Sunday Drive: The Preschooler Questions it All

Mommy? Can boys have ponytails?

It was quiet other than the Kidz Bop version of “What Does the Fox Say” playing in my car and the soft sound of Eddie singing along. In the space between that song and the next, his question floated into the front seat.

It muted the sound on the CD player.

Yes. I mean, if their hair is long enough for one of course. Why do you ask?

Eddie has always been curious about what is for boys and what is for girls. Every time I think we do a good job of getting him to understand that you can like whatever you want regardless of your gender, he comes back with more questions. I know this is because society (and the kids he plays with) tells him a different message than Cortney and I do.

Because kids say only girls can have ponytails.

It seems like at least once a week he is questioning some sort of gender stereotype. While sometimes I feel frustrated that he seems sad that something he loves if for girls, I am glad he keeps asking.

Well that is not true!  Your uncle Chris had really long hair when he was a teenager and he wore it in a ponytail sometimes.  And LOTS of rock stars have long hair they wear in ponytails. 

Eddie likes quite a few things that other kids might deem “girl stuff.” He likes the color pink sometimes (his favorite color changes with the day). He likes princesses; in fact one of his favorite movies is Cinderella. He has a doll. He likes to choose “girl” temporary tattoos. He thinks ponytails are pretty (he gets that from his dad) and told me once that a girl in his class had the prettiest two ponytails “in the wide world”.

But not all rock stars, right? Some have short hair like me. Sometimes kids laugh at things I like and say it’s for babies or for girls.

Eddie has also been worried about kids laughing at him.

This breaks my heart, but I know it’s normal. He wants kids to like him and he is afraid if they are laughing at him (or his choices) they won’t like him.

Well that isn’t very nice of them. When did something like that happen?

At school N– said that my tattoo is because I like baby bears. Pink baby bears.

I don’t see how baby bears is a baby thing OR a girl thing. If you like it, it’s a YOU thing.

He was quiet for a while after that. I know he was just thinking.  For as much as he chatters on and on to me, I know he is thinking even more. Rolling things over in his mind trying to find meaning and peace.


I changed the subject.

So what character do you want to be for Wednesday at school? Which book character are you going to dress up as?

He was quick to answer.

I said I want to be Leo Lionni.

I smiled. What four-year old has a favorite author rather than character? My four-year old, that’s who.

Right, Eddie, but you are supposed to dress up like someone from one of his books that he wrote. Did you still want to be one of the dots from that Blue and Yellow story you read at school?

There was a pause.

Will kids laugh at me?

My stomach fell all the way to my seat. Why did he worry about these things? Did kids really laugh at him?  His teacher said all the kids liked him and that he was a leader. Was he just mistaken? Did he not believe he was good enough? Good grief, did my four-year old have low self-esteem??

Honey, why would they laugh at you? It’s a very creative idea!

Kids just laugh sometimes. I don’t want to be laughed at.

Are you sure they aren’t just smiling because they LIKE you and your ideas? Sometimes kids laugh when they think things and people are really cool. 

And then he must have tired of the subject because he started talking about the game he is currently obsessed with on Cortney’s tablet. Something about a farm.

The next day I picked up green posterboard (he decided to be the Green Dot from Little Blue and Little Yellowand Cortney and I constructed a sandwich board green dot for Eddie.

leo lionni green dot

He was a hit! His teacher thought it was very clever and creative, and I loved it because it was the easiest costume ever.

And nobody laughed at my buddy.

This is how our Sunday drives home from church go. We drive separately because we have Sunday School, and somewhere between church and the Starbucks drive through, Eddie’s thoughts pour out.

He asks all the questions and gives his theory on all the things from how great it would be to have coffee/hot chocolate with just me INSIDE Starbucks, to how he wonders what people look like in heaven.

Sometimes his questions break my heart, but each day I pray that he always feels comfortable enough with me to ask.

And I hope he knows that I will never, ever laugh at him.

About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. Kate, you’re doing such a good job explaining things to Eddie. I know that it’s hard to not feel like we need to protect them from everything, especially if it makes them sad. It’s wonderful that he can come to you with anything. xo

  2. As a mom of 3 boys I have totally been there. I think the only one of my boys who doesn’t give a hoot what other people think is my youngest. The older 2 tried so hard to fit in and make friends and they look at the baby and go “mom everyone loves Devin, even the high schoolers know him and love him why??” Kind of hard to explain because he just didn’t give a hoot about what others thought and is always just Devin.. sighs.. I hope Eddie always feels safe to tell you everything. Sometimes as a mom we worry, ok all the time..

  3. Gender stuff is so hard because, as a mom of a toddler boy, I want him to be HIM, no matter what that is. Right now, when we say, “You’re such a good boy,” he says, “No, I a good girl.” I think it’s because that’s what he hears most at daycare–all the girls are good girls, whereas I’m not sure the boys hear it that much, a problem in and of itself. He does have “a baby” named Paul and he loves him. And, for several weeks he talked about how he had a baby in his belly. He doesn’t get gender stuff yet, but some people, like his one grandpa, flinch at these things. To them I say, stand down. Love and self-acceptance–that’s what I want to teach my boy.

  4. “It’s a YOU thing.”

    That right there is why your boys will be okay no matter what.
    Better than okay.

    You are the perfect mom for them.

  5. I love the costume! And these kinds of conversations. And the fact that we have spaces like this in which to record them. 🙂

  6. My son was crazy for Tinkerbell when he was a toddler. I mean, seriously obsessed to the point he actually made us buy him the full light up and everything with wand Halloween costume one year. And he wore it. around the entire neighbourhood. With his dad walking right beside him. And even though I, as his mom, worried that kids might laugh – he didn’t care. He just wore what he wanted.
    because in his young mind: Tink can fly! Which of course, makes her a Super Hero.
    funny how they work things out.
    course, at age 9 now – he will kill me for leaving this comment. LOL

  7. I love car conversations so much. I had some great preschool ones with my oldest, and now I get to have them with my four year old too. It is one of my favourite times of the day, when we are driving together. He asks such great questions. Of course, I still love talking to my oldest, but now our conversations are more about things that are happening at school and with his projects and activities.

  8. I think your Eddie is a sensitive soul, just like his mama. You are his safe place, and that is a wondersful thing to be. xo