In C.J.’s preschool class there are about a dozen boys and one girl. Guess who’s C.J.’s BFF? The one little girl who he affectionately calls Cookie. Cookie plus C.J. sitting in a tree…
“When you had your parent-teacher conference, did Ms. Sunshine talk to you about our kids needing to keep their hands to their selves and them being too touchy feely?” Cookie’s mom asked my husband recently. Ms. Sunshine hadn’t brought the issue to our attention.
“Do you and Cookie touch each other at school?” we asked C.J. trying to seem very casual about the whole thing.
“Yeah,” he said nonchalantly.
“What do you mean?” we asked, meeting him on the corner of casual and nonchalant.
“We hold hands and hug each ‘udder,” said C.J.
“Do you kiss?” My question earned a wide-eyed look from C.J.’s Dad.
“Gross!…Yeah, sometimes, Cookie asks me to kiss her on the cheek cause we’s gonna get married.”
Cookie might be a good match for C.J. Or, she might confuse our gender nonconforming son even more. Cookie is a cutie with short brown curly hair, sleepy eyes and a bright smile. She wears old-school red Chucks, Toy Story shirts and carries a Batman backpack filled with her dinosaur toys. She likes all superheroes, but Spiderman and Iron Man are her absolute favs. Cookie is very territorial, I mean protective, of C.J.
Her and C.J. have little in common, except that they both appear to be gender creative. They are a quirky match made on the preschool playground.
Cookie’s identical twin sister, although in a different class, likes to play with them too. She moves fluidly between girl toys and boy toys and girl clothes and boy clothes.
When an invite to Cookie and her sister’s pirate-themed fourth birthday party made it into C.J.’s backpack you’d have thought he’d been invited to New York Fashion Week. Finally, the day of the party arrived. It was not a girly pirate theme with pink jolly rogers sporting heart-shaped eye patches. No, this was a legit pirate party and dress up was encouraged.
“C.J., we get to dress up for Cookie’s pirate party, isn’t that fun?”
“Woo-hoo! I wanna be a princess.”
“No, Cookie wants you to dress like a pirate.”
“I don’t wanna be a pirate, I wanna be a princess.”
“But, it’s Cookie’s party and she wants all of her friends to be
“When it’s my berfday party can my friends dress up how I want them?”
Cripes almighty, that was a big promise that I hope he forgets, but he probably won’t, and I’ll have to deal with that when I get there, but I’m pretty sure all of the boys and dads won’t want to dress as princesses or cheerleaders (although that would be fun for me and my girlfriends to watch, I’m not going to lie).
I loaded the pirate into the car.
Burgers. Bounce house. Bubbles. Then, face painting. The birthday girls, naturally, got to be first. Cookie’s Sister wanted to be Captain America. Cookie chose Spiderman. Up next? C.J., who was painted into one fierce Wonder Woman. The three gender creative superheroes got together for a picture.
“That’s so funny, the twins wanted to be boys and the boy wanted to be a girl,” I heard quite a few adult partygoers say.
Time for balloon animals. Cookie and her sister requested swords. C.J. wanted a pretty pink flower. While the girls waved their swords at C.J. He sniffed his aromatic latex daisy.
Gift time! Cookie unwrapped the Super Hero Squad Headquarters that we got for her. Cookie’s Sister unwrapped the My Little Pony with baby pony and stroller. They both hopped up to hug C.J. in gratitude. They lingered and fought over who would release him first. When the embrace was done, C.J. turned to me in silent tears.
“What’s wrong, honey?”
“I want that My Little Pony.”
“When it’s your birthday you can get that My Little Pony,” I said, knowing that was a promise I could and would make good on.
I can’t stop reading. I tell myself, this is the last post! and then I continue. But this is a good one to stop at, because I can’t stop smiling now
My little nephew asked for a pink present for his Christmas, right after his 3rd birthday. I got him a My Little Pony to go with his big sister’s. He idolizes her and dresses up in her princess clothes with her and runs around the house playing princess. He then jumps on his toy fire truck and runs it into his twin brother. I love every minute of watching this child grow and learn. I never know what he will do next.
omg PLEASE get a CJ a My Little Pony. When I was a kid, I always wanted a My Little Pony yet I never asked for one due to fear that my parents would think it too girly and as a grown up, i still havent gotten over the desire to have them (i made the mistake of mentioning this at work and now my coworkers have taken it upon themselves to get me several). Because of your amazing job as a mother, your son will not grow up wishing he had something as a child that he never dared to ask for and, while that might sound like something thats not a big deal… trust me, its a pretty big deal. =’/
Wow Im completely blown away by your site and your talent as a writer. What a gift to your son to one day be able to look back and see what his life was like for the whole family.
I am the mother of 3 children. My oldest two are 18 months apart. I remember thinking one day when the baby was little that I needed to get some “boy toys” cause all we had were girly things for his big sister. We had generic toys like blocks and a kitchen set but not really any race cars or train sets. We had an abundance of dolls. Before she was even born she was gifted at least 10 frilly little dolls. That is what one buys little girls no?
