Clothes Don't Make the Man, er, Boy

Can you guess which of my children this is?  Can you?

If you guessed Emily, you would be wrong.  It’s my little Andrew.  Wearing one of his sister’s outgrown pajamas.  One of her pink outgrown pajamas.

This type of dress isn’t unusual in our house, the most probable culprit being laundry holdups.  (I know, if Ben did the laundry a little bit more in between his two jobs we totally wouldn’t have this problem.  Sheesh.)

Anyway, the reason I showed you this picture is that I don’t care if my little boy wears pink.  Nor do I care if he wears frilly pants.  This might sound strange, but I highly doubt he is born favoring the colors blue and yellow.  I know what you are thinking, “This is crazy talk” but hold on to your gender stereotypes a little longer and let me explain.

A peculiar parenting idea Ben and I have embraced is to recognize just how much we socialize our kids to prefer certain things, like colors, over other things.  For example, Emily loves to wear dresses.  Often, I have to put her in some type of dress at night to avoid unsavory tantrums.  I made her this way.  Almost from birth did I place her in pretty, pink dresses.  I wanted people to know she was a girl so I dressed her accordingly.  I made this conscious choice while simultaneously understanding that one day she might only prefer dresses.  And I was okay with that.

With Andrew, I’ve always dressed him in blue and yellow.  Again, I wanted people to know he was my adorable little boy and felt very comfortable using typical boy colors.  Yet, when he started closing in on a year and was rapidly outgrowing his pants (you know, his 3-6 month pants) I decided to pull girl pants from my store of baby clothes.  I chose pants that were neutral enough, only a little frills, so nobody would know he was wearing girl pants.   After doing this a few times, I stopped masking even that and started including Emily’s old pajamas in his attire.   Hey, when you run out of clothes you use what you have, y’know?

Andrew now has plenty of boy pajamas so we don’t have to use his sister’s anymore.   But, when he’s older, I’ll make sure to show him this picture so he knows that it’s okay to like, and even wear, pink.  Because, frankly, color preference doesn’t make the man–it’s treating others with respect and compassion that make a man (or woman).

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Filed under Non-judgmental parenting

35 responses to “Clothes Don't Make the Man, er, Boy

  1. What a great concept and button!! When my older son was about nine weeks old, I washed all his white onesies with a red sweatshirt. Of course they came out pink. And of course he wore them until he outgrew them…and so did his little brother :).

  2. I have a boy who is happy to wear pink, or angel wings, or jewelry – from his big sister, from hand-me-downs, etc. And I love it! I think it's great to keep things from gendering as much as possible. So, bravo, Andrew! xox

    • admin

      One of Andrew's favorite toys is jewelry. Although he likes to suck on them and I'm sure Whit is far past that. : )

  3. I agree. WHat's the diff? He is a cutie!

  4. It sounds like you are being subtle enough so no one really will mistake him for a girl. Which happens often enough anyway with babies!

    • admin

      Yeah, that's the difference between him and Emily–Emily was always mistaken for a boy because she didn't have any hair, even where she wore all pink!

  5. This is the first year of my little boy's life that he hasn't worn a pink snowsuit, coat or boots for the winter. He has also outgrown most of the girl's levi's and therefore has his own little boy pants now; however having had two girls first he has definitely worn his share of pink. The clothes are good still, and he is fine with it. As he has gotten older he does tend to object to pink more and more, but has no problem wearing most hand-me-downs from the girls. I'm with you. The clothes don't make the man!

  6. With four kids, mine have always shared clothing. If the clothes are still in good shape, then we pass them down until they're not. Unfortunately, now that she's 8, my older daughter doesn't particularly want to wear her brother's cast offs.

  7. I agree, and let my daughter dress herself (which I need to post pictures of someday!), but I still can't fathom why she adores pink. I dressed her in blue and orange and white and black, anything but pink. And guess what her favorite color has been since she could express a preference?

  8. Ha! I didn't even notice that the trims were pink. It's interesting watching our kids and the things that they determine are important to their look / style / mode of operation, as opposed to what we make routine for them, or a non-event. (My older son was pickier about his clothes, but not his food; my younger couldn't have cared less about his clothes, but was an absurdly picky eater.

    Of course, once hormones hit, it's anyone's guess. 🙂

    • admin

      As they grow older we have less and less control over what they choose to like, which is why I feel teaching them while they are young the things you find to be important is necessary. And I guess this is the real point of this post: how my kids treat others is far more important to me than what types of clothes they wear or sports they choose to participate in. This is something I really admire in you, Wolf, as I pick up from your writing that your boys are already aware of others and seek to help when they can.

  9. And this is why my daughter often sports her brother's hand-me-down carpenter jeans. Usually with silver ballet flats. But still.

