I try to take Xavi out every day in the morning. Partially to get him some fresh air but mostly to wear him down so he’ll go down for a nap easier, hopefully on the way back home. Getting him tired enough to fall asleep is not always guaranteed but one thing that is guaranteed? Someone is going to refer to him as a girl.
Sometimes I will hear another parent tell their child, “Look, a little girl is here” or “Watch out or you’ll bump into that girl.” Most of the time, it will be another parent at the playground or a person whose path we cross when we’re out for a walk complimenting Xavi (“She’s so beautiful”) or his hair (“Look at her hair!”). Either way, if we are out in public, it happens at least once. On the weekend, Cindy and I will shoot each other a knowing glance whenever we hear it and I’ll tell her that we hit our quota for the day.
I don’t even bother to correct people unless they ask me direct questions about him. If someone wants to say something nice about Xavi in passing (“Oh, she’s so cute.”), I just say “Thank you” and keep it moving. If they ask me a direct question like “How old is she?”, I’ll say “He’s 2 years old” and try to keep my tone as nonplussed as possible when I respond because they feel so bad. It’s an awkward situation that I’m just trying to move past as quickly as possible for their benefit.
It doesn’t really bother me and I’ve gotten really used to it. In the defense of the mistaken adults, Xavi’s hair is usually up in a little bun (especially when it’s hot) which could be confusing from the back but it happens no matter how I keep his hair or how he’s dressed. Considering how children’s clothing is so gender specific, I’m surprised at the frequency it happens. All the little girls I see have on little dresses, are wearing pink and/or have something in their hair like a ribbon or a headband. I find it strange how most people default to hair to determine if a kid is a boy or a girl. We talk so much about gendered kids’ clothes and toys, but hair trumps clothes in this instance. I think this is how it is going to be until he gets a haircut or he goes to a Catholic school and has to wear a little tie everyday.
There was one time it bothered me. Xavi and I were leaving the Sciencenter and I was holding the door for another family coming in. As he walked past, the father said, “Thanks! Aww, look at that girl with the Batman shirt.” For him, I would have gladly made it awkward but he was already out of earshot. When I told Cindy about this, she said that if we had a girl, I would probably have her wearing Batman stuff too which is not true. This hypothetical girl would be wearing Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, Batgirl or Ms. Marvel because I know better.