The interesting thing to me is that all the toys were eventually placed on a giant shelf and the kids were free to grab and play with whatever. And as they got older they tended to drift towards choosing more traditionally labeled toys, her with barbies and him with his trains and now legos. Though my son often played with his big sister and what she had out cause that is what siblings do. Even now a week shy of his 5 birthday he plays house with her. I wonder how different your life would be if C.J. had a sister?
The interesting thing to me is I never classified the toys and said these are hers and this is his. They were toys for everyone. They just went with the traditionally expected choices on their own. We played dress up and I put my son in dresses and heels cause his sister wanted to and it was fun. We painted fingers and toe nails many of times. Though there came a point when he realized on his own. well also maybe with the help of a few observant uncles, that boys dont do that stuff….at least dad doesnt. So maybe he shouldnt.
I cant say how I would have felt or what I would have done if like C.J. he choose and desired to keep in fashion with effeminate behavior and toys.
After reading your whole site Im curious why these behaviors he portrays at such a young age leads to you believe that he might be gay? Does choosing his outfits and relating to female Disney characters necessarily equate to that? Could he grow up one day to have a wife and just be the amazing sensitive and poetic chick flick of a man that we women all secretly wish existed outside of the movies?
I just dont know if you can tell at such a young age. But then I dont know many gay men that had a beginning as free as your sons. It would be interesting to poll. Did the average gay man wish he could play dress up and act feminine as a child? The same true of a gay woman and her desire to be more manly? I know I hated dresses as a girl but I had two older brothers so I wanted to be just like them.
Anyways I want to praise you for doing your best to give to your son the life and freedom that he craves. It is our job as parents to shelter them as long as possible. At this point in my life I cant really judge you or know what I would do in your situation. My 14 month old is still young so time will tell what path he will choose to walk down.
Thank you for sharing your struggles and your hopes and dreams. Parenting is by far one of the most difficult jobs we will ever take on but the hugs and kisses and adoring eyes they look up at us with make it all worth while. Even if we only get them once in a blue moon. Its enough to tide us over until the next glimpse of love they flash us.
Wow. First let me start by saying I happened to stumble across this blog (through multiple links), and I am so glad I did.
Second, I must say, this blog is just beautiful and touching. How you are raising C.J. is commendable and very brave, and he will definitely thank you for it one day.
I am a teenager (won’t say my age, but I’m a senior in high school), and my younger brother and I were raised this way, when it wasn’t a common or good thing to do. My parents allowed my brother to explore our genders and express ourselves through our clothing, toys, etc. When my brother was younger, about the same age C.J. is and around that age, he played dress up with me all the time. Plastic heels, tiaras, makeup, jewelry, you name it. And now, he is a boy’s boy. But he still tells me how pretty I look and how much he loves my dress at Homecoming. 🙂 (Remembering this made me cry.) C.J. is so lucky to have you as his mom, because he gets to be himself.
I’ve seen the fallbacks of parents not allowing their kids to be themselves and just how damaging it can be. Long story short, I’ve know a kid, Tim, since elementary school. Like C.J., his friends were girls. Unlike C.J., his parents did not encourage gender creativity. Now, in high school, he has started expressing himself – and the torture he endures from the cruel students is devastating. I have often come to his rescue (usually without his knowledge) when I hear kids making fun of his outfit choices or sexual orientation. Let’s just say, many students know to watch what they say around me because I can’t stand cruelty.
Anyway, I apologize for this long comment, but I just wanted to let you know how amazing your blog and parenting are. C.J. and his siblings have no clue how lucky they are (but they will one day)!
Read this today and immediately thought of you! http://hellogiggles.com/princess-zach
Ah, how well I remember those days! When other little girls wanted dolls and dress-up clothes, I wanted RC cars and video games. I had my own Sega Genesis by the time I was 4, and I was rapidly getting better at Doom than my daddy, who was more than happy to buy new toys that he wanted, like remote-controlled stunt planes, on the premise that they were for me. 😉 I could never get over the disappointment, though, when every Christmas my grandma, who helped raise me and knew very well my preferences, ALWAYS got me a Barbie or a pink jewelry box with a spinning ballerina inside. My momma would have to sit my tearful little self down when we got home and explain to me that Nana had three granddaughters and it was just easier to shop for them all in the same aisle, and I should always be polite and say thank-you, but I didn’t have to play with the Barbies. I gave most of them, still in the boxes, to the local GoodWill the week after Christmas.
Lucky kids, all of them, to have mommas and daddies who understand and want them to have the toys they want to play with. 🙂 CJ, you hold out for that pony and you enjoy it, buddy!
I love the fact that C.J. chose Wonder Woman. The artist did a good job! I love all the posts, you are an inspiration to parents everywhere. I just hope that I can raise my kids with just as much understanding and acceptance.
Thanks for the amazing blog!!!
My husbands have been reading me excerpts from your blog for months now, and I thought I’d comment on this one most recently shared. As a trio we are raising a 3 yr old girl with reasonable efforts to be non-gender conformative. Currently she is in a very ‘girly’ phase, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to be, on occasion, a prince, cowboy, Spiderman, or Diego. She plays with cars, fairies, stuffed animals of all sorts, barbies, swords, and has her own ‘toolbox’ like Handy Manny. She too, has a preschool boy she ‘plans to marry’ and a best girlfriend (who I swear is more rambunctious and loud than the ‘boyfriend’ – or many other boys I know).
