When I’m out and about with Pearl I typically have some form of this conversation with a stranger:
“How old is your little fellow?”
“She’s twenty months.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I thought…”
“Yeah, she doesn’t have much hair yet.”
It really does not matter what she’s wearing. Wearing a floral-patterned romper, wearing her pink coat (pictured above), doesn’t matter. I actually find it really funny. I never before realized how much people count on hair to signify gender.
I tend to dress Pearl pretty neutrally. Some pink and purple but lots of blues and yellows and greys. She has some things with flower patterns but her girliest articles of clothing have all been gifts and hand-me-downs. She also has several items that were handed down from an older boy cousin and a couple of sweaters that were her dad’s when he was tiny. I don’t really care if strangers can’t instantly identify my toddler’s sex but they’re all very apologetic when they’re wrong.
I want Pearl to grow up celebrating and embracing her femininity but I also don’t want to teach her that being a girl “looks” a certain way. Maybe one day her hair will grow long and she’ll wear it in fancy ways. Maybe she’ll always like to keep it short. Maybe in a year or two she’ll insist on wearing nothing but pink and flowers or maybe she’ll keep mixing it up with colours. I don’t know and it’s pretty far down my list of things I care about when it comes to Pearl’s future.
I don’t really care when strangers refer to Pearl as “he” but I do care when people try and predict her behaviour based on her being a girl. When people talk about how much more energetic and crazy boys are, I just smile but I think of my little girl who runs laps around the house, loves to “crazy dance”, and who is already in a toddler bed because she’s really darned good at climbing. She loves to cuddle and she loves to make her stuffed animals nose nuzzle each other and she laughs like a tiny maniac when I use my stern voice on her. None of these things is because she’s a girl; they’re each a part of Pearl and the unique person she is.
Pearl becomes more of an individual every day, full of her own thoughts and opinions, and as she learns to verbally express herself, I’m learning too. How to support her, how to teach her, how to love her. It’s a big job. And I’m thankful I get to do it.