Before we left for our walk this afternoon, I asked our youngest son to put on some pants. We recently acquired a new dresser for the purpose of containing his clothes, and it’s been quite refreshing not to have them tossed all over the bedroom, stuffed into his brother’s drawers or hidden on the floor of the closet. He quickly learned exactly where pants, shorts, t-shirts, undies, and long-sleeved shirts belong. Since he frequently changes clothes (we’re talking three or more times per day), it’s come in quite handy that he knows where his clothes should be placed when not on his body.
When he marched out of his room in long pants, I said something like, Great job, Max, hmmm. No undies?
With the smug look of a fat worm rolling across the sidewalk in a downpour, he replied, Mom. Peter Pan doesn’t wear underwear.
Okay. Well, I don’t care if he wears undies or not, so we got on with securing shoes and coat before heading out into the day. The sun was shining and the streets were filled with holiday ghosts… a sparkly tiara caught in a corner drain, a damp spiral of ribbon, empty Scotch tape rolls neglected by garbage collection.
Don’t touch! I scolded even before his little hands reached out to gather and investigate.
After my parents left this morning, I asked my boys how they were feeling about their departure. Unsurprisingly, the sensitive big brother teared up and declared he would write them a letter and would one day become big enough to spend “a hundred weeks” at their home in Virginia. The youngest, however, shook his head and said, no, he didn’t miss them, because he would see them soon “at their house!”, and moved on to immediate distractions.
(Because my parents are probably reading, let me be clear that you may invite our children to spend a hundred weeks at your place any time).
A few days ago, we took the boys to a live performance of Peter Pan at the Northwest Children’s Theatre. They loved it. The acting was wonderful and we had third row, picture perfect seats. Captain Hook was especially convincing, the tick-tocking crocodile was hilarious and sixteen-year-old Wendy’s voice brought tears to my eyes. The play was a highlight of our winter break, which, by the way, ends on Monday morning. Seventeen days of lie-ins and lack-of-routine have nearly passed, and we will soon greet earlier morns and regular afternoons spent at the playground or swim lessons or reading books before the fleeting hours spent in dinner-bath-go-to-bed! It has been mostly a lovely time off, and I look forward to a more or less normal week of school and work. As the New Year has commenced, so have we in our family routine and togetherness and squabbles and love. I am grateful for the time our boys spent with their grandparents, and despite their endless fighting over a singular and spectacular Lego Ninjago guy, I appreciate they spent the past two weeks together.
When I became pregnant with our oldest, I knew immediately I desired a second. The potential and influence of a sibling relationship, its battles and competition and unconditional protective love, is something like nothing else. I knew no brothers growing up and now find myself raising two of them. Not always knowing what to do, I try – often unsuccessfully – to rely on their dad and teachers and friends to help me figure out how best to raise them.
Tonight, our youngest came out of the bedroom moments after tucking them in for a few minutes of quiet play before rest. They each have a headlamp that illuminates a book or two, a toy (or ten), and keeps them content in those moments before sleep takes them under.
Miles says my head lamp is a GIRL’s headlamp!
Really? Well, you know what? (after 8’clock, my temper is short). I’M a GIRL. So Girls are Awesome. Ok?
He just looked at me. Back to bed, we marched.
Did you say that your brother’s headlamp is a GIRL’s headlamp?
No! I said it was a BRIGHT headlamp.
Well, I’m not sure if that’s what he understood, but let’s say it together to be clear. Girls are Awesome. So Girls’ Headlamps must also be awesome, even though there’s really no such thing as a Girl or a Boy Headlamp.
Head low, our oldest murmured something like okay and goodnight.
Because all I wanted to do was go and read my latest YA novel on my Kindle, I left it at that, and let them go to sleep.
But really. The Girl vs Boy thing is interesting. I’ve written before on this forum that I believe we are all born across a gender spectrum of masculinity and femininity and that eventually, sometimes painfully, we figure out how to be (or not be) comfortable and confident in owning whatever place into which we fall during our journeys across the map.
Gender is all around us. It is taught to us constantly, from the time in which we are born and dressed and announced to the world.
This morning our youngest pointed out a little boy wearing a princess dress at a birthday party and questioned his choice loudly. I felt uncomfortable. I explained that it was okay to wear all sorts of different costumes – including princess – no matter if you are a boy or a girl – and he said no more about it. But it clearly made me recognize that as the younger brother of a lively, sometimes loud, and definitely boy child, he is learning what is “normal” for a boy and what is not. He craves acknowledgement from his older brother, whether that means running as fast as he does (he can’t), building as intricate a Lego structure as he does (he cannot) or dressing himself in tough guy outfits: cowboy, police officer, fireman, pirate.
Our oldest, on the other hand, went to daycare and preschool with boys and girls who wore princess dresses and pirate costumes interchangeably, and to this day does not question choices of gender that may not conform to the mainstream. Although I can take no credit for his observations, I confess I’ve been very proud of his neutral outlook on his friends’ gender inspired choices because I believe that pushing gender identity on young children isn’t a good idea. Rather, from what I’ve observed in my kids and my kids’ friends and classmates, gender fluidity is pretty normal as kids explore different roles and spaces in their daily lives.
I’m dying to go into statistics here to discuss the percentage of female fire fighters, police officers, and others in traditional male professions, but I won’t. It doesn’t escape me that we still more commonly refer to firefighters as firemen or animal herders as cowboys.
I’ll just end by saying…. geez. I hope I’m raising these boys right.
And girls are awesome.