While the other kids and the teachers at her mainstream daycare seem to do a lot of gender labeling, it is still a supportive atmosphere where kids are encouraged to play with whtever they like, and be whoever they want to be. Lots of hugs are allowed, but you have to ask first, and respect it when folks say no. Oh, and all 3yr old girls have to wear shorts/pants under their dresses, and no-one can take their shirt off in public.
Removing gender ‘norms’ from our culture IS happening – slower than is needed for some, faster than others are comfortable with. But many younger folks – “millennials” and “Generation Z” – don’t see the reason for teasing or meanness on this topic – yea! As we all know, it is harder/slower for boys to be “gender creative” than it currently is for girls and I wholeheartedly applaud you for all your efforts, ideals, and willingness to share the experience with the public (and all that that entails).
Your posts have really opened my eyes to how open children are with each other. My daughter is in the 2nd grade & since reading your blog have wondered if parents I may know are dealing with similar situations. So, I asked my daughter “are there boys at school who dress more like you?”. She said sure & pulled out her yearbook & showed me a picture of a 3rd grader. I asked “r kids mean to him?” & she said “sometimes, but I don’t understand why”. Made me proud that my kid is not superficial or mean & that I can trust her to embrace peoples differences. Kids r a reflection of their parents & everyone I have seen reply to your blog should be proud 🙂
Love the story, and Cookie and her family for allowing their children to be who they are also. Yes what a cute pair.Kodos to C.J., Cookie and her family 🙂
Sweet Post! I’m glad that you held fast on the idea that C.J. had to respect Cookie’s theme for the party.
Yep, as a kid I was the little girl that would rather be Superman than Wonder Woman. Now as an adult, my partner and I are expecting our first child. (I am carrying this time due to being a few years older). But I just applaud the way you raise your CJ and allow him to be who he is. I hope to let my children be exactly who they are and support them in every way I can. Bless you for being such an amazing, accepting, and wonderful Mom! Your blog makes me tear up EVERY time! 🙂
Loved the story and love “gender creative”.
Although I am a steadfast fan of Superman and Batman (gay geek power!), every child I knew as a kid wanted to be like Wonder Woman. Spin around and ::poof:: you have an awesome costume. Deflect bullets with your bracelets, the Lariat of Truth (and the ability to use it!), the invisible jet (!!!) , earrings that would explode and a tiara boomerang. Wonder Woman was a class act from the top of her big hair to the bottom of her bright red boots.
Although I asked for it for my birthday and Christmas, my parents never got the Wonder Woman doll for me though they never hesitated to gift me with more muscular male “action figures” (dolls).
I freaking love this post. C.J. and Cookie sound like quite the adorable duo.
I discovered your website one day a couple of months ago and have happily read the posts but never really commented. However, I feel it is proper that I do on this one for some reason. I think it’s mainly how happy this post made me. For CJ to find not only one friend but TWO who are opposite gender of him, and pretty much act the same way as him…. that’s when you know you’re doing something right. It’s so wonderful that the twins are so happy and accepting of CJ. I’m glad for you! And maybe they are going to get married some day. CJ may end up being the effeminate one and Cookie may end up being the masculine one, but you know what, everything happens for a reason. And this friendship – it’s going to be one of the most fantastic things in CJs life and I know he will remember it for awhile.
I was just like Cookie at that age and I had a friend who was just like CJ (although, back then, his mom made him wear more boyish looking clothes) and although I haven’t seen that friend since we were about 6, I will NEVER forget him. Meeting him and being his friend, I understood even at that age, that it was okay to be myself and be whoever I wanted to be.
I may be slightly more girly every now and then, I haven’t wanted to change my gender, but I just love people as they are and don’t care about gender conforming roles or rules. I have had boyfriends and girlfriends, but all thanks to a little boy, 17 years ago, I was taught to be just me.
I am very glad you are teaching CJ that and I hope that if I ever have kids, that I can be as awesome a mother as you. You give me hope, CJ’s mom!
“Gender Creative” – I LOVE that! I’ll be using that phrase much from now on. 🙂
I love CJ and I love Cookie. My daughter is probably more like Cookie’s sister, in that she plays with both “boy” and “girl” toys. But I love these kids, how free they are. I let my daughter be who and how she wants, but I still find myself encouraging her to go beyond gender stereotypes (since she gets so much of that from her friends). I guess it’s working because when her teacher asked what she wants to grow up to be, she said, “A knight!”
My 4yo niece just did a pirate themed party and much of the dialogue was the same. She’s a strong girl, diva, but very pink and pretty gender conforming.
I’m glad they have solidarity.
And I think it’s lame that educational authorities try to prevent kids who want to be physically affectionate from doing so.
The only thing I like worse is the heteronormativity that often goes with such things. the “boy” is a player, …the girl, not quite a slut to be sure, but somehow seen as the object of conquest. …Seems like in your little story, C.J. was the prey 🙂