"Your daughter is all boy!" This was the exuberant proclamation my brother made after watching my 5 year old play during our Mother's Day celebration with the family. He was grinning from ear to ear and delighted with whatever it was he saw in her. He kept walking and added, "I love it!" I still don't know what she had been doing to lead to this conclusion that so delighted him. I know at some point in the day she had played basketball and run on top of the hay bales with her cousins. I know she is athletic, coordinated and tough. I also know she can be both soft spoken and outspoken. I know she loves playing in the dirt and can hold her own with a kicked or thrown ball. But, "All boy"? I didn't respond.
I know he meant what he said as a compliment. I could see it on his face. To him it was considered a compliment of the highest form. And that is what bothers me. Not that he said it. Not even that he thought it. But that he believed it was the best way to compliment my daughter. He watched my Marie in all of her fabulous, fantastic brilliance and witnessed her strengths and honored them by calling them "male". Although I know he meant no harm, my immediate response to his statement was sadness. We continue to categorize behaviors into gender appropriate roles and stunt the growth of our beautifully diverse children.
I hope my daughter does a better job than I did maneuvering through this issue in her life. I hope she never believes that her strength, athleticism, independence or toughness takes away from her femininity but instead adds a great deal to it. I hope that she never questions her power as a woman because she has the equal strength of men. And I pray that every sensitive, compassionate, kind young boy out there never allows those traits to be taken away from him because he is convinced they are not masculine. I hope those boys never question their power as a man because they have the equal strength of women. In fact, I believe my brother will undoubtedly show considerable sensitivity and compassion when he realizes what he really said. And when he does, I will refrain from calling him "all girl" to honor those strengths!