When I was pregnant with each of my children, everyone wanted to know whether the baby was a boy or a girl, including me and my husband. For some reason, I wanted my first baby to be a girl. I think because it was what I was familiar with, being a girl myself and having grown up with a younger sister. I imagined dressing my daughter in frilly dresses and braiding her hair. My husband was not as excited as I was when we found out the baby was a girl. Perhaps for similar reasons, as he is a boy and grew up with a brother. I wanted to find out the sex of the baby, so we could prepare–not for baby gear, but for envisioning our baby, especially as a first-time parent. We purposely kept all the baby gear (and as many clothes as we could) gender neutral because we intended on having another child and wanted to be able to reuse things.
Two years later, I was pregnant again and we found out the baby was a boy. I was secretly hoping for another girl, erronously assuming the siblings would be automatic best friends just because they shared the same sex. I remember thinking, “A boy? What am I going to do with a boy?” I imagine I felt the same way my husband did when he found out our first baby was a girl.
After our son was born, we quickly learned sex and gender did not matter as much as we initially thought it would. With both kids, we have taught them the difference between biological sexes and proper terms for their body parts, but that is where the “boy” and “girl” labels have stopped. Colors, clothes, and toys do not have genders–gender is neutral in our house. Our daughter has been helping in Daddy’s workshop since before she could walk. Our son likes to get into my lipstick while I am in the shower.
Toys are toys. The workshop, Legos, and trains are not “boy” toys, and the kitchen, dollhouse, and baby dolls are not “girl” toys. We have just as much Disney Princess paraphernalia as we do Marvel and DC Superheroes paraphernalia. Our daughter plays with tools. Our son plays with dolls. They are children playing with toys and learning about the world. She is learning how to fix and build things. He is learning how to care for others and be empathetic.
Clothes are clothes. Our daughter has self-selected her birthday themes and Halloween costumes including monsters, ghosts, dinosaurs, and superheroes, but still likes to dress up as Elsa and belt out “Let It Go.” Our son is the recipient of big sister’s hand-me-downs, but actually requests the purple and pink Anna and Elsa pajamas as much as he requests the blue and green dinosaur pajamas.
Colors are colors. Pink was historically recommended for boys because it is a stronger color, closely related to red, while blue was actually seen as more delicate and dainty, meant for girls. Purple is historically the color of royalty–for men and women. Our daughter’s favorite color started out as blue, but is now purple, probably because it is also my favorite color. Our son says his favorite color is red (today), but he is only two years old and it changes every day.
What really makes a color “boy” or “girl” anyway? Why do these things need to be gendered? Why does it matter? Baby gear and clothing companies do this so you feel like you have to buy new items if you have another child of the opposite gender. I have had people advise me that I’m going to “make my kids gay.” How is letting a child have agency over their body – and put what they want on it – going to make them gay? And if they are gay… so what?! At least they will understand the difference between sex and gender, feel comfortable in their own skin, have genuine interests they do not have to hide, and gain well-rounded life skills (like knowing how to do the laundry AND troubleshoot the dryer). We are raising our children in a gender-neutral family without labels because we want our children to know they can wear and be whatever they want to be, as long as they are kind and respectful of others.