My first book has been released!

My first book has been released!
Available on Amazon and Kindle

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture?

Recently, friends and I were weighing the pros and cons of presenting the concept of “being gay” to elementary school children.  Some were concerned that the mere talk of it could be the equivalent of notifying children that they have options from which to choose.  Yet, from my experience raising my son, Aaron, an only child, I observed that children are who they are at a very young age.
 Even in Kindergarten, when I had 11 little boys joyously celebrating my son’s 6th birthday on an apple farm in PA, there were clear divisions among the guests.  They drastically differed in size and shape as well as personality.  Ten boys would be pleasantly engaged in a 5 on 5 Wiffle ball game.  Sure, a few barely knew what was going on and one or two may have been picking their noses instead of fielding a grounder.  Two others would be off to the side—one trying to put a firecracker in an apple and another, riding my son’s Big Wheel down a steep hill to see how it would feel to crash into a birch tree.  Then, there was the one sweet boy, who followed me around the kitchen suggesting that the pale blue napkins would make a better color palette then the Yankee's themed napkins.  One other boy iced the cup cakes and asked if he decorate them with pink and blue sprinkles, instead of malt ball baseballs.  
Meanwhile, I thought I would have some control over shaping what type of man my son would become.  I insisted that he would never play with toy guns.  In the early 80s, there were many experts claiming that violent movies and toys were “turning” America’s children aggressive.  Meanwhile, he loved Legos, Transformers, and his amazing little Computron Computer.  He was having fun and guns would never be allowed in my house.  Was this too strict?

 I thought I might have been and was more than a little concerned when I took my son to Toys R Us to select any toy he wanted after he received perfect scores on first grade report card.  My grandmother started this tradition with us when we were younger.  Back in the 60s, she was shocked when my brother selected a baby alligator as his prize after making the Honor Roll in 4th grade. Nanny kept to her word and my brother got whatever he selected, despite her disgust.
I stood back in Toy R Us as my son went up and down the colorful aisles assessing which toy would be his best reward.  I knew immediately that he found something when he jumped up, and then “skipped” a bit as and declared, “This is it.”  My heart sunk…but if my grandmother accepted an alligator, I too had to keep my own mouth shut.  My face instantly tightened, yet I was able to force a really straight smile that more resembled gritting my teeth.  “Are you sure, Aaron, honey?” I asked.  He said, “Yea, I love this!”  He handed me a clear bubble package that contained a pink plastic blow dryer and 8 pink curlers and rushed to the register.   Did this mean what I thought it meant?
I begrudgingly paid for the selected item and sighed as my little blonde haired boy excitedly skipped through the parking lot to our white Ford Tempo.  He was  giddy.  I was sick with worry.  I asked, “Aaron, you seem so happy.  Why do you like this toy so much?”  He stopped, took the bubble package out the plastic bag, letting the bag drift away in the wind.  He pointed to the hair dryer and said, “This, here, is my ray gun.”  Then he pointed to the pink curlers, “And these are my bombs.”
 I sighed relief.
Still, to ensure that I was an open-minded mother, I decided, against his father’s strongest objections, that my son would have a doll. I wanted him to be able to demonstrate his nurturing side. One day, I bought him the “My Buddy” doll, which was a 36 inch stuffed boy doll wearing blue cover-alls, an orange and yellow striped shirt, and a red baseball cap covering blond hair.  I wanted to prove that I was able to let my son enjoy gender neutral toys. 
When I came home late from coaching basketball one night, I walked into the living room to find my son on the couch with his doll.  He had his left hand on the doll’s cap and the other on the crotch.  “What’s going on here?” I asked on the inside.  Aloud, I said, “Hey, Aaron, what are you up to?”
Aaron stood up on the coach and lifted the blue clad “My Buddy” doll over his head.  He nodded to direct my attention downward to the drab beige carpet, where seemingly hundreds of olive green plastic army soldiers were lined up in rows as if they were advancing on him to “take” the couch.  He said, “Look, Mom, this is really cool!”  He shook the doll above his head and shouted, “This is a huge bomb that could take out all of these soldiers at once.”  With that, he threw the cloth doll with great force, knocking most of the soldiers onto their sides.
He jumped off the couch, danced around in his Ninja Turtle briefs and tee shirt, and shouted, “USA, USA, USA!”
Ahh, that’s my boy?


  1. Thanks a lot. Now Cheryl is laughing at me and is going to tell all of my friends that I picked out a pink hair dryer for my gift.

  2. so I can't tell if you are accepting or not. Were you relieved that you son used the toys in what society would label a "typical" way? What if he had wanted the dryer and curlers for himself or his doll?

    I agree with you ~ kids are all different and there may or may not be "signs" at an early age. I know men well into their 50s who have had tried to fit in at the expense of their own authenticity, and are now being true to who they are. They don't fit the stereotypes, which are blatantly unfair and sometimes reflective.

    Meet people where they are and respect that place, wherever it is.

  3. 10bac10:
    Thank you for reading my post. I hoped the question mark at the end of last sentence revealed that I believed that only an ignorant parent would be relieved that her son preferred playing with "bombs" rather than him being gay. I am in complete agreement with you that we should meet people where they are and respect that place. Those in our society who are the first teachers of your message should be parents and unconditional love should be their utmost duty. Thank you for your exceptional comment. Because of your last sentence, I hope you'll read my book. If you'd like, I’ll mail you a complimentary copy if you send me your address at

    Katie Roberta Stevens