My son’s wings

My son’s wings
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Meet my son Mason. He turned two in December and he is the very definition of a toddler: he’s inquisitive, temperamental, fiercely independent and wilful, and he’s the most loving little fella you’ll ever meet. 

Mason has an incredible big sister who is creative and quirky and just over three years his senior: Story. Story and Mason are little buddies. Having never had siblings myself, their relationship escapes my comprehesion — one moment they’re best friends, the next they’re tearing each other’s hair out. But at the end of the day, my two little children insist on snuggling up together in the same bed, and there they sleep solidly for the night.

As a toddler, my daughter adored trains and cars; Lightning McQueen in particular. We bought her boys’ underwear because the girls’ ones had kitties and crowns, when what Story wanted were puppies and automobiles. Nobody thought it was at all strange for her to like these things. They championed her cause: There is no such thing as a “boy toy”! Girl power!
Mason is also very into those same things. He has inherited Story’s collection of Hotwheels (she has since moved on to Calico Critters and books) and loves his train table, but he absolutely adores dressing up in his big sister’s princess costumes, having his nails painted pretty colours, and playing with Story’s play makeup. He’s often found wearing a pair of play shoes with heels, a Rapunzel dress or some fairy wings.
What? You don’t sit around in your Cars jammies, some heels and wings?


Mason and his adoring Papa, my Dad.

When we take Story to the grocery store in these outfits, people fawn over her. But when people see my son wearing the same things, we get a lot of funny looks and sideways glances. Some “tsk-ing” as we walk by. Why is this? Why can my toddler son not embrace whatever makes his sweet little heart happy? Why do people embrace my daughter enjoying tools and the mechanics of cars yet still shy away from a little boy who wants to twirl and sparkle? Most of all: what’s it of anyone’s concern? Are they intimidated by his affinity for things we’ve labelled “girly”? Do they think we’re doing him an injustice?

Don’t they look pretty?
How can allowing a child to explore their interests be detrimental? How can letting him wear a twirly skirt and pretend to fly around the house be a negative thing?  How can we complain that our daughters are pushed into pink but willingly shove our boys towards blue without concern?

My daughter now loves all things pink. She hates dolls, loves cars and is an artist. We embrace her interests.

My son loves to dance, play with trains, cars and wear sparkly clothes. We embrace his interests, too.

This Easter, from my parents, Mason and Story will both be getting matching bunny purses, because you know what? That’s what will make my little guy’s eyes shine more than any dinosaur toy could. And that’s more important than what anyone at the grocery store thinks he “should” like.

Those play wings mean more than just dress up. They represent his freedom to be whomever he is meant to be.

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57 thoughts on “My son’s wings

  1. >We just watched a news report about a mom championing this very thing, "My Princess Boy". She even wrote a book and travels around doing speaking appearances.
    Kudos to you for letting your children be who they want to be!

  2. >So cute. Just a few weeks back my son wanted to paint his nails. He is 3 and sees big sister who is almost 8 doing these things. So I did not let him do it and while I was folding laundry he took the nail polish and started painting his own nails in her bathroom. Wondered why it was so quite, and found him doing a pretty good job painting his nails. They are little let them explore. DS also asks me to put blush on him when he seems me put some on. AND he loves his cars all kinds of toys with wheels, so I am ok if he wants to look "pretty" 🙂

  3. >LOVE this.

    I never understood why some people can't accept the fact that some boys like dolls and wearing pink or sparkles or whatever. Like you said, people are happy to see when a girl likes boy things, but not the other way around. Total double standard.

    We will treat our kids the same, encourage them in whatever they choose to be, wear or like. It would be great if the world didn't define things in 'girly' things or 'boy' things. There's no such thing anymore.

  4. >Jacque! I've missed you! Thanks for commenting… I'm following your blog now. 🙂

  5. >The double-standard is crazy-making.

    And let's face it, ANY kid in a tutu is cute, boy or girl. 😉

  6. >Having two boys I'm excited for the day they show interest in my so called feminine interests. I'll share them willingly and without hesitation – because being inquisitive and not yet having society's biased filter telling them what is and isn't gender appropriate is a blessing I'm going to fully embrace.

  7. >Thank You! If frustrates me to no end about how it's "not right" to put my toddlers hair in pigtails (I think it's cute, and he loves it) or let them play with my left over makeup. So much emphasis goes to girls now…our boys are being left behind, and expected to live up to old school standards. Standards that no longer fit with today's world.

  8. >I have so much to say about this that I probably won't be able to accurately articulate any of it. That it is alright for girls to "act like boys" but not the other way around is largely a reflection on how we (de)value girls.

    It ends up hurting everyone. It pains me that there are so many boys that want to express themselves with dresses, pink, pigtails, nail polish, etc… and that they are stifled because society deems it inappropriate. Gender identity and expression is complex and gendered colours, toys, and clothes only complicate it further (besides, they are arbitrary – pink was a 'boy' colour 100 years ago).

