My Boys Cannot Be Anything They Want to Be


My Boys Cannot Be Anything They Want to Be

I am obsessed with this time of year. Obsessed. If there is a word bigger and more expressive than obsessed to describe the nine trees in my house, the 10 foot tall Santa on a Harley Davidson inflatable (shout out to Nate Dog for sneaking that one in while I was at a baby shower) in my yard, or the amount of claymation classics that have been on repeat please message it to me. I am Buddy the Elf – on crack – at Disney eating a barrel of sugar-level excited every time the Christmas season rolls around. I always have been. I say it’s part of my charm. Nathan caught me trying to unplug the washer for a month so we could hang more lights while not blowing the breaker and says I’m insane. Whatever. #perspective.

You know who else is on my level about Christmas? My kiddos. Oh my Gosh. Their eyes are fixed in some deer in the headlights glazed-over stare at everything right now. Every light. Every decoration. Every toy commercial… The toy commercials. Jesus take the wheel because there are so many toy commercials interrupting my regularly scheduled programming right now that the other night I woke up in the wee hours of the morning singing the “Barbie Pop Up Camper” jingle and found myself cleaning the bathtub while humming “Surprise, Surprise, Puppy Surprise! Will there be 3 or 4 or 5?” a few nights ago. The marketing to my already overstimulated tots is so deep. So real. And they are sooooooo falling victim to it.

“I WANT THAT MAMA! I NEED THAT MOMMY! CAN SANTA BRING THAT TO US MOM?!?” has been our Yuletide chorus for nearly a month now. I can mostly tune it out, but one question from my sweet three year old made me stop and think. It made me mad. It made me sad. It made me realize something sort of heartbreaking for a mom of boys: my boys cannot be anything they want to be.

“Mommy, is that a girl toy?” Walkie asked about a Little Charmers doll whose cape disappears when you push a button. “What baby?” I asked him, shocked that someone so little was already wondering if this certain toy would be ‘okay’ for him to want. “Well my baby, that’s a toy for whoever wants to have it.” I told him, knowing in my heart of hearts that it really wasn’t true.

When I was five I got a board game called “We Girls Can Do Anything.” The women were teachers, doctors, pursuing careers with NASA. It sent the message that as a little girl who would be a grown woman someday, there were no careers that would be unacceptable to me.image There were no fields of study anyone would turn their nose up at and say “No honey. That job is for a boy. You cannot be a scientist. You cannot be an engineer. You need to go to school for something more feminine.” As a white, female, middle class child, the sky was basically the limit for me. I chose to go to school for Musical Theatre, but had I come home and told my parents I wanted to go to school and major in criminology with the goal to be a Supreme Court Justice, or some other male dominated profession, they would have been just as happy. (Hindsight: probably they would be happier because tap dancing sure is fun and all, but it doesn’t exactly pay the bills. Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to make their own choices, k?)

You know what I saw as a female in Musical Theatre? A lot of heterosexual men who were tormented. TORMENTED. Because they picked a major that wasn’t “manly.” Teased and talked about and made fun of because they would rather take a dance class than throw a slider on the pitcher’s mound. Do you guys watch the show Nashville? Do you know that the actor who plays Luke Wheeler won a Tony award pretty recently? Do you know that he sings and dances and has been on Broadway? Or that he was a main character on the show about Broadway called Smash a few years ago? Not sure about you, but I’d never walk up to Will Chase and make fun of him for knowing how to do a time step. But he can do one. And I’m sure 15 years ago someone was making fun of him for wanting to do it.

Why can a little girl get a train set or a tool bench and no one flinches, but when my sons wanted a play kitchen a few years ago some friends and family reacted as if I was giving them shards of glass and crystal meth wrapped in venomous snakes to play with? HEAVENS ABOVE THEY MUST NOT PLAY WITH A KITCHEN, LEST THEY LEARN TO, gasp, COOK FOR THEMSELVES ONE DAY! Or, like Maddox’s dad, OWN A SUCCESSFUL RESTAURANT! THE HORROR!

Who made it okay for girls to be anything, but boys to be anything so long as it’s manly, tough, and socially fine and doesn’t really raise any eyebrows?

The following are actual conversations I have had with people:

“Don’t give that boy a baby doll!”
“Yes. Because God forbid he TURN INTO A PARENT ONE DAY.”

“I don’t think it’s healthy that Maddox loves stuffed dogs so much; it’s like all he wants. That’s kind of… Girlie.”

I am not putting girls down. Girls are rad. I sang “Girl Power” into my hairbrush with the Spice Girls just like everyone else born with lady parts between 1984-1989. Girls can be anything. And should be anything. But so should my boys. If we teach our female children that they don’t need a prince to save them, and that they can save themselves, why can we not teach our male children that they can design clothes, be professional make-up artists, or aspire to be a cake decorator? Would y’all make fun of the Cake Boss and tell him he’s weird for making awesome, expensive cakes? Probably not. Would you call up Ralph Lauren and make fun of him for having an eye for fashion and design? Doubt it. And those dudes? Pretty dang manly.

I am a boy mom. We do dirt and sports and shows about trucks. But I will never tell my sons they cannot be anything they want to be because of the lack of masculinity associated with it.

