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OPINION: Please stop asking my three-year-old son if he has a girlfriend.

Every Christmas a mild regression happens in my family. It generally occurs just after the brie runs out and people start serving warm drinks.

Suddenly every innocuous comment starts to grate my soul, transforming me into the moody teenager I was in the 90s.

And, spoiler alert, Christmas ’19 was no different.

What was different, however, was that usually when festivities and family gain some distance these comments, incredibly teeth-grinding but generally throwaway, are forgotten… but not this year.

Instead, a new topic was served up between courses, and while initially invigorating to move away from off-key views on politics or the mild fat-shaming of anyone who’d let themselves go that year, this one really rattled me into the next decade.

“Do you have a girlfriend?” was asked on rotation by relatives to my son, Max.

My son who is three, by the way.

Three.

Listen: Should more people be raising their kids free of gender stereotypes? Post continues below. 

And while his response was one of muted resistance, which was less about squirmy embarrassment and more down to Max not truly understanding the question, I, on the other hand, became vocally enraged by such questioning.

“Jesus, he’s bloody three!” was said over and over as I eased myself further into that teenage regression.

I’ll admit that my gusto to front these questions was, in part, down to personal experience.

Flashback to 1992 and I was being dropped like a hot potato by Adam, a boy I’d been friends with since kindy. He now only wanted be friends with boys and I hadn’t the right appendage.

But it was more than that.

In fact, it was a culmination of having heard this question be bandied about by friends, neighbours, the general public (but generally not all of them) and even a teacher from his previous daycare since Max was two.

I mean, two. He wasn’t even out of nappies and an arranged marriage seemed to be on the cards with a little girl he’d befriended at daycare called Anais.

Seriously people, let’s wait until he can at least sign his name on the marriage certificate before we start talking nuptials.

And while Max doesn’t quite understand this adult obsession with his relationship status, I can see the cogs turning. There’s this growing perception that boy/girl friendships are different to boy/boy friendships as all anyone ever does is ask him about the former.

At present Max has many friend who are girls. He also has friends who are boys. He also talks quite regularly to a small dog down the road called Carlos, who is definitely in the top tier of besties at this very minute. I say minute as things change quickly in toddlerland.

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But it isn’t long before this beautiful notion that he can be friends with anyone, based more on a connection rather than what’s in their undercrackers, is lost. And in its place will be this old-fashioned notion that inter-gender relationships are always romances, really.

gender stereotyping kids
"While Max doesn’t quite understand this adult obsession with his relationship status, I can see the cogs turning." Image: Supplied

But it’s not just this crappy (and actually totally false) hand-me-down belief that boys and girls can’t ever be truly friends that really riles me, but I loathe - and I mean loathe - the fact that it only offers up a thin sliver of what relationships look like.

This question hammers home that heteronormative relationships are what’s normal and anything outside of that is not. And most of us have seen from friends in the LGBTQI community how damaging this is to younger generations coming to terms with their own sexual identity. It breeds shame.

After all, I don’t see anyone asking Max if his mate Henry is in fact his boyfriend.

But the biggest reason this question made me want to hurl the brie, the warm drinks and certain family members across the room this Christmas is because it not only steals friendships while pinching at his perspectives of society, but because it robs my son of his innocence.

I’m not sure if I’ve said it enough but he is three and at three I want him to run up to his friends - girl, boy, dog and anything in between - and just be himself, 100 per cent.

After all, he’s got a whole lifetime to worry about the silly labels that silly adults use to complicate things.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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