Parenting Lessons from Brangelina

“We are SO Brangelina right now,” I announced as I walked into the house carrying four full grocery bags on each arm.  I load them on my arms like heaving bangle bracelets that cut off my circulation because I’m too lazy to make multiple trips to the car to unload.  I bet Angelina doesn’t have to lug groceries.

“Why’s that?” my husband said to me, which is what he says when he needs further explanation to determine just how crazy my thought process is.  Notice he didn’t have to ask who Brangelina was.  Yes, I’ve trained him well.  He can proficiently discuss celebrity couples and knows them all by their conjoined monikers.

I peeled the bags off of my arms, placed them on the kitchen counter and pulled out the Life & Style magazine that had just hit the newsstands.  The cover headline screamed “Brad’s Fears for Shiloh: As Angelina cuts Shiloh’s hair shorter than ever, Brad breaks down worrying that his little girl will be ridiculed.”

Legends of the Fall changed my life.  It was the first movie that C.J.’s Dad and I saw together (which was a milestone worth journaling about back in high school) and it was when I was introduced to the one and only Brad Pitt.  If you are attracted to men, you remember when you first laid eyes on Mr. Pitt.  It’s like how some people remember the day when President Kennedy was assassinated.  Then, there was the first time I saw Angelina Jolie.  The movie was Gia and, from that moment on, I understood fully and completely how a person could, with all of their being, be physically attracted to a person of the same sex/gender.

The two of them together really isn’t fair.  How can that much beauty and sex appeal cohabitate?  Then again, how can it not? My relationship with Brangelina was shallow and purely physical for a long time.  Sure, I heard that they did some volunteer work around the world, donated millions of dollars to causes and saved some orphans from icky circumstances and other fancy stuff like that.  But, I didn’t bother myself with those details until Brangelina had a little girl who started presenting herself as a little boy.

Shiloh is roughly the same age as C.J.  From what I can tell she is gender creative.  From what I can tell Brangelina are okay with it.  They were the first example of a family like ours that I saw and could relate too.  If you aren’t a family like ours with a child like ours, then you have no idea how good it feels to read about and see a family that you can relate too.

Having a gender creative child will never be in fashion.  I don’t think that we are hipsters because we have a gender creative child and I certainly don’t think Brangelina glamorize it, but they do make it seem a little more okay, at least they do for us.  They’ve taught me to be, where C.J.’s gender creativity is concerned, totally unapologetic.  I thank them for that.

The article in Life & Style talked about how Shiloh went from liking dolls to dinosaurs when she was two years old.  That’s the age when C.J. went from liking trains to Barbies.  That’s the age when parents stop selecting toys and the children start doing it for themselves.  At age three, Shiloh started wearing some clothes from her brothers’ closet and C.J. started wearing my tank tops as tank dresses.  A year later, when Shiloh begged for a short-cropped hairdo, C.J. wanted to grow his hair out like Rapunzel.  Shiloh is sometimes mistaken for a boy (because apparently some people don’t keep up on the Brangelina brood like I do) and C.J. is sometimes mistaken for a girl.  Our kids are total twin-sies, only different.

In the Life & Style article, Jonathan “Manhattan’s most media-friendly psychotherapist” Alpert was quoted as saying, “this is a culture where kids get picked on if they don’t look like other kids.  Shiloh’s already different…and she may already feel ostracized because of that.”

People have given me the same advice and I have read it a few times in magazines like the Atlanta Parent.  My argument is that if we were all the same, this world would super boring.  If the goal is to get people like Shiloh and C.J. to be less colorful, the result will be a dull, drab future in a place where their peers have been taught that conformity reigns supreme.  It will be Boresville 90210, population snoozefest.

A few days later Grandma and Grandpa Colorado were in town for doctors appointments and, like an AARP-aged Bonnie and Clyde, they stole the waiting room copy of Star magazine to show us an article titled “Doctor’s Tell Brad and Angie: Let Shiloh be a boy!”

