Yesterday my son looked at my painted hot pink toes and said, “Mom, tomorrow I want to paint my fingernails. AND toenails. I want my fingers to be blue, yellow, blue, yellow, blue.” He said while touching each fingernail. Then changing his mind, touched each one again, “No! I want them to be yellow, blue, yellow, blue, yellow.”

“Sure, sweetie. Anytime.”

Gender bending is common with young children. Some are more into it than others, and for longer than others, and for some it is more about identity than trying things out.

Magnus had a classmate last year who I’ll call Molly. Magnus would tell me all the time that Molly wanted to be a boy. Molly also dressed and acted like a boy. Then one day, Molly came to school with her long dark hair cut short. Molly is 5.

Magnus asked me a lot about Molly. “But she’s a girl, isn’t she?” he’d ask earnestly.

“What does Molly say they are?” I asked.

“A boy,” said Magnus.

“Then Molly is a boy,” I said.

“Well, how do you know if someone is a boy or a girl?”

“They tell you,” I said.

I have many people close to me who have tried to “steer” Magnus to like or not like certain things because they want him to be gender normative. They feel if they discourage gender bending then it will protect him from being teased or bullied.

I get that. We all want to protect our kids.

Magnus is very gender normative. He is obsessed with cars, farm equipment, the colour blue, pretty girls, and whatever else many gender normative boys like.

I am also keenly aware that in our attempt to “protect” our kids, we are often the first ones to shame them instead. Saying things like, “That’s a girls colour” or “Dolls are for girls” or “Boys don’t do that” when he actually enjoys or prefers those things shames him from liking them in the first place. When we say what he likes is wrong because of gender, it makes HIM wrong for liking them in the first place. He now no longer fits our model of what’s acceptable.

Just like Molly, we don’t know who are kids are going to be until they tell us.

And I don’t want there to be any shame for him if it’s different than what I think I see.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments below and tell me all about it.

PS. Magnus also has a bright pink stroller that he LOVES, a doll, and enjoys trying on my lip gloss when I’m getting ready. Even the most gender normative kids break the mold.