Molly is a cutie. She is five and one of C.J.’s BFFs at school, where they have bonded over their love of Rapunzel and the color purple (the hue, not the novel/film/musical). Molly has thick, brown curly hair and a perma-grin. Her happy eyes are always alive and looking for fun. She is sweet, the first to notice if one of her friends is hurt or sad. She’ll comfort anybody. She reminds me of one of the Precious Moments figurines that my grandmother collected when I was young.
It made me pause when I saw her at C.J.’s birthday party looking troubled. She sat with worried eyes that I didn’t know she owned. Chin in hand, bottom lip protruding. The kids were all sitting at tables waiting for the cupcakes to be served. C.J. was sitting across from her. I moved in a little closer to eavesdrop.
“I’m so sorry about your present, C.J.,” I heard her say to the birthday boy.
“Why?” C.J. asked, only giving her half of his attention.
“I’m just so shy about it,” she continued. By shy, she meant embarrassed. Girlfriend had really been giving this issue some serious thought.
“My Mommy bought your present while I was at school and she doesn’t know that you like girl toys. I thought she knew,” Molly said shaking her head in disappointment.
“Your Mommy thinks I like boy toys? Oh my gosh!” C.J. said, giving Molly his full attention upon realizing that they were discussing the birthday gifts that he had been waiting 364 days to receive and open.
“I told her before about you liking girl stuff but then she bought you a SpongeBob book and a Toy Story puzzle. I’m so shy (embarrassed),” Molly explained, telling C.J. exactly what she got him for his birthday before gift unwrapping even took place. A cupcake appeared in front of each child.
C.J. got sidetracked with eating his cupcake. Thank goodness because who knows what he would have said in reply to being informed that he was getting a SpongeBob SquarePants book and Toy Story puzzle. He isn’t always good at things like manners, considering the feelings of others and being gracious. He’s five. We’re working on it. The chances of him saying, “Oh, that’s okay Molly, it’s the thought that counts” were slim to none. I know my son. He can be a bit narcissistic.
There was a Beyblade in his Christmas stocking. He saw it and said with annoyance “why would Santa give me a Beyblade?” and promptly hurled it across the room at the Christmas tree. While Uncle Uncle tried to hide his elfish laughter behind his mug of spiked eggnog, I crossed the room, retrieved the Beyblade, showed it to C.J. and explained to him that it was a pink Beyblade and that maybe Santa gave it to him so that he could Beyblade battle with his brother and the neighbor kids. Then, and only then, did C.J. consider forgiving Santa.
For the past two and a half, gender nonconforming years, we’ve had problems with gifts and C.J. because:
- C.J. likes toys specifically marketed to girls and sometimes people don’t know that or aren’t comfortable with giving him “girl toys.” And, as he gets older, the formerly safe “gender neutral toys” really piss him off.
- C.J. seems to have an inability to fake happiness and thankfulness when opening a gift that he doesn’t like. He is a spitfire. If he doesn’t like something, he’s gonna make it known. Since Christmas, if he opens a “boy toy” we all duck.
Before his party, one mom asked me what she should buy C.J. for his birthday. I had my response down.
“Anything that you would get for a five-year-old girl,” I replied honestly, owning his gender nonconformity much more than I had in the past when asked “what gifts you will love?” I’ve come a long way in a year. I don’t care about what other people think. I care about my son getting gifts that he likes, if he is lucky enough to be getting gifts.
“Are you serious?” she asked.
“Yes, and if you aren’t comfortable with that, he loves to do crafts or anything artistic.”
Three days later, at his birthday party, her child gave C.J. a genderless craft kit, which was fine, none of us had to duck. And that book and puzzle that Molly gave him? The Toy Story puzzle at Jessie and the purple Lotso Bear front and center, so all was right in his world.
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I suddenly thought of that hilarious scene in “Priscilla, queen of the desert”, where 5-year old Ralph switches the Christmas gifts – his sister looks disappointedly at the miniature truck “she” received, while Ralph, smiling shyly, plays with “his” doll.
If you’ve not seen the film, it’s an absolute must.
“He’s five. We’re working on it.” Great line.