In the Star article Dr. Jeff “America’s Physiologist” Gardere said that “it’s important for Brad and Angelina to allow Shiloh to develop into any personality that is not harmful or antisocial.  Therefore, if she wants to develop emotionally more like a boy, then she should be allowed to do so.”

That’s what is hard for some people to understand about the way that we have come to parent.  There are people who feel like we should be helping C.J. to conform more and follow his instincts less.  I won’t do it.  I’m here to love him, not change him.  He’s free to be who he was created to be – short of breaking the law and harming others.   I’m trying my hardest to be what C.J. needs so that he can grow into the very best version of himself.

Though he’d probably rather playdate with Suri Cruise, I’d rather he find a BFF in Shiloh Jolie-Pitt.  Then, I could talk to Brangelina and thank them for being the first parents to show me that letting a gender creative child be creative is okay….while stealing glances on the sly.


About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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25 Responses to Parenting Lessons from Brangelina

  1. CJ is lucky to have you guys. Sadly, not all parents are as accepting as you, and many try to conform their child to their own ideals and biases. Keep up the good work!

  2. I love this post and this blog. Those of us “supportive parenting style” parents are often confused for “permissive parenting style parents.” Supportive parents don’t let our children do whatever they want. We have rules. We expect respect. Our kids have responsibilities and duties. Supportive parents are hands-on. We listen. We pay attention. We care. We want to help our children to succeed on their terms.

    Because you are embracing your gender creative child, you are more of a lightning rod than those of us with children with more conventional pursuits. But the philosophy is the same. People are different. You don’t have to be like me for me to like you.

    Regardless of the interest or proclivity, it helps to know other parents whose children share those sensibilities. I cannot relate to a lot of the things my children are passionate about. But I can relate to being passionate about things.

    Thanks so much for this.

  3. Just found you through amelia on huffington post. love this piece. love brangelina. totally feel the same way about BOTH of them. i have a little shiloh and love your approach. so glad to see other parents out there withe the same take.

  4. Elisabetta says:

    I love your blog and all your posts; I feel better when I read them. I like your expressions “ Gender creative” and “the very best version of himself”. Thank you.

  5. I Like your post. thanks for share it.

  6. Telcontar says:

    I love reading your blog; it’s wonderful to hear about someone who is happy to raise a gender non-conforming child. I’m a teenaged female genderqueer, and I want Mom to stop insisting that I be her little girl (I’m the youngest of three, with two very masculine brothers). She doesn’t even think people like me exist. It’s awesome what you’re doing and that you’re not stereotyping C.J. – I’m certain that his childhood and life will be much happier due to your support and all. Thank-you so much!

  7. Jenny says:

    Whenever I start doubting how I’m raising my little gender non-conformist I get a post from you and it throws the wind back into my sails! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!!

  8. masterofmom says:

    CJ is lucky to have you guys. Sadly, not all parents are as accepting as you, and many try to conform their child to their own ideals and biases. Keep up the good work!

  9. Allison says:

    I love that you are “unapologetic”…you inspire me to remember that as parents, it should be our main priority to accept, love and encourage our children to be what it is that makes them happy. Gender conforming or not, we are our childrens’ champions 🙂 Another great post!

  10. hawkdad73 says:

    I know I have probably said this before or read it here before…I think this is a great blog.

    Letting children grow into the types of people they feel most comfortable being is difficult while teaching them right from wrong.

    Besides, your background makes me smile!

  11. Probably nothing new for you in all your awesomeness, but I’m still giving you some awards and spreading the word to my readers. Here you go-

  12. insaniteen says:

    well, you can always try to make the kids conform to whatever is supposed to make the rest of the world happy, but it doesn’t change them from who they are. It just makes the folks around them feel a little better I guess. Our rainbow is 24 and has been openly gay since she was about 6 years old. If anyone thinks I could have made her wear a dress – ever – just because someone else might need her to, well, they don’t really understand what it’s like to raise children – especially healthy children.

