Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hair cuts for rock stars -- and Swedish adventures in gender-free parenting

Yesterday morning, after I had wetted Will’s hair and combed it out for him, Will pulled at his long locks and announced dissatisfied, “I look like a girl.” He put both hands to his hair and tried to mess the feminine out of it until he looked more lion than human – female or otherwise.

Rob has been quietly promoting Will’s shaggy mane as a nice “rock star” look. But now that Will had decided it was time for a trim, I told him we’d take care of it on the back deck that afternoon.

We took this picture before we broke out the scissors.

Will – whose shaggy hair obviously wasn't really long enough to put him in either a rock star or girly arena -- suddenly got nostalgic on me. He said we needed this picture, “so we can always remember my rock star hair. I’m just so sad to see it go. At least soon it can grow into rock star hair again.”

I gave Will a fairly light trim, partly because I'm semi-fond of his rock star hair, partly because he seemed reluctant for major chopping and partly because he quickly lost interest in the hair cut and wanted to go stand on the tree-swing in our backyard and swing in his underwear.

Still it was the first time Will, who on rare occasions will decide to try on one of my skirts or some ladies’ shoes, had worried about looking like a girl. And it reminded me of this story I’d heard about of a Swedish couple who’ve decided to raise their now 2-and-a-half-year-old “Pop” without telling anyone but their most intimate family members (who’ve changed the child’s diaper) the gender. Pop wears girls clothes some days, boys clothes on others, and Pop’s hairstyle varies from feminine to masculine. Pop’s mom says “We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset.” I’m all for providing girls with toy trucks and boys with baby dolls and encouraging them to play beyond typical gender roles – but the Pop plan sounds to me like a pretty extreme social experiment to carry out on your kid before they have the opportunity to decide if they want to be a guinea pig. Always interesting though to wonder about how much our children's girl/boy instincts are biologically programmed versus socially constructed.


shannon said...

First, Will astounds me in such a quiet way with his thoughtfulness. That picture says it all. I laughed (of course, out loud, how else do people laugh?? maybe with their eyes?) at the lion metaphor.

My own boy, second child after his sister, often plays dress up and puts on some gender-neutral get-ups that a lot of the hunter-manly father types around here would not allow. I think this is ridiculous and that if you start admonishing them for their style, you better watch out for the rebellion later.

I just want my children to be in touch with their gender and feel comfortable with the body they've been given. I also think it's so silly when people wish for a girl or a boy to be born to them instead of the other. Personalities are so individual and parenting as well as society shapes individuals into who they are so I don't think the genitalia means as much as some parents think.

Annie Addington said...

I admit, I was secretly hoping for a girl before we learned Owen was a boy. Now I wouldn't trade him for the sweetest girl on the planet. Of course any parent would say that and mean it, but oh, I mean it so deeply and honestly and totally. It was very silly wishing on my part.