We have these friends. They don’t let their son play with toy guns, swords or weapons of any kind. “Hero Play” is forbidden. Acts of violence or saving another child from a pretend act of violence are frowned upon.
Their son can now make a weapon out of anything. He can build complex weapons out of Legos. A pillow is a shield, a stick is a sword, a play broom’s handle is a super machine gun with an imaginary scope. If he goes into a house that has toy artillery, he can and will sniff it out like he’s jonessing for his next hit of the good stuff. He rapid fires with his lips, loving the noise and spit that fly out of his mouth.
The parents have forbidden something that he wants and now, either as a result of their limitations or not, he searches out the forbidden fruit. And, if he can’t find it, he’ll create it on his own. He can think about nothing else.
It’s kind of how C.J. is about all things feminine. Not that we forbid it, but we don’t (aren’t able) to spoil our children. His favorite activities are arts and crafts and playing dress up and make believe. He’s fine with our assortment of art supplies, but will never be satisfied with our dress up wardrobe. So, he creates costumes and make believe girly things on his own. Some people have said that he won’t play with “girl” stuff if we don’t buy it for him. Really? Check this out.
Here he is a while ago. He took Nana Grab Bags’s favorite apron, scoured my walk-in closet for the perfect shoes and used a calculator from the junk drawer as a cell phone. He said that he was “Mommy going to work.”
And, here he is after a trip to the toy store, where he was refused a pair of pom-poms because earlier in the day he had not been a very good listener, had wiped his boogers on his brother and called him a poo-poo head. Yes, those are bath poufs. He wore them for hours and days on end and referred to them as his pom poms…until they got covered in spaghetti sauce one night at dinner. The good thing about bath pouf pom poms? They wash easily. He was back in the game, I mean sidelines cheering, in no time.
Our dress-up drawers are loaded with equal parts traditional girl and boy costumes and accessories. He liked the feel and fabric of this number. The long sash in the back sent him over the edge. It was originally the shirt from a boys Arabian Nights costume, but that’s not how C.J. prefers it. He marched himself straight to the garage and found some rope. He cut it with blunt scissors and made me tie it at the waist. Hello belted shirtdress!
Here we have C.J. wearing a Valentine’s Day-themed dish towel as a stylish hearted skirt. After sneaking a belt from his brother’s room he held the towel up to his waist and insisted that I belt it to him. St. Valentine would be proud.
We’ve learned that C.J. is really creative. He doesn’t need new things, as long as he is allowed to create and turn stuff into exactly what he has in mind. We’ve learned that even if we don’t buy him feminine costumes and toys, he will find a way to play with them, imagine them, make them on his own. In our house, our plastic guns, swords and light sabers are safe from C.J., but our belts, aprons and bath poufs are not.
In my younger days, my mom owned a preschool here in Newport Beach. Of course I had to spend my summers there working off one punishment or another (!) There were no “toys of violence” at the school, but most of the boys would just grab a Barbie, scissor her legs apart, hold one leg and “shoot” with the other. The visual of a well-dressed (or non-dressed) Barbie blasting the other kids – imaginary bullets projecting from her perfect pointed toes – – gotta LOVE the kids! They can’t find exactly what they want, they’ll make do with what they’ve got. Take a lesson parents of the world!!
I love his “mommy going to work” outfit with accessory “calculator phone” Looks just like you:)…
I freaking love C.J.!!! Your boy is so creative, I see I long, successful career ahead of him as a fashion designer. I can’t wait to shop his collection at Nordy’s. xo
I love CJ’s “Mommy going to work” outfit ! I used to do exactly the same with my mother apron and sleepers when I was around his age.
Keep encouraging your son to be creative and to express himself the way he wants to. You’re a wonderdul mum 🙂
And this is exactly why Dr. Phil is full of poo. Take away the dolls and give him boy toys??? Yeah, that’ll work out perfectly. Take the food away from the perfectly happy animal and what do you get? An hungry, UPSET animal.
“The parents have forbidden something that he wants and now, either as a result of their limitations or not, he searches out the forbidden fruit. And, if he can’t find it, he’ll create it on his own. He can think about nothing else.”
Well-stated! Great post, I love the images you’ve included and it’s good that you recognize what is best for CJ as opposed to just saying “no” to what he wants.
