Category Archives: Boys and Girls

Guest Blogger: Charlotte Capogna-Amias

So This is Happening

It’s upon us: our three-and-a-half year old daughter only wants to wear dresses or skirts (it is a tiresome battle to get her to agree to wear a pair of pants; even on very cold days), everything she likes is pink, she looks in the full-length mirror in our bedroom after she gets dressed (she picks out her own outfits) to “see how she looks”… the list goes on.  SIGH.drawings of girls in frilly dresses

We have tried to be good gender non-conforming, queer parents.  I swear we have.  Partly, as a fellow parent at our daughter’s preschool rightly put it, “we are victims of our hand-me-downs” which resemble a pile of sherbet when dumped out of the trash bag upon receiving them.  Don’t get me wrong- I am super appreciative of those hand-me-downs, despite their hues; they have saved us hundreds of dollars since our daughter was born.  And the reality is that unless you can afford ultra-pricey clothes from brands like Tea, Baby Gap and Mini Boden, you’re getting gender-conforming garb.

Lately, our daughter has been talking in this high-pitched voice, to the point where she talks normal and then catches herself and says, “I mean…” and continues in the high-pitched din.  Did I say, “sigh” yet?  I think I’ll take another: SIGH.

Ok, so let me be clear about something if you don’t already know this about me: I’m pretty darn femme-y.  I wear make-up most days, simply because I like it when lightly (and sometimes not so lightly) applied… I mostly where dresses or skirts to work, I take a long time styling my hair.  These things are all true.  And I know my daughter watches me do these things, quite likely taking some mental notes.  My spouse, her bio mom, is a soft butch.  She showers, slaps some concrete-like product in her short hair and is ready within five minutes.  I just want my daughter to understand that there are options, and seeing how the tide moves, perhaps particularly for little children around gender, these last few months have been slightly frightening.  I mean take this recent incident (albeit slightly comical):  I have been exploring some different progressive spiritual communities in the area where we live and there are these two places- a Congregationalist church and Quaker meeting- where we have mostly ventured as a family.  I was debating one morning about whether to go to Quaker meeting or the church and my daughter quickly said, “To meeting please!”  So I’m all thinking she likes it there, it’s more her scene, COOL.  Well, while I was foolishly thinking she got some spiritual enlightenment from the Quaker’s calming silence, in fact, it was the play high-heeled shoe collection in the playroom that had her goat.  The Quakers had a verifiable colony in those dress-up bins and my daughter couldn’t have been more pleased.  Hell, a drag queen would have been pleased.

I mean, I get it.  She sees this stuff everywhere.  She takes note of who holds power and lore in the occasional books she comes upon with fairies and princesses.  She doesn’t watch TV, we don’t buy books like that, but it’s out there.  There’s actually more upsetting things about race and looks that bother me on an even deeper level that are surfacing (our daughter’s biracial).  I don’t want to get into that in this particular post, but let’s just say: this stuff is deep.

– Charlotte

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“That feels like fun!”

As all parents of young boys can attest, there exists a certain fascination between a boy and his penis.  My son, lucky enough to have two moms, has been blessed with parents who talk about his relationship with his penis.  We tell him that it is ok to play with his private parts when he is alone.  He has known the word erection since he could talk.  It’s all good.  Sometimes, though, I am blown away by the things he says in relation to his penis.

Take tonight, for instance.  (Too much information coming…) After M’s bath, he was sitting on the potty and he started to play with his penis.  With a huge grin, he looked up at us and said, “M is playing with his private parts.”

“What does that feel like?” I innocently asked him.

With an even bigger grin, “That feels like fun!”

I know this is one of those blog posts that, if brought to his attention, will embarrass him to no end.  Maybe he will never read this.  If he does (if you do, M), I want him to know why I wrote it.  As someone who has struggled with body image issues for the vast majority of my life, I am pleased to hear my son so effortlessly and shamelessly explain how he feels about his body.  Yes, I know that as he gets older that will probably change, at least for a little while.  For now, I love that he loves himself and all his parts.

-Betsy

If my son is straight…

If my son is straight, his girlfriends can go ahead and thank me for raising such an enlightened man.  (If he is gay, this story might not matter very much.)

So, M is so young that we are only now starting to ask for privacy in the bathroom.  Sometimes, he just walks in even if we ask for said privacy as we have not gotten into the habit of using the lock.  No big deal except that M has two moms and about once a month each, a special visitor comes to town. Got it?

