While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On having a column's worth of reasons to get over gender-related hangups: I am that fourth child. My parents had three girls and Dad wanted a boy. He got his wish and my poor sisters paid dearly. My father was loving and caring and my Little League coach. My sisters have a very different description of him and it is nowhere near as positive.
Reader No. 2: As a teacher starting my 31st year of school, I encourage all adults to stop stereotyping wonderful things our children love. That pink is for girls, blue is for boys is the most ridiculous of all.
People teach kids to discriminate through these types of awful examples: trucks are for boys, dolls are for girls; boys are tough, girls are sugar and spice and everything nice; girls want to be princesses, boys want to be action heroes . . . it's really more damaging than people realize. Gender stereotypes like these lead to racial discrimination, dampen creativity, mess with kids' ideas of feminine/masculine behaviors, and can lead to bullying.
One letter-writer worried that a nephew would be teased for having a My Little Pony lunchbox, and that can only happen if we've drilled into 3-, 4-, 5-, 6- and 7-year-old kids that boys can't love wonderfully imaginative and colorful unicorns.
Please, people, let kids enjoy all the beauty and wonder of this world and quit restricting them based on arbitrarily assigned gender preferences.
Reader No. 3: My dad was very vocal about wanting me to be a boy. I never remember being hugged, sitting on their lap or being told I was loved. All this went to my younger brother. They even said in front of me when I was 6 or 7, "It was a shame he wasn't the girl, since he was so pretty." I am 72 and my entire life I have known I was worthless. Children hear and remember.
Reader No. 4: The day I found out I was carrying my third daughter, my older two girls, 8 and 6, were with me. When the midwife announced the news, we were all surprised. My 6-year-old was utterly silent until she said, in the car on the way home, "I really wanted a brother, but the important thing is, it's a baby." Out of the mouths of babes.
Reader No. 5: Whenever anyone asked my husband if he wanted a boy or a girl, he answered "yes."