife corrected the situation.
I don’t mind when people can’t tell the gender of my daughter. She’s six months old. She’s nearly bald, and what peach fuzz hair she possesses is blonde and wispy. I refuse to clip pink bows into her hair or slip girly-screaming sparkly headbands over her skull. At least, not now.
I get it, I’m biased. I grew up a hardcore tomboy. I cut my hair short-short in high school. I hated the color purple. I played sports all year and enjoyed romping through our woods whenever possible. My summer jobs involved manual labor outside in the elements. I joined the Marine Corps. I enjoyed survival school in Maine in January. I volunteered to deploy to Afghanistan. Twice.
Yet, I’m not against girly things. I like dressing up. I like taking the time to wear makeup for a date night. I like looking sexy. But being practical, especially as a sleep-deprived parent, is more important: I can’t do this every day. I don’t have the time.
My experiences should not restrict what my daughter likes. She could be a tomboy like me. She could shower herself in glitter every morning and pretend to be a fairy princess. She could land somewhere in-between. What I want for her is to be able to choose her own path. However, it’s my duty while she’s young to expose her to options.
Starting with her wardrobe. My daughter has received plenty of girl-centric outfits from her Gigi and her Nanny and her aunts and uncles and Pappy and Grandpa and friends she doesn’t even know yet. She’s received a mix of hand-me-downs from her cousins, both girls and boys. Her closet is currently a mix between flower girl and tiny paleontologist.
When I buy clothes, I look to the future. We’re not done having children and I don’t believe in one-time-use outfits. I methodically search for gender neutral yellow and gray and white. Animal prints pass, as do stripes and block colors. Dinosaurs are acceptable at any age. Maybe it’s because I wore my brother’s old hand-me-downs or maybe because I’m a fraternal twin, but I’m all about sharing. Future Number Two will be stuffed into the same cute sleepsuits as Number One, and, if it’s a boy, he’ll be okay with unicorns and rainbows. He’ll have to be.
I’m not trying to confuse my kid. I just want to show her that girls can like snowplows and boys can wear lavender. Girls can play baseball and boys can join ballet. And also that boys can like blue and girls can like pink. Stereotypes exist. The world is biased and judgmental and crass and rude. My job is not to protect my daughter from these things, but to expose her to as much as possible. My job is to teach her the skills to overcome adversity, especially relating to her personal choices. My job is to raise an independent, confident, self-reliant child who grows up to become an adult who can make a difference in this world. For me, it starts with the color of onesies.
As I sip my mocha, my daughter vomits on herself. This is not unusual. The change bag’s been packed and primed for exactly this emergency. Her spare outfit is girly pastel flowers. A few chubby arms and legs later, plus a few giggles, and I’ve transformed my little boy into a pinkalicious doll.
I secretly hope that grandma stops by for one more look.