Dear Atticus, on being a boy


Dear Atticus,

This is something we should probably get out of the way as soon as we can. This is not a house where things are designated for boys or for girls. There are only books to be read and toys to be played with and jobs that need to get done. If you want to wear pink, have a toy kitchen, or push your toys in a stroller, that’s cool. If you prefer trucks and dirt and smashing things, that’s cool, too. (And, for the record, since I am sure someone will ask, if you want to dress as Daphne for Halloween, you are welcome to do so. And I will defend you righteously and smite anyone who dares raise so much as an eyebrow in your direction.) To be honest, it would probably be more fun for all of us if you enjoyed some combination of all of those things, just like I enjoyed Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels, Cabbage Patch Kids, and dinosaurs when I was a little girl. What won’t be cool is if you try to say that pink is bad because it is a girl color. I know it will be a while before you understand this, but I am a girl. So I don’t really like hearing anything having to do with girls used as an insult.

Also, for the record, girls don’t have cooties.

I don’t know anything at all about being a boy. The only thing I know about is being a girl, and I am not all that good at that. (Unless “nerdy and awkward” can somehow equal good. In which case, I totally win at being a girl!) I was apprehensive about the possibility of having a girl because I feel so bad at girl things. But I am also unsure about what you, as a boy, will need.

When I pause and stop worrying about your other-ness, I realize that I have been focused on the wrong things. I should think about you as a person. Just as I don’t want to be reduced to any one aspect of my life–my gender, my job, my interests–neither should I reduce you to simply being a boy. The things I am going to want to teach you are, in the end, the same messages I would want to pass on to a girl. Things that have nothing to do with gender at all, but that are about navigating this difficult world with compassion, empathy, and self-respect. About being funny and brave and interesting. About listening and patience and hope and faith.

I want you to love every minute of being a boy. But my hunch is that in order for you to do that, I have to teach you what it means to be a human being. That’s also a daunting task, but only because it’s a journey I am still on myself. And I am happy you will be coming along with me.


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