This morning after I had a few sips of coffee and my eyes were once again able to focus I noticed that T’s hair was rocking that Rod Stewart c.1979 look.
It was sort of awesome. When it comes to grooming our kids I suck big time. I come by this honestly being a non-groomer myself. Most mornings T hops in the shower with his dad, who then combs his hair afterwards. Z is much more fastidious about his appearance, so it makes sense he would take care of T’s as well. This morning Z was on the way to the airport for a quick work trip by 5:30am, so T missed out on the shower, the wet hair, the subsequent combing. Instead we went with the flattened bed head look for the day.
His crazy Rod Stewart mane got me thinking. He’s got lovely hair-its dirty blond with all these crazy curls that get really bouncy when it’s humid. As someone who has had hair completely devoid of body my whole life I am totally jealous of his. Neither Z nor I can bear to cut those curls off. They are adorable, they just make us smile.
Lately Z and I have noticed that a lot of people have been mistaking T for a girl. And while I honestly don’t give a fuck if people don’t know he is a boy I’ve started to wonder how it makes him feel when people refer to him as “she”.
We don’t want to enforce gender stereotypes, but Z and I don’t take a hard line on the “gender neutral” thing when it comes to raising our kid. We think actively hiding the sex of the child suddenly makes gender a huge deal and places a lot of pressure on the child to embody the social and political beliefs of the parent. I don’t want my kid to be an experiment or an object of curiosity. I want him to be himself. And at this point he seems to dig on being himself. He also doesn’t seem to be into the idea of getting his hair cut.
Back when I was pregnant with T and still working at Whole Foods my boss and I were walking the sales floor, something you did several times a shift in store leadership. We ran into a guy we both knew from working at a different location. He was with his kid and shopping for his family. The kid had beautiful long almost white hair full of gentle curls. I asked what her name was. Yeah, it was a boy. And his dad did not seem to be cool with my mistake. I was so embarrassed. I like to think of myself as beyond making gender assumptions, but there I was doing it. The experience has made me more mindful, but when people do it to T I don’t feel pissed. He has long hair. Most boys don’t. I totally get it.
Now that he is old enough to understand the conversations happening around him I feel concerned about how it is making him feel. At this point he hasn’t said anything to us. We are letting him be himself and not confusing things by talking about traditional gender roles and how he doesn’t have to worry about them. He’s a bit young for that, we’d rather let him play with whatever he wants to and not stigmatize any of it. If he does question us we will tell him that a lot of girls have long hair and a lot of boys have short hair, but there are boys with long hair and girls with short hair as well. How you look does not define who you are.You should get to have the hair that makes you happy and it doesn’t matter what other people think. But. If it really bothers him and he wants his hair cut I will do it in a second. As much as the thought breaks my heart. Figuring out your way in this world is terrifying and difficult. I will not make it harder for him because people should be more tolerant. I believe in gender equality, I believe each person needs to be able to be totally comfortable in their bodies. I believe transgendered people should be able to have surgical reassignment. But I am not going to use my kid to fight any ideological battles at the expense of his needs. We aren’t keeping his hair long as some fight-the-power political statement anyway. We just really like the way it looks.