  13. Tiffany says:

    This is great, I would love (with your permission, of course) to post a link to this article whenever I see adults giving that little girl a hard time. I think seeing that “normal” parents with similar experiences are encouraged by the Jolie-Pitt family’s acceptance of Shiloh. More often than not, it seems that the adults picking on Shiloh are doing so because they don’t like her mother, and assume she’s the reason why Shiloh doesn’t conform to stereotypical gender roles.

    Also, I thought you might be interested in this: Hopefully your son isn’t dealing with this sort of thing yet, or at least, not to that degree, but I thought it would still be of interest to you and your family.

  14. Crysi says:

    Every time I see picture of Shiloh, I smile. She reminds me of my oldest daughter so much. She wanted “short short hair” at the end of last summer. She hates hair in her face & won’t wear ponytails or barettes so I took her for a hair cut. 8m later, people are still calling her a boy even though her hair is quite a bit longer. It annoys me me so much because I can see the hurt on her face. She is 100% girl, but because she doesn’t fit the long hair stereotype, she must be a boy. So frustrating.

  15. Tag – you’re it

    A little out of the style of your blog, but I wanted to invite you to play because I really appreciate your blog. It is so natural and free while it is also intensely serious – after all, this is your child and you are working so hard to be an admirably amazing mother. I think parents of any child could take a bunch of pages out of your playbook! Kudos.

  16. jo Hadley says:

    I think Handsome in Pink will send Shiloh the pink dirtbike t-shirt that C.J. has been enjoying! Thanks for bringing my attention to little Shiloh!

  17. Coming East says:

    Glad that article made you feel better, but you really don’t need someone from the outside telling you what’s right for your child. You are doing an excellent job all by yourself.

  18. Lyn~ says:

    There was NEVER any discussions in my family as my younger sister and brother grew up… I am the eldest girl… We were simply taught: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, as well as; ” to thine own self be true” my parents were not forward thinkers they never pondered gender identity – they were simple though educated people who believed each to their own… There will never be a time in this vast and wonderful world where all folks are going to want “the same thing or feel the same way” about any given belief religion or what to eat for that matter so why why why must some a very few in fact compared to the vast number of people on the planet feel that they have the right to decide for any or all of us how it all ought to play out!!! I think think this is where ‘free will comes into play… if we each stop worrying or fearing what someone else is doing and just become and be the best version of ourselves the world at large will be a better place!!!! Rock on Grandma and Grandpa Colorado and Rainbow Mom!!!!!! CJ knows what makes him happy he is hurting NO ONE!!!! Not others or himself! Sweet dreams CJ….. make them the most amazing that they can be our world will benefit from it all someday!

  19. Julie Catherine says:

    Awesome post; inspiring and championing the true spirit of your child – I love it. ~ Julie 🙂

  20. NotoriousDSG says:

    My best friend’s little brother has always been a little gender creative and the focus of a lot of discussion amongst his parents and his brother’s friends about whether he’ll be gay or transgendered or what… Anyway, the other day he made a tribute video to Lady Gaga and at the end he thanked his parents for giving him the courage to be creative! I thought about you and CJ ten years from now and I’m sure he will be thanking you for the same thing!! Maybe this blog will make CJ famous enough that it won’t be awkward when he starts hanging out with the Pitt-Jolie kids?!?!?!?!

  21. Another awesome post! You ROCK!

  22. Another hreat post. Would that all parents allow their children to follow whatever path their chemistry, talents, and imagination dictate. The world would be a wonderful place, indeed.

  23. Pingback: A blog you should follow « Blue Lyon

  24. Not only will the future be boring if all children (continue to be) encouraged to fit into the same mold, but the future will continue to perpetuate the meanness that is so often thrown at anyone who is different. Only by daring to be different, and encouraging our kids to do so, can we change the world, make it a safer, more loving place for everyone, no matter who they are or how creatively they express themselves. Once again, Mama Rainbow, you hit the nail on the head. Keep on doing a great job with CJ. I know it’s not your primary intention–I know you only mean to raise a happy, healthy, comfortable-in-his-own-skin child–but you are changing the world.

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