Do You Want to Be Called He or She?

My kids and I were at skate park when a rock-a-billyesque guy came rolling in on his BMX style bike. He had a buddy with him, skinny and young, that had the requisite skater wear of skinny jeans, thin T-shirt and some cool plaid shoes, tousled blond hair but this time, a little different than some skaters, it was styled pushed forward swirled a bit to the side. Eyeliner, and a just-so perfect pout going on. I could tell a tinge of glam rock would be of interest to this BMXer. I like Glam Rock. And then, because I’m me, I saw the bra under the T-shirt. Was there anything in the bra? Was the bra a happy place or subtle statement or was it necessary for comfort when doing bike tricks but not to be mentioned? Or did this skater simply not care about it one way or the other?

My little ones are 4 and 5. At the skate park the boys always are shy but fascinated with BMXers. Wait long enough and they not only talk to them but ask 50 questions starting with “What’s your name?” through details about the person’s bike and ending on “why?” “Why is your tire like that?” “Why don’t you have a kick stand?” “why did you bring a water bottle?” “Why? Why? Why?”

Most of the guys, and unfortunately at the skate parks it is mostly guys, don’t care. But some just want to ride and not be cross examined by my 5 year old, CEO, and his 4 year old sidekick, Yeah!

CEO and Yeah were especially enamored today because these two were really good. Even modeling tricks while upside down on the cement before doing them in the air. I don’t know what–I’m just the mom but it looked cool to me. I could see CEO trying to sidle up to get into the question phase. They started on something about tricks but curiosity got the better of my oldest and he needed to get some gender facts but my kids are not like other kids who ask “Are you a boy or a girl?”

In ongoing conversations, the boys and I discuss what is important about that question. Some kids really want to know if someone is a boy or a girl for many reasons including seeing where they fit in or compare. Learning about biology, rules of society, hair length and more. Our boys know that people say they are whatever they want to say. We couldn’t come up with any easy guidelines so my butch wife just said, “it’s how you feel on the inside.” And that was perfect. They loved that answer and they say it all the time at school or to anyone when the topic is at hand. They also feel fluid about it. Someone can feel like a girl one day, a boy the next day and can feel like neither or both as well. Both was popular around our house for awhile.

Turns out to my little talkative ones (don’t know where they get that!) the importance of that question: “Are you a boy or a girl?” is pronouns because speaking “like the big kids” is so important to them at this age. They are learning how to be in our society and unfortunately two pronouns are the most popular. We can all try to change that or argue about it but let’s face it: on the playground at this young age it’s about how to talk and say words. They are mastering their language skills. They hear “he” and “she” and they want to know when to say which so that they are not embarrassed by saying the wrong thing. So when we got down to it, the three of us decided that’s the real question most of the time: not “are you a boy or a girl?” but “do you want to be called he or she?” What he’s not saying is “because I am getting ready to tell my friends or at least my mom what you said about BMX tricks and I need to know how to start the sentence.”

On this beautiful day at the skate park that’s what they did. The skater they asked was either shy or just wanted to ride thus didn’t talk to me after being cornered by the munchkins. But Rock-a-billy did. He said, “your kids are so awesome. They made my friend feel great because they asked if Jillian wanted to be called he or she. That’s cool. I never heard that before. Kids always ask are you a boy or a girl?”

I said, “and what was the answer?” He smiled simply, “she.”

And which point Yeah who had been idling beside us, trying to look so cool and so big-boy, with one foot on his pedal and fists ready to go on his handle-bars, said matter-of-factly “Mommy, she feels like a her.”

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