Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Yellow and Green

Once upon a time, the technology did not exist to identify the gender of a baby before it made it's debut into the world.  A mother did not know whether her womb contained a boy, or a girl.  She prepared for the arrival of her newborn by having generic clothing in the smallest size.  A very long time ago, that meant white, as whites could be boiled for sterilization and cleanliness, and not lose their color.  And when sanitizing laundry became easier than a pot of boiling water over a wood fire, newborn clothes got some color.  Mainly pastel, mainly yellow and green.

When my first child was born, in November of 1989, the vast majority of the newborn size clothing I had on hand was yellow or green.  Because, even though technology, in the form of ultrasound, was able to correctly tell the gender of a baby at about 5 months gestation the majority of the time, I didn't want to know.

In fact, I never knew the gender of any of my four children until the moment of their birth when the doctor held them up for all to see and proclaimed "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!"

Why didn't I know?  Why didn't I take advantage of the ultrasound's ability to predict for me, whether my newborn could wear pink, or blue instead of yellow and green?  Because to me, it didn't matter.  Didn't matter whether the baby was male or female.  I was going to keep it anyway.  It's not like I was going to say "oh, that's not what I wanted, you can keep it" when the doctor held up that squalling, naked newest human.  And as for that little baby, it cared less what color it's clothes were. It just wanted something comfortable and temperature appropriate to wear.  Besides, babies grow so fast that no matter what color the clothes were, the ones that fit at birth weren't going to fit a mere two months later, so if color really mattered to the rest of us, the next size up (and the next one after that, and the next one beyond that, and so on) could be pink, or blue.

Yellow and green weren't just necessarily for newborn clothing.  Yellow or green could easily be the paint scheme of the baby's room, if the baby were to have it's own room (none of mine did as infants, the crib typically was in the master bedroom for at least the first year).  Yellow and green were easy to pass from one sibling to the next, no matter if the gender changed.  Because, really, does each baby need it's own personalized wardrobe and interior decorating scheme?  Must the clothing, bedding, and wall paint be discarded rather than used again when baby number two (or three or four or. . . ) comes along?

What I find kind of ironic these days, when it seems that everyone must find out the gender of their baby before it's birth so that they can decorate the baby's room 'appropriately' with cars and trucks, or princesses and ponies, and they can have all pink or all blue clothing on hand right from the time the child lands on this earth, is that many of these same parents a few years down the road don't want their child to be labeled by gender.  They let their sons wear their hair long and don dresses, or their daughters have short hairstyles and traditionally male clothing, and let them choose what name they want to be called by.

In other words, the same parents who delight in having a 'gender reveal' party or photo session, with a box that explodes with pink or blue helium balloons when opened, or a cake that when cut, spills blue or pink candies onto the table, seem to end up being the parents who are most vocal about letting Billy be Betty if he so decides at age four, or Veronica be Victor once middle school arrives.

Maybe I'm just too old fashioned.  Yellow and green baby stuff worked for me.  So did letting my boys occasionally clomp around in my high heels or do up their hair with barrettes or paint their fingernails (although nail polish was pretty rare in my house, since I don't like the way my fingers feel with polish on them).  My girls wore not just pink and dresses, but also overalls and jeans and blue and red and black. . . in fact, most winter outerwear was navy or burgundy or hunter green or some other color that could be passed from brother to sister, saving money from having to buy a 'boy' pair of snowpants and boots and a 'girl' set of snowpants and boots in every single size my kids wore from birth to adulthood.

My boys learned to cook and clean and wash laundry and iron just like my girls did (a bachelor's got to be able to take care of himself, right?).  My girls learned auto care, and home repair and how to operate a chainsaw, and how to hunt and to be good at math and science and hold a job and go to college just like my boys did (a single woman's got to be able to take care of herself, right?)

Sometimes I think Americans get too caught up in defying labels--boy, girl, man, woman--and stereotypes--breadwinner, housewife--that they lose track of the yellow and green.  They forget all the common things that both boys and girls, men and women can learn and be good at.  They think pink and blue, but don't want themselves, or their children to be 'stuck' as a pink or a blue.

What they should really focus on is yellow and green.  Things that work no matter what the gender is of the person wearing them, or doing them.

I wear pink.  But I also wear yellow, and green, and blue, and black and red and astonishingly I can really pull off brown.  One of the most complimented dresses I owned was brown.  Which is not typically a color you'd think of for a woman's formal occasion outfit.

I cook, I clean, I sew, I birthed and raised children. I am a woman and part of my 'work' is traditional female tasks. I also harvest and butcher animals for my food, do construction work as needed, operate a chainsaw, cook darn good on a grill, and at times have been the sole wage earner for my family.  Traditional 'man's work'.  To me, it's all just tasks that need to be done, and as long as I am able bodied enough to do them, then I will.  That's the way I've raised my kids.

As I told my husband, when we were expecting baby #3 and he was worried that it would be a girl after two sons (he confessed that he was worried because he had no idea how to 'raise a girl')

"You raise them all the same.  They all need to learn to be adults who can take care of themselves and help others."

Yellow and green.  That's where it's at.

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