I think it’s normal for all of us, young and older to be ego-centric especially at celebrations about US! 🙂 One thing we’ve done to avoid gift drama is to throw a birthday party for a cause…..instead of a gift, everyone comes with a check for a cause of our family’s choice…something related to children. It’s fabulous….no genger centric toys (and we don’t need any more of any gender), no pressure on families, we raise a lot of money for a good cause and our children learn to be givers on the biggest celebratory day of their lives. It’s a win-win. And my kids love the cake and party more than anything!
You need to be a “spitfire” who will hurl invectives and unwanted gifts if you are going to live a life as a gender nonconformist. I’m sure you will get to the empathy and social graces when the time is right.
I don’t know if this will help but my mother’s rule was that we couldn’t play with any present until we had written our thank you cards for every present. Since you had to think about what you would write on the card for everything you were opening it helped keeped negative reactions at bay–and built a very good life skill. Gratitude is always in style. 😉
I fully understand C.J.’s inability to fake graciousness. May he learn this skill fast because at almost 25 it’s one I still can’t do. I do have some mental dis-eases that make remembering social cues I never learned growing up more difficult though. Happy belated birthday to C.J. 🙂
I’m still giggling over Uncle Uncle’s jealousy about the lavender princess cake! I just love Uncle Uncle!
Impressive cupcakes, CJ’s dad 🙂 Thank you CJ’s mom for the post. I would still prefer that toys not be marketed so heavily towards specific genders, but rather just marketed as a type of toy that could appeal to anyone.
Christy, I’m with you. How about making toys for every child, so no child feels left out for liking anything?
I seriously enjoyed you post. I found it very interesting. And I am going to bookmark you site for reading your next blog. I would like to pay a lot of thanks for sharing such a nice post with us. Keep it up.
this is one of the reasons I offer my kids money instead of a party. works a treat 🙂
How come there is no link to an amazon wishlist where fans of the blog could buy CJ all his favorites?
This… this right here.
I was never good at faking feelings either. I was also an odd person to buy things for.
My family never knew what to get me or purposely didn’t get me what I wanted in the first place. Amazon wishlists weren’t available back then (all of 15-20 years ago). Eventually everyone settled on simply giving me Visa gift cards or regular cash to buy what I wanted.
Glad it all worked out in the end for C.J, though. 🙂
I do this for my child, who is only slightly gender-nonconforming in that while she likes Princesses, she also like Toy Story, Cars, How to Train Your Dragon – basically, childhood without limitations. So I have a wishlist for her to make it easier to point people (especially well-meaning relatives) in the right direction. For the last present exchange we did with friends, she got a Princess storybook and a Toy Story puzzle, and loved them both.
This is a very enlightening helpful series. Thank you. Plus you’re a great writer.
Lol I am so glad that he had a great birthday! The story reminds me of the you tube videos titled “hey Jimmy Kimmel I gave my kid a horrible gift” we laughed for hours watching the submissions . . . Look for the one with the preppy blonde kids it will shock the hell out of you
Gift giving is a struggle at all ages! I remember getting something I knew was well-intentioned for Hanukkah, but I already had it. Rather than explain that, I just ripped it open and pretended it was awesome! It would’ve worked but later my relatives found the original and didn’t understand why I’d opened it and pretended to like it, when I could have just told them I already had one.
I think CJ’s old enough to understand other people have feelings and gift giving is always tough and it IS the thought that counts, etc. etc. And most importantly, if you keep it unopened, you can usually return it for something you really like! After-party, gift returning is one of life’s great joys!
Btw, fwiw, it’s quite clear how much more comfortable you’ve grown with CJ’s gender nonconformity from your writing. I can’t wait to hear about the next birthday!!! Hope this year brings all of you everything you want and need!
We’ve been working with our children on the part about “its the thought that counts”. Even without gender mis-steps, there are always a couple of presents that fall into the unenthusiastic “oh that’s nice” category. When it’s time to write thank you notes we coach them through the process of thinking of at least one nice thing to sincerely say about the present – kid dictates the thank you, we do most of the writing, then kids signs his name and does additional decorations / drawings on the card before putting it in the envelope for us to address.
I am glad to read it all turned out okay! We had a barbie go flying one year in front of entire birthday gathering while my then, five year old daughter yelled “Who gave me this? I hate Barbie!”
Then she immediately ripped open a package that contained some ‘boy marketed’ toy and said with satisfaction, “That’s what I wanted.”
Years later it’s cool to be girl who is into sci-fi and gaming. But, way back then it was a struggle.
I like your daughter!