It was an impromptu trip to the store that brought it to light. This wasn’t the first time I’d had to face this scenario or the feelings it brought to the surface, but I finally realized how exhausted I am by it all.
My 3-year-old son spotted Hello Kitty socks and immediately requested them for his own. I readily complied and placed them in our cart.
The socks hadn’t even hit the wire bottom before the thoughts started coming.
His brothers will mock him for wearing ‘girl’ socks.
Strangers at the grocery store will ask with a slightly condescending tone, “Did mommy pick those for you?”
You know those are marketed for girls, what are you trying to prove?
“Hello Kitty stocks, I love my Hello Kitty stocks” my little guy sang as we selected items from the shelves and finished up our shopping.
Pure, simple joy. From socks.
We got home and immediately took off the tags so he could try them out. Bonus feature: these socks were extra slippery on the tile floor.
“I like to slide in my Hello Kitty stooooooocks,” his three-year-old voice rang out from the kitchen.”
As he slipped and slid around with giggles and shouts of “look at me!” I paused to consider why my stomach clenched slightly while watching my boy:
Is it a gender issue? Have we as parents of our four boys unwittingly perpetuated stereotypes in our home? Am I trying to prove something?
And I surprised myself by the realization that the answer is “no”.
No, this is about labels.
Our oldest smirked and sarcastically said, “really?” when he noticed that “Chuck and Friends” had been viewed recently on Netflix. He labeled it a “baby show”.
When the boys sported painted toenails and people commented, “I bet your dad loves that,” it took on a label of inappropriateness, poor judgement on my part – something that will be indulged, but not for long.
And I know it’s mostly unintentional, but it takes the shine off the moment. It causes me to feel protective and defensive. I see their little faces beam with the attention, but slowly slip into a look of bewilderment. They might not comprehend exactly what is being implied, but the message is received: that’s not for you.
How about we just stop?
I’m going to smile and take a photo when once again the boys clomp around in my high heels. I’m going to apply eyeshadow without abandon whenever they ask. I’m going to wash Hello Kitty socks every night so my little has a fresh pair for as long as that’s his thing.
Because that’s what it really comes down to. It’s not about gender, or stereotypes, or trying to prove something. It’s about being comfortable with who you are and what you like.
Go ahead, wear a dress shirt with your basketball shorts. Wear your skeleton costume to the park, every day if you like (as long as I can wash it occasionally). Socks with sandals is fine with me.
Yes, Hello Kitty socks go exceptionally well with your Lightning McQueen shoes. Hold on, let me get my camera.