“I don’t wanna wear Doraaaaaaaa! I’m a BOY!” Find out how those two sentences made one mother spiral into a fretful tornado of self doubt…and spend WAY too much time thinking (and talking) about her child’s underwear.
“We need more Pull-Ups, Mama!” my son JR bellowed (as only a three-year-old can) as we made our way through the grocery store.
Before we left the house, I told him it was his job to remind me about the Pull-Ups since he’s the one who wears them (only at night and they usually stay dry, as he would have me clarify). So remind me he did. At the front door. On the sidewalk. In the car. In the car again. As we got out of the car. While we walked through the parking lot. As we picked out a shopping cart. You get the idea.
I’m all about him owning the potty training process, so as we pulled up to the baby/toddler accoutrement aisle I asked him which ones he wanted to get. He’s big on browsing, so we looked carefully at all the options: Lightning McQueen and Mater, airplanes and trains, Diego, and…Dora the Explorer.
“Dora! Dora the Explorahhhhh! I want Dora.”
I looked at the frills and the butterflies and the image of the pink-clad little girl on the packaging (which, incidentally, doesn’t quite accurately represent The Dora Aesthetic, but whatever) and hesitated for a moment.
I know. I know.
But I’m here to be honest, so there it is. I don’t know where my hesitation came from and it’s not at all representative of how we parent JR; we work very hard to not label toys, behavior, preferences, roles, what-have-yous as male or female. And yet I still paused.
“These? You want these? Are you sure?”
“YES! I already had Lightning McQueen. I wanna try Dora.”
Thankfully his enthusiasm quickly brought me to my senses and I tossed the package in the cart. He proudly wore a Dora Pull-Up — frills and all — that night and every night for weeks after that without incident.
Until a couple weeks ago…
A soaking wet, post-bath JR thundered into his room (that whole “pitter-patter” thing is a bullshit lie) to put on his pajamas. As per our routine, I asked him to get a Pull-Up out of his dresser.
He stood up on his tip toes, peeked into the drawer… and collapsed into a giant heap of sobs.
He wailed, his mouth gaping open, and big fat tears rolling down his cheeks.
I looked him over, thinking he had somehow hurt himself in the Pull-Up retrieval process (hey, he’s clumsy, it’s possible). After finding nothing, I finally managed to calm him down and ask him what happened.
“I [sob] don’t [hiccup] wanna [moan] wear [wail] Doraaaaaaaaa! I’m a BOY!”
Oh no. Oh NO.
I tried to convince him that boys can wear Dora Pull-Ups; they can wear whatever kind of Pull-Ups they want.
“No they don’t. Those are for GIRLS. I’m a BOY”
I told him there’s no such thing as boy Pull-Ups or girl Pull-Ups.
“Yes there ARE TOO. Those are PINK. I want BOY Pull-Ups!”
I pointed out that Dad wears pink shirts and pink socks, and he’s a boy.
“But he doesn’t wear pink UNDERWEAR!”
We went back and forth for a good long while until he finally gave in. I don’t know what did it. Maybe he was just over it. Maybe I convinced him it wasn’t a big deal. Maybe he was tired. Maybe he realized that the Pull-Up would be under his pajamas and no one would see.
Regardless of what resolved it, the whole interaction shook me a bit. So I did exactly what you’d expect me to do when I get shook: I ran through a series of fretful and frantic questions in my head as I simultaneously performed my fifth reading of Knuffle Bunny for the night.
What brought on the change? Did my initial hesitation eventually register in his brain? Did he talk about it with one of his friends at school and get made fun of? Is this a societal force that’s just too strong for us to fight? How do I make this a non-issue in our house when it clearly is out in the world? Am I just projecting all of this on to him?
And on the practical side of things, do I make him keep wearing Dora or do I give in and go buy some damn “boy” Pull-Ups?
After a few repeat performances of this battle, I decided to make it about choice. He’s got two options: the Dora Pull-Ups and an airplane version. We don’t talk about it and don’t push one or the other. They sit side-by-side in the same drawer and he picks one out each night. He’s consistently gone with the airplanes since, but he does comment on how pretty the Dora ones are, sometimes taking them out to look at them. Maybe one day he’ll give the ol’ girl another chance. At the very least, I want him to know he can if he wants to.