We like to paint aspects of our lives in broad swaths of generalization. It makes things easier to understand and to categorize. For example, dogs are friendly and cats are chill; families like minivans and single people are more likely to drive sports cars. Unfortunately, do the same thing with gender. When a woman is having a boy, blue onesies are gifted. If she's having a girl, everything is pink. It doesn't have to be that way, though, and there are things you don't have to do when raising a boy, even though everyone says you do.
My partner and I were guilty of gender stereotyping our first son in a few unconscious ways. I went gender neutral in every way I could think of, but once he was older I caught myself daydreaming about him playing sports, and my husband and I talked about whether he'd be better at either baseball or soccer. We contemplated if he'd play on travel teams and if he'd continue to play in high school. Turns out, he hates soccer and is not exactly graceful (or fast).
I realized that I'd been pegging my gender assumptions on my son, even though he'd given me every indication that he was not into sports. Like, at all, and obviously that was fine. I just wish I'd realized it sooner. While gender stereotypes are difficult to completely disassociate yourself from, there are things you don't have to do with boys that people automatically assume you do. In the end, parent the kid you have, not the kid people think you should have.
You Have To Pain Their Room Blue
The idea that certain colors are for certain genders is one of the earliest ways we impose gender stereotypes on our kids. Blue for boys and pink for girls is actually a relatively new idea, with pink being considered a masculine color well into the 20th century. Instead of assuming a boy he needs (or even wants) a blue room, just ask. He may say pink and, hey, that's OK. He may say blue. That's OK, too.
You Have To Buy Them Trucks And Cars
We have close to 47,000 tiny cars in our home. I know the exact number, because we have them in a box that's absolutely never touched. We assumed our son would love cars because, well, "boys like cars." Yeah, he was into them for about a minute.
Turns out, my son prefers other things. Perhaps he'll come back around to cards and trucks, but maybe he won't. Either way, there's no such thing as "boy" toys, so don't feel like you have to buy your son some.
You Have To Enroll Them In Sports
It's easy to imagine your son as the star soccer player or little league MVP, and it's easy to project that image onto them. However, your kid might end up absolutely hating sports.
In other words, if he doesn't want to play soccer, he doesn't want to play soccer. Not only is it no big deal, but you'll get to sleep in on Saturday mornings and avoid talking with the other parents and, thank the parenting gods, you won't be responsible for snacks. #Winning
You Need To Make Them "Tough"
Boys are people. They have feelings and they get hurt. Just because a person is either assigned male at birth, or identifies as male later on in life, doesn't mean their feelings need to be squashed or ignored to reprimanded in order to uphold some outdated idea of "masculinity."
Boys need comfort and love just as much as girls. You want your boys to grow into sensitive, empathetic men, so help them to be sensitive, empathetic boys.
You Need To Teach Them That "Boys Will Be Boys"
We need to stop excusing bad behavior in our boys by writing it off as "boys just being boys." Boys don't get a free pass on aggression or bullying (or worse) because they're boys. No. Just no. Stop doing this now.
You Need To Avoid "Girl" Toys
My son's favorite toy, for at least a year, was his play vacuum. I had to hunt high and low to actually find one at Target after he first showed interest. It was in the "pretend play" aisle, which was covered in pink and lace and princess dresses.
Also in the pretend play/princess dress aisle? Kid-sized mops and brooms and vacuums, because apparently cleaning is for girls. Ugh.
You Need To Keep Pink Out Of Their Closet
Little boys may not have the vast number of wardrobe choices as little girls, but they definitely have opinions on what they wear. If your son wants to wear something pink or a dress or whatever our culture has arbitrarily decided is "girly," let him. He's a kid. He's learning how to express himself. So, you know, let him.