It’s irritating to me when my 5-year-old blurts out comments that are dripping with old-school gender role assignments. Where he is getting his information? Who are the people telling him this junk? I send him out into the world and hope for the best, but that’s not always what he comes back with. I would love to be there to correct the people poisoning his mind, whether intentionally or innocently, with their “boys don’t cry” sentiment. Fortunately, sometimes I am there to hear it.

Ryder took notice of my painted fingernails while we were out shopping one afternoon. He loudly asked if he could paint his nails, too. Before I could answer, a woman standing within earshot decided to answer for me. “Only ladies paint their nails!” she proclaimed, with an obnoxious, dramatic emphasis on ‘ladies.’

“Actually, you’re too little to paint your nails right now, but if you want to when you’re older, you can.” Ryder beamed with happiness, mentally picking out the perfect shade of blue for his future polish purchase.

On another outing, we saw a lottery machine, which looks like a video game to a young boy. He asked if he could play it. Trying to explain what a lottery is to a 5-year-old is no small feat. A woman overheard and, with the intention of trying to help me, joked, “Only old ladies can play the lottery.” His brow wrinkled with confusion. I whispered to him, “That’s not true, actually. You can play it when you turn 18 if you’d like and if you have enough money.” He seemed disappointed; thirteen whole years to go. Might as well be an eternity. He looked longingly at the machine as we left the store, colorful Mega Millions and Power Ball jackpots brightly flashing on the screen.

A  few weeks ago, Ryder started asking questions and talking about marriage/family lineage. “Who is my great grandfather? Who is your mom’s dad?” and so on.

“Can I marry anyone that I want?”

“Yes. As long as they want to marry you, too.”

“Can I marry a boy or a girl?”

I cannot possibly express how happy I was that he asked this at home instead of somewhere out in the world during the course of his day.

“Of course. Love is love, and you marry the person that makes you the happiest in the whole world.”

“I have three girls that I want to marry.”

“You can only pick one, unless you move to Utah.”


“Never mind. You have time to decide.”


Today, we had a maintenance appointment scheduled for a repair on a piece of furniture. I called out to the boys, “C’mon guys, we gotta get this place cleaned up so this dude has room to work.”

And then came what is quite possibly my proudest moment as a mother.

“How do you know it’s going to be a guy?”

I paused long and hard. “You’re right. I don’t know. Excellent point.”

The traditional rules of gender roles, even if we don’t necessarily subscribe to them, are still peppered into our psyches. They innocently manifest in our words, purposefully giving us the opportunity to take a step back, hear ourselves, and make positive changes. Today I find myself in check, and remember that no matter how progressive and open-minded I am, there is always some work to be done.

And while I might be a work in progress, John and I can be certain that we are raising our sons to be masterpieces.