You always want to be just like your older sister. So last week you innocently asked if you could wear her extra bathing suit.
Sure, I said. Why not?
You looked super swanky in that girl’s leopard print bathing suit.
You would make any mama proud, parading around in that thing like you were born in it. We were, of course, in our own backyard. When we went to a friend’s to go swimming, you asked again if you could wear a bathing suit like Sissy’s. I paused slightly before I responded that time.
Sure. Go ahead.
You stood beside your sister, each admiring the other’s outfit. “Mama, don’t we look cute?” you asked.
A week later, as we were getting ready to go to the splash pad at the park, you saw me packing your Thomas the Train suit.
“No, Mama,” you said, “I want my bathing suit. The one like Sissy’s.”
“OK, no problem. You can wear whatever one you like!” I told you, enthusiastically. But inside I was hoping you would pick the shorts. Inside, I was wondering if your girls’ bathing suit and painted nails were going to draw attention.
When we got to the park, I’m embarrassed to admit that I felt a little anxious. What if someone said something to you? Was I going to have to defend you to another mother at a splash park? What if a kid teased you? Was I going to have to defend you to another kid at a splash park?
But as I watched you laugh and play, it made me think hard about what that bathing suit meant.
Here is what I decided—
1. You are two-years-old
Wearing a piece of clothing does not define you. It is not a marker for your sexuality, your orientation or the direction your life is going to take. Last month, you wore a helmet for two weeks straight. You then traded it in for a bucket and wore that for another two. You are experimenting with wearing things—who am I to judge? I wore a fanny pack once. And socks with jellies.
2. It is only a piece of cloth
Who gives a hoot, really? When you think about it, the difference between a boy’s bathing suit and a girl’s bathing suit is just a CUT OF FABRIC. So someone decided that boys should wear a certain shape? And ohhhh yes—the colors! Everyone knows that if you are a boy you can only like blue, green and maybe red. But no pink. No purple. Apparently the fact that you have a Y chromosome makes you partial to only half of the rainbow. Sorry, kid. That’s just science.
3. There is a double standard
When your sister was two, she really liked baby dolls. But she also really loved matchbox cars. She would fill her purse with sedans and sports cars and carry them with her wherever she went. I thought nothing of it—and guess what—neither did anyone else. The stereotypes that toys, colors and patterns are purely gender-specific is antiquated and should be put back on the shelf.
4. I don’t care where it leads
This phase of your life is about discovery. Wherever your path heads, whoever you decide to be, or what you decide to like, or whom you decide to love, I’m OK with that. I am your mom and I just want you to be happy. You can be anything you want to be! My dream would be that you become a vintner, but that’s for purely selfish reasons.
And you can continue to wear the smashing leopard print bathing suit on public outings, and I will continue to protect you and stand by you. Whatever that does, or does not mean, for your future.