Maddox and I went to the Pirates and Princesses booth at Fantasy of Trees a few weeks ago. My two best friends were volunteering, and Maddox offered to paint my nails while we were there talking to them. I let him paint pink and glittery sparkle everywhere and then laughed as he held two bottles of polish together and pretended to shoot us dead with his “gun.” He made a gun immediately after telling me how pretty my glitter nails were. He did not disappear into a purple cloud of smoke and return wearing a dress and calling everyone “fabulous.” (If he did I’d probably be fine with that too, but that’s a whole other blog post). We all survived. He still has boy parts. He went home and peed in the driveway. It was fine.


Target got into hot water by some, praised by others, for their decision to take gender labels off toy aisles. I’m a proud stay-at-Target mom, so I don’t care what they do really because #tarjayforlife, but honestly, truly, why did it matter so much? I want my boys to play with what they want to play with. I don’t care if it’s a pink pony or a Nerf gun. Kids can’t read the “boy toys” and “girl toys” signs until they’re at least 6 or 7 anyway, and by that point don’t they pretty much have their likes/dislikes established? I just want them to like what they like, and play with what they want to play with.

“Are you SURE that’s a toy for anybody, Mama?” Walker asked me about the Little Charmers doll. “Cause her has a cape AND a kitty cat. I want dat if I can have it, Mama. Can I have it Mama?”

“Yes sweet baby. You can have it. And did you know something? You can be anything in this whole wide world that you want to be my lamb.”


Well, maybe my boys can’t be *anything* they want to be after all…


  1. AMEN! As a Mama to three boys (and no girls), this is a part of life that we deal with too! My middle one is the most testosterone-infected boy you’ll ever see! But his favorite color is pink, he asks me to paint his nails (lime green and bright pink), and he LOVES sparkles and glitter! I can’t count the number of times we’ve gotten weird looks because his nails were painted, or because he wanted to play with something “girly.” This past weekend, he won a Frozen bubble bath set in a Christmas raffle, and at least 4 different parents were offering to trade their gender neutral gifts for his “girly” one. He wasn’t having it.

    What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter what my child likes, or how he plays. As long as he is respectful, kind and loving, and stands up for himself, then I really don’t care. Kids go through phases, and they obsess over things. It will likely pass, and he will find something else to move on to. But even if he doesn’t, what does it matter that he likes pink? Why are people surprised by how much he adores babies? He’s the one kid of mine that I’m NOT concerned about how he treats others. It’s amazing!

  2. Thanks for sharing! And yes. I totally agree. My oldest is very kind to babies and animals and I love that about him. My youngest is very musical and likes to sing and dance which I also love. I just want them to be happy and be who they are. And yes we LOVE Frozen too 🙂

  3. So good. SO good. “He went home and peed in the driveway. It’s fine.” Love it.

    My 3 year old boy enjoys wearing my necklaces on occasion and I once caught him applying my lipstick. The only thing I told him was, “you look fabulous.” And we’re a My Little Pony house. No one loves that show more than my husband. 🙂

    • Yes! My three YO will wear my EOS Chapstick all the time and tell me he’s putting on lipstick. I’m all whatever man. Do it. Your lips won’t be chapped. And it’s yummy haha. Thanks for reading ❤️

  4. YES! My other big pet peeve is society empowering our girls at the expense of our boys. I have one of each, so I have an interest on each side of this debate. But, why do the strong, empowering girl movies ALWAYS have to portray boys as total oafs? We teach our girls that they can do anything, that they can BE anything, that they don’t need a man in their life….but what do those same movies teach boys? Shut up and listen to the smart women? You’re a fool….step aside while the girls handle the problem. My 4-year-old broke my heart the other day. He was “helping” Daddy put together an air hockey table, and he wanted to let my 7-year-old daughter know that he thought it was a job for him and Daddy. He said, “Dangerous stuff is for boys. Thinking is for girls.” DAGGER TO THE HEART (and obviously we had a talk after that). Why is it suddenly NOT OKAY for a boy to be a strong man? For a boy to be brave, mighty…to be a leader?

  5. There is a wonderful album called “Free to Be…You and Me” by Marlo Thomas and Friends. One song is called “William’s Doll” and I was listening to it with my son this afternoon. It really speaks to this article and it’s how I plan to approach raising him to be anything he wants to be. There’s also a book with the same title I plan to check out.

    My husband played with G.I. Joes when he was a child and also liked to sew together tents and parachutes for them because his mother taught him how; I hope I’m able to encourage my sons to pursue talents outside of what’s considered manly.

    I’m pregnant now and when people ask what gender this baby is I respond with, “we will be having a gender reveal when this child turns 18 and we think our firstborn identifies as a boy, but we are still letting him decide.” It’s a joke, but I hope it makes people open up their minds to all the possibilities.

  6. YES! YES! YES! I absolutely LOVE, LOVE this! I am a boy mom all the way and my oldest adores everything pink, purple and ‘girlie’ right now, who cares?!?! He also plays ‘bad guys’ non-stop, loves cars and is the first to plop down in the dirt. I call that well rounded, and indicative of nothing but a kid who is learning to love life without prejudice-just think what the world would look like with more people who just simply loved life and didn’t label, judge and insist on segmenting the world into groups.

    Like what you like and be anyone you want to be sweet baby boys, your mamas are behind you 1000%!


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