    As a society, we are so afraid of anything that doesn't fit nicely into out little boxes and restrictive labels that we consciously squash the spirit of children in order to make them fit.

  9. >Your children are beautiful Alex! I like to see my boys embrace what their big sister does and I like to see her embrace their loves too – it gives me a glimpse into how they will be as parents and spouses someday (maybe)!

  10. >Assuming that our supportive parenting does the right thing, I would suspect that he'll react the same way I do seeing myself in photos as a kid: with happy memories.

    Your comment is very telling about how uncomfortable this makes some narrow-minded people.

  11. >Cars and Thomas underwear are what worked for Ava to stay dry at night – "mommy – big girls don't pee on lighting mcqueen".

  12. >My guy went to school with his thumbs painted last week, he was soooo proud of his pretty colours. Sadly the boys at school said nail polish is only for girls. They obviously don't read a lot of TMZ because I see plenty of boys with polish on there lol

  13. >Ain't that the truth?

    Throw a little Bowie at them. Boys being "girls" has been around awhile now. 😉

  14. >My now 15 year old son found a naked, non-caucasion baby in a thrift store that he insisted on having for his own. The sight of a pale, blonde, two year old boy lugging around a naked, tan baby doll, got some looks — and I just didn't care. I'm sure he will be an excellent father one day. And hope he lets his kids, boy or girl, revel in self-expression.

  15. >Love it! My DD just turned 6 – everyone thought it was cool that she like custom cars (we had one) and car kulture (my hubby pinstripes) but when DS (4) wants to wear nail polish (like his big sister) or dress up people look down on it. I ignore the haters and encourage the kids to do what makes them happy. Lots of times my son can be found wearing black nailpolish, sometimes wearing princess heals and normally clutching a spiderman at the same time 🙂 I'm not sure what his ultra conservative JK teacher thinks of the nail polish but she probably thinks – well his mom has purple hair what do you expect? (ummm that I run my own business?) love it embrace life, love to live!

  16. >you are doing it all right:). and in 18 years? he will laugh and remember what a great childhood he had:).

  17. >love it! My boy (who's nearly 4) just spent a week asking for a party dress, preferably in pink. I bought him a black & silver sparkly one the other day and he has yet to stop wearing it, even when he has been building, or playing with his tools! I think we're all doing great jobs raising glam rockers!

  18. >Exactly as it should be, let them figure themselves out and don't do ridiculous shit that clips their wings, judges them, and makes them feel you disapprove. It all works out as it should! My son loved the colour pink, and wanted his own dress to twirl in like his sister's, for household dance parties. Why couldn't he have it? Well, he could! And he did! And because he wasn't born gay, the ludicrous idea that it could "turn him gay" was something we never considered, and neither did anybody else in our family. His embracing so-called "feminine" things was not remarkable, and he fell away from it on his own, it was but a blip. He mountain bikes and free skis now, had his Hot Wheels, construction trucks, Transformers and Flick Trix phases, but that is not to brag on "see how masculine he is, it was OK he donned pink after all!" It is to say, maybe he wouldn't have felt as comfortable exploring any of the things he loved if we had kiboshed certain clothing items or activities early on as if to say "I don't care if you like it, you can't do it because it doesn't fit with OUR vision of what our boy should be like, or SOCIETY'S narrow view of what pathways boys must follow in order to be accepted. Now and then we remind my son, who is now 14, of his pink Winnie-the-Pooh/Piglet dress and the headbands he'd put on and the dances he did, and rather than be embarrassed, he laughs and smiles and asserts "I was so AWSOME." Mason's a lucky boy, and Story's a lucky girl.

  19. >A difference of opinion doesn't mean someone is harassing you. Honest questions are just that: honest questions. Why are you so defensive?

  20. >Did someone say harassing? I'm all for intelligent discourse. Using one's actual name, of course.

    And oh, sweet, naive Anonymous. That's not defensiveness you're reading, that's a highly-developed sense of superiority over people with narrow-minded, outdated opinions regarding gender stereotypes.


  21. >Great post Alex. I have long held strong opinions about girls' toys and interests, but my foray into boys issues is more recent, as the little boy is just over 3. He too enjoys cars, trucks and anything mechanical – but will also throw on a princess dress, fairy wings, shoes, and a boa. For him it is less about a true interest (I think) than it is about the fact that he simply wants to do whatever The Big Kids do. And that's totally cool with us. We get a kick out of seeing people's reactions to it!

  22. >Jazz dancing, show tune singing Tristan and his Princess pull ups thanks you for this post. I just had a most telling conversation with my family about this very topic over the weekend.

  23. >Great post, I agree with a lot of the positive comments on here.