    Love this post! I'm so glad Peryl said we should bloggy connect. Can't wait to read more. 🙂

  10. For me it comes down to that age-old debate: nature versus nurture versus peer pressure. I dressed my eldest (she's closing in on 4 now) in EVERYTHING BUT pinks, purples, ruffles, ribbons, lace. She wore jeans. She wore pants. She wore boys' clothes. Then she turned 2. Her favorite color since then? Purple. Followed closely by pink. Her favorite outfit: A dress. Jeans are verboten. Go figure.

    • admin

      Amy–you are right to bring in nature versus nurture here. I am more inclined to argue nurture (i.e. socialization) when it comes to gender things and mostly because I'm still skeptical about inherited gender traits–besides the obvious body parts. I believe we forget just how much TV, radio, books, and movies socialize our kids to think a certain way about gender things. However, whether your daughter's favorite color is purple or blue doesn't matter. It's important that she learn to be compassionate and respectful, something I am sure you are already teaching her.

  11. Unfortunately my husband is not so laissez-faire as evidenced by his current campaign to get me to cut our youngest son's growing blond hair. However, I do have two boys and so all of their clothes have that distinction, and most of their toys. To be honest,I'm not sure how I stand on the issue of whether they are taught or born with gender traits. I think it's a little of both. My boys are very FULL OF BOY. I dont' think I nurture those qualities, in fact in some cases I actively discourage it. So I'm just not sure. But I would like them to be exposed to as much female as possible, because as you say it's respect and compassion that makes the man. 🙂

    • admin

      Nature or nurture is a tough issue. I must say, when it comes to gender I'm more nurture and mostly because we are all so socialized by media–TV, magazines, books, and movies–that it's hard to say what is nature and what isn't. You know?

      Emily is full of boy as well, and she's a girl! She loves trucks, the color orange, dirt, and climbing on top of everything. I suppose she is where it all started as she is more active than many of her male counterparts.

  12. Love this post. I, too, have snuck a few genderless clothes into my boys wardrobe and loved it when my 7 year old saw a pink button down shirt and mention how he liked it. I think guys look awesome in pink — and love meeting the ones who aren't afraid to pull it off.

    • admin

      I like the phrase, "genderless" clothes. If you think about it, color is such a silly way to categorize genders. Maybe our generation will change that!

  13. Haha, I love this! If I didn't have two boys, I would be doing the same exact thing. Who can stay on top of all that laundry, anyways? I saw over at Bar Mitzvazilla that you're heading to AZ? Did your husband get into school there? Forgive me for being so out of the news loop.

  14. Mckenzie

    Hey, I think you're a smartie doing what you're doing. 🙂

  15. My daughter loves to dress herself, mixing bright orange with blue. Somedays she literally picks the oddest combos and I try to allow her to be her within reason. I think pink and brown look very good on Andrew!

    • admin

      The combinations of a preschooler, huh? Emily doesn't necessarily choose her own clothes yet, but I think she'll have more fashion sense than me. I already wear mismatched clothes!

  16. This is a great post, Amber! I agree that based on necessity – and laundry – you should do what you need to do. It's kind of funny that there are certain colors associated with each sex anyway! I remember when I first entered the working world in the 80s light pink and purple shirts were, for a while, very IN for working men. And they looked good in that stuff, I have to say! Go Andrew!

  17. When he was about 18 months old, Jack discovered an old dress of my little sister's – red, with big sunflowers – and wanted to wear it daily for a week. He doesn't have a big sister of his own, though, so the opportunity for clothing swaps like that aren't frequent. But I like the idea of rejecting rules and norms that have grown from societal expectations rather than our own needs and practicalities. Bravo!

    • admin

      Yes, not having an older, or younger, sister would make clothing swaps difficult. : ) Still, it's what you are teaching that matters. I think that you are an awesome mother and would let Jack be what he wants to be.

  18. Hahaha!! Love this. And totally agree. In fact Nino has loved the color purple since he was tiny. He's six now and it's still his favorite color. He also likes pink. But he is starting to be influenced by the kids at school and no longer requests to wear a pink feather boa to school anymore. If you really think about it, these color-gender notions are just so arbitrary anyway.

    • admin

      Ah man! No pink feather boa! Dang it! Gender things have their place–like when I'm trying to teach Emily about girls and boys (as she can't check their private parts)–but for the most part the stipulations are society imposed norms rather than necessary rules.

  19. We didn't find out my oldest's gender specifically because I didn't want to pigeonhole her into stereotypes … And she's upstairs sleeping in a purple frilly sequined number right now. She is indeed a girly-girl, but I can honestly say that she came to that conclusion all on her own.

    And my son … is walking around with his nails painted bright pink. Because he wanted them that color. I wholeheartedly support your philosophy, Amber!

    • admin

      Stacia–when you wrote your first supportive parenting post (or whatever it's called) I had to laugh because we think so alike. It isn't so much about not letting kids like certain colors, is the process of getting there, you know? I love picturing Gigs (?) with hot pink fingernails. : )