Today, M and I are out and about in the car.  He had just been singing at the top of his lungs.  When the song ended, he grinned at me and said, “Look Mama! A pad!”  He had proudly stuffed a wad of paper between his legs.

I am sure this is one of those stories that he will one day (like when he is 12) want to kill me for sharing, but it kind of made my night.

-Betsy

Happy Baletime’s Day

The super cute thing about the way a two year old talks is that when they mix up consonants, they don’t care.  They just make the declaration as if it were the truth, “Happy Baletime’s Day, Mama.”

Dr. MToday, I dressed my guy in his red skinny jeans, white button down and black bow tie.The icing on the cake was when when he insisted on wearing his new doctor’s coat over the top, complete with pockets for his fake syringe and thermometer.  We were heading out to brunch with my parents (mom and dad, in case you were wondering).  We stopped at the grocery store to pick up some gifts for them on the way.

I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day.  Besides the obvious promotion of the day as a time you must spend money or you don’t really love your sweetie, I struggle with the face of the day being about heterosexual love.  Radio ads about men needing to hurry up and buy their women flowers and chocolates.  Billboards showing that perfect gift for her from him: a mass-made cubic zirconia necklace in the shape of a heart.  At this point in my life, I know how to navigate this “holiday”.  The struggle comes into play when I think about how I want my son to learn to navigate the day.  I want to raise a kind, gentle man who is thoughtful of others on every day; one who can express his love for other men (whether or not he is gay) and for women (whether or not he wants to sleep with them).

On days like today, I think about things like this.  He is only two and barely gets the idea of giving a gift anyway, but I still think about it.  He hears the radio ads and sees the pictures on the billboards.  I don’t want him to internalize that it is his job as a boy/man to express love through material goods.  I want someone to put up billboards of two little boys picking flowers and giving them to each other or of two little boys hugging.

Regardless of how I feel about the day, M wanted to give his grandparents something.  M settled on a balloon for his Pops and flowers for his Gigi.  He decided that he found a balloon that said “I love you, Pops!” (which it did not).  When we arrived at brunch, my boy walked in to the restaurant in his doctor’s coat, sunglasses on, flowers and balloon in hand.  Every one in the place turned to watch him give the flowers to my mom and the balloon to my dad.  It was a very sweet moment.  I know there is a long way to go, but today I feel hopeful.

So, Happy Baletime’s Day to you all.  May every day bring you more and more love.  (As I write this, M, while attempting to fall asleep, is yelling, “Bless you!  I wuv you!”  Gotta love that boy!)

-Betsy

Papa

My son called his friend’s father ‘Papa’ and I freaked out.  You see, my boy loves other boys and men and is obsessed with facial hair and ‘boy parts’.  I don’t have facial hair or boy parts.  My boy called a man ‘Papa’ and I was suddenly picturing being rejected by my son in 11 years, when he is 13 and wanting to do boy things with other males.  Will he still love me, the mother who did not give birth to him but who is also not a boy?

When M was first starting to explore the world around him, he took a shine to remote controls.  We used to joke that he was a stereotypical male: remote controls, facial hair and breast milk were his favorites.  But now, that isn’t so funny because sometimes I worry that my femaleness will not be enough for him.   I am an athlete and hope that will give me some credit, but I have never mastered peeing standing up (plus his friends will tease him mercilessly if he has two mothers, one of whom pees standing up) and I don’t even own a T.V.  Yes, I know I am being overly dramatic and stereotyping, but these are the things I worry about.

When M called his friend’s dad ‘Papa’, I corrected him, “You call him Will.”*  Internally, I was screaming, “ YOU DON’T HAVE A DAD!” and “I AM SORRY I CAN’T BE THAT FOR YOU!” when all M was doing was repeating what his friend had said.  The reality of life is we can never be all things to all people.  That would be exhausting.  As a parent, I need to remember that, even if I had a penis, I couldn’t be everything to my son.  He will need other people to fill special places in his heart and in his life.  He will sometimes need other people more than he needs us, but he will always need us.  We are each other’s home.  I will try to keep remembering that when he is four and makes a fort for boys only or when he wants to go camping with his friends and their dads.  Home, female parts and all.

-Betsy

*Names have been to changed to protect the innocent.