(I have a similar child, I boy who is female identified)
I used to hate the idea of guns as toys in general until I was at the gender therapist I went to for my son. She explained to me she was seeing the parents of a boy “obsessed” with all the gun stuff, constant gunfire, explosions, etc. The parents were quite distressed at it all. She told me that is the “other” end of the male gender spectrum and that the gun play IS gender expression.
So now I accept gun play as I accept boys in dresses, both different types of gender expression.
As a child I was just as crafty as your little boy, albeit with a different creative focus. My parents would usually forbid me to use all the things I tried to use to make my creations (for various reasons). Eventually I stopped trying to make anything. When I got older I started seeing interviews of people who had made amazing, quirky artwork, models, effects, etc. and they all said that they began practicing their skills by tinkering with the same little things as I used to as a child. So it just goes to show that if you give them a way to run with their own abilities the children of today could be the genius backbone of tomorrow. (Or if you don’t they wind up bitter about missed opportunities; but maybe that is just me.)Good luck to all of both your children’s endeavors!
I’ve been reading and enjoying your blog for most of the year, but never really felt compelled to comment. Neither of our children is particularly gender creative (although we have some friends with children who are more so). However, they do both enjoy playing dress-up, so I wanted to share this tip with you. The best Christmas gift we ever got for our kids was a few years ago. My wife hit the post-Halloween sale when the costumes were 90% off. It’s a great way to get a lot of dress-up clothes for little money. We threw them all in a box and the kids had such fun tearing through them. On Christmas morning, they each went through several costume changes.
While we stuck to the more traditional gender stereotypes (my son got a pirate, a racecar driver, and a fireman, and my daughter got an angel, a goth rocker, and Mulan), they do tend to switch it up. Just last night, my son dressed up in his sister’s green sequined dance costume and gave a little performance.
We try to encourage them to be themselves in whatever that means to them, and are glad to see that you are supporting CJ to find and express himself. When it gets hard, remember that you have lots of supporters out here!
Just imagine yourself, a bit grayer, a little stooped, being brought out onto his catwalk in New York during Fashion Week to the thunderous applause of his first smash hit collection by the rich and famous. Then imagine settling back to a luxurious retirement when he hits the ready-to-wear market. “And I owe it all to my mom and dad, who never told me I couldn’t be myself”, the newly minted “It Boy” of fashion gushed to the crowd. (Hey, you get to fantasize too you know!)
When I was about CJ’s age, someone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I replied that I wanted to be Superman. The adult told me it was ridiculous, Superman wasn’t real, etc. What I meant, of course, was that I wanted to spend my adult life making the world a more just and good place. I’m a teacher now, and though I can’t fly, I do spend my days trying my best to be a hero. I say let him play. The biggest issue facing our teenagers these days (as I see it) is a serious lack of imagination. Solving complex problems requires creative thinking. You’re not just helping CJ now, you’re giving him tools that will help him immensely as a young man.
Seeing CJ’s (and the other boy’s) creativity makes me really realize that kids don’t need us to buy them a bunch of stuff anyway! They are perfectly capable of creating their own toys!
This one is really cool, because of the photos, it’s like hearing directly from CJ.
The gun thing kind of tickled me. I am the girly-est girl I know, but I wanted a toy rifle so badly as a child I could taste it. My mom, the ex-hippie, was HORRIFIED! Not, of course, because it wasn’t girly, but for the same reason I assume these parent had, she’s a pacifist. I cannot remember what fascinated me about them, but when my Daddy took me shooting as an adult, I have the best time. Being a hero, and being able to defend oneself does not mean that you are a violent person. I think their time would be better spent teaching their son about honor, and defense of the innocent. Since it is obvious, with their son and yours, that kids are gonna be who they are!
That should have been parentS, obviously!
Wow! Such great fashion sense at such a young age!
Watch out, Michael Kors! The world would be a better place if everyone encouraged their children’s creativity the way you do.
He’s a pretty impressive thinker.
As far as folks suggesting ways to ‘tame your CJ”, You know, some people just never have boundaries.
I hope you post some more on your facebook page soon.
Love your son’s creativity and I think your blog is focused around an interesting topic which you approach very honestly. Thanks!