    I would add to this my distaste that so many toys come in "girl" and "boy" colours (like phdinparenting was talking about recently). When my son got a baby doll (he was 2 and expecting a baby sibling) it was impossible to find any baby accessories that weren't pink. And as much as I don't get bent out shape about boys and pink – I did ultimately buy a pink doll stroller, car seat, playpen, etc – i don't understand why so many of these toys don't come in gender neutral colours. Especially "girl toys" which are often about emulating grown up behaviour, which ALL kids are interested in. That's another blog post in itself, why boys get cars and action heroes and girl toys are kitchens and vacuums…

  24. >My almost 4-year-old would truly like Mason's style. He is his own person, choosing Lightning McQueen and pink dolls whenever his mood strikes. Most recently, he's started to show a keen interest in One of my favorite pairs of high heels (tho I rarely wear them). I think it's fun. So does he. What's the problem in that!?

  25. >Excellent post.

    For us, we remove the sexuality from the equation entirely, so it's not the same argument, really. But I love your POV.

  26. >The whole system is flawed, right? If my son wants to play house cleaner, why the hell is THAT feminine? Why would there be no blue vacuum? If you ask him, his favourite colour is blue, but he wears pink wings because that's all we have. It's an interesting struggle.

  27. >People, I think, cringe only because they're linking these things to sexuality… and that's so NOT what it's about for these kids.

  28. >You don't believe the play constructs are problematic for either sex? On any level? I'm not talking sexualisation – that can be argued to be in the mind of the adult. I'm talking self-objectification values in Princessy play, the misrepresentations of girls/women that are prevalent in these play constructs, the dominant and obsessive themes of glamour or artificial beauty and -arguably – vapidity. The passivity that these toys encourage. Aren't these issues in themselves? Regardless of what sex is playing with them?

    Although you as a parent can perhaps offset this stuff with some positive active play, do you not think the fight for gender equality is not to give boys disempowering concepts of play and hey presto, equality, but to reduce that kind of play for either sex? I believe hyper-feminine toys can be problematic generally.

  29. >I used to go to work in a factory with my nails painted by my daughters. I once let them dye the white part of my hair pink…with permanent dye. Big deal, move on.

    My son has three sisters. You don't for a minute think that he's never worn heels, donned makeup, or went out with his nails painted. His hair is longer than almost everyone in his grade, including the girls. He's almost 9 and he doesn't care what anyone thinks. He'll do his own thing whenever he wants and that's ok with us. I want him to grow up feeling comfortable with himself, now matter how long it takes to figure that out.

    Boy vs girls toys will always be an issue. We set the standards as adults. As long as there are mens only and womens only establishments, there will be separation.

    I don't even know what i'm talking about any more. Either way, let your son do what's comfortable and be who he is. Everyone that doesn't like it can piss off. They're probably just unhappy in their own lives.

  30. >Great post, Alex! Our son is what most people would call a "typical boy", but I do have a little girls who hates tuu tuus and loves hockey. I'm sure she will take way less flack than my girlfriend's son who has always liked what society would call girly things. He is 7 and loves going to dance class, watching cooking shows etc.
    It's sad that we can't just let kids be who they are.
    CBC recently did an interview with a lady whose son, at 4 years old, told her he felt like a girl inside. Her son (now her daughter) is now 8 and lives as a girl.
    Listening to the interview I had mixed feelings because I wonder if, at 4, you can make such a big decision. At the same time, I commended the parents for being open minded enough to let their son make that choice. It made me wonder if I could make that same choice. I guess you don't know until you are faced with the situation.
    Here is a link to the interview if you are interested:

  31. >I just wanted to add that I don't doubt that someone can feel like they were born the wrong gender at 4, and I don't think it's a decision they make. The decision I was referring to was the decision to live as a girl.

  32. >My Daughter, 3, was Buzz lightyear for Halloween, her Fave PJ's are her brothers hand me down Thomas Jamies…When we go to ge a Toy she wants a car, like her brother…

    Emulating your older sibling is so natural…normal and healthy…

    This has NOTHING to do with sexuality as Alex said…it is just the innocence of PLAY..and there is nothing more beautiful…

  33. >totally agree with Dee- let our kids explore EVERYTHING in the world around them- sparkle stuff is cool, make up is fun- boys feel left out of some of that magic. Most will try it, then migrate to more "typical" interests…some, may not. How awesome is it that we can help encourage our kids at such a young age to be who they are- this is our most important job as a parent…and its a privilege.

  34. >Alex – I didn't realize our kids are the same age combo. So cool. Funny thing is my little guy ALSO loves dressing up in his sister's dress up clothes. We just LOVE it. Its great entertainment. I will never stop him from doing what he loves.

  35. >This is wonderful. I love that you embrace whatever he chooses to do. And what she chooses to do. Congratulations on getting VOTY!

  36. >There is something special in a child's eyes when they're allowed to freely explore. I love that you're also willing to let them embrace whatever makes them happy. 🙂

  37. >I wonder if, really, people are truly happy in those boxes? How could ANYONE feel like it's ok to stifle someone?

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