What Are Little Boys Made Of?

Monday, October 18, 2010

“He’s such a boy.” That’s what people always say when my son lets his love for trucks and cars and trains show.

In the bookstore, when he beelines to the colorful section with books about all things with wheels, we hear it. At the grocery store, when he points out, with glee, the school bus made of snack cracker boxes, we hear it. On the sidewalks, when he’s “driving” his own wheels, we hear too.

“He’s such a boy.”

But what would people say if he was playing with a doll? Not a stuffed animal doll. A curly-haired doll with a crinkly, pink dress, hard shoes and painted-on makeup.

What would they say if instead of a book about tractors, he clutched one about fairy princesses?

Maybe most folks would say nothing at all. Just nod.

What would they say if he was dressed as a fairy princess?

I starting thinking about this, wondering what my reaction would be. I thought about Shiloh Jolie-Pitt and the media fuss around the 4-year-old’s “tomboy” wardrobe choices.

I thought about all of this after watching this video about The Kilodavis family and their 5-year-old son Dyson.

Dyson started dressing up in sparkly, pink dresses and jewelry and showing clear interest in “girl toys.” His mother’s response? She wrote a book called My Princess Boy that is now used in her son’s school as an anti-bullying tool.

The whole family has embraced this boy, letting him be him—a 5-year-old. And it’s refreshing to see.

  • 1
    Fudo says:

    seeing so many preschool-aged boys wearing tutus and feather boas in a world where grown men beat 18-month-old babies to death for “acting like a girl,” I’ve realized it’s the adults that have a problem with this, not the children.

    forgive my link-whoring, but I was asked to contribute my thoughts on [non]sexist child rearing, here: http://tinyurl.com/2cndrko [http://open.salon.com/blog/fudo_myo/2010/01/04/on_raising_a_pansy_nonsexist_childrearing_project_open_call]

    …which was a follow up to another post I wrote that inspired a bit of discussion:
    http://tinyurl.com/2d6pktq [http://open.salon.com/blog/fudo_myo/2009/05/01/my_son_hates_his_penis]

  • 2
    40 going on 28 says:

    Thanks for sharing that interview. If only all parents (and psychiatrists! and interviewers!) could be so accepting and loving and complimentary about the different ways children approach the world.

    As someone who recently started crying while on the elliptical at the Y because of CNNs coverage of the too many sons who took their own lives due to bullying, and as someone who just threw up a little in her mouth after seeing the Facebook comments in response to Obama’s statement that he believes that homosexuality is not a choice, but the result of people being born with “a certain make-up” – and as someone with a son who loves both trains and using his bath-towel to be a princess, I shudder when I think about releasing my kids into the world. I wish I were more optimistic about positive change.

  • 3
    wtf says:

    i think it’s great she took her situation and wrote this book. i think it’s great that they’re having this conversation, but i don’t think it’s great that they’re having it with the little boy in question present. as far as he’s concerned, there should be nothing but support coming from his mother’s (parents’) side. but he’s right there listening to his mum talk about how she loves him, but who he is and how he expresses himself makes her uncomfortable. even the older brother says, flat out, how his mum was worried that people would laugh at dyson. it’s a good conversation for adults to have and then take what they’ve learned back home with them and incorporate it into daily interactions with our children. it’s just not a conversation that’s appropriate to discuss in front of children (especially if your talking about a specific child).

    • 3.1

      Good point. When I watched the video, one of my first thoughts was: Why are they having this convo about the child with him sitting right there–and with a cold, no less. I think the good and necessary message from the book–and the family’s supportive stance–could still come across without having the young boy present.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.