Perhaps it's just me, but I fail to see the correlation between strangeness and a child who enjoys glitz and glitter and fuzzy stuffed animals. After all, this gender stereotyping is all learned behavior taught by adults with their own flawed ideals of normalcy. And, really, as the mother of a boy, this hurts me. It hurts, overwhelms and frustrates me that my boy is supposed to be numb to the magic of flashing lights and stuffed animals, that he's supposed to only take an interest in dogs -- but not cats, the very animals who he spends his days with at his home -- or that he must be told no to something he truly does enjoy because it's for girls. Because certain animals are for boys and others are for girls. Because brushing glitter onto a child's arm in the shape of their favorite character is somehow only meant for girls, a sentence that confuses me as much to type because I just can't bring myself to understand the lack of logic behind it's formation. Really, it doesn't make sense. Boy things and girl things are ideas that adults have come up with in their heads and, really, are oppressive to the imagination and innocence that exists in the heart of a child. Of my child.
When I found out I was pregnant with a boy, I was hammered with questions about my readiness to immerse myself in sports and skinned knees and sweat and dirt and pick-up trucks. I couldn't understand the logic then, but my innocent enough retorts were shot down with a blanket "you'll see when he gets here" or "that's what you think, just wait." If we're being honest, regardless of if Ethan was a boy or a girl, I was nervous about having a child who was interested in playing sports. After all, there's nothing that says girls can't be athletes or spend their days in gym shorts and rolling in mud, right? This fear of athleticism was frightening to me because I am not an athlete, because I am a poetic, old soul who would have no idea how to align my heart in it's entirely with someone who was so immersed in athletics. My mother and my sister have this bond that I will never share with my mother, as much as she loves me and as much as I love her, because they are so very alike in a place deep inside their souls that I have never been close to aligning with. I have feared that I would feel lost and unsure of how to understand my child should we be wired so very differently. It wasn't a selfish fear that they would like something that I wouldn't, but a helpless fear of not wanting to isolate them and bring them to loneliness when I just couldn't push my heart to understand them in the way they deserved to be understood, in the way I'd only hoped as a teenager that my mother could understand me (and sometimes even now, as an adult). This wasn't a fear limited to having a boy, I'd explain, but this was no use against a just wait and see.
So I waited. And I saw. I waited and saw my sweet, sensitive boy with a heart for music and a love for art deeper than I could have ever understood a toddler having. He doesn't play rough with the other boys, he doesn't toss balls or run and fall in the dirt, but he cautiously sits and plays quietly, sweetly, gently. And while I am not writing off his personality as it is at almost two years to his permanent adult state, I can say that as of right now, my son is not an athlete. He is not a contender for toddler soccer or t-ball or a competitive sport setting. And that's okay.
But what amazes, confuses and horrifies me most is how to most people, it seems to not be okay. There seems to be some unspoken cultural rule where having a boy means he must play sports and love it, dirt on his face and blood on his knees, roughhousing with the other boys after a rigorous game of play. The general public, they refuse to accept otherwise. It's a stigma in American culture that I cannot stand more than, well, I've ever not been able to stand something. "Music lessons? What's wrong with sports?" People will ask me this and I will silently wonder if they have never heard a male musician before or seen the work of a male artist or watched a film with a male actor in the lead role. I will wonder if they've never hurt or cried or heard a song that touched them to the very core of their soul. And maybe they haven't -- and for that, it's them that I pity.
My husband played football in high school until he quit the team to play bass guitar in a band. "But he's so big," people would say then, as if his size overruled what was in his heart, as if he was more valuable miserable on a football field than in his element on stage with his band. Having dated my husband since we were fifteen, I hold no memories of him as a football player. My teenage memories in their entirety are wrapped around his years as a musician, the years that made me fall in love with his sensitivity and soul. When people ask me what my husband thinks, not enlisting Ethan into any sports activities or "letting him" sit and create beautiful art for hours on end, I laugh. What does my husband think? That our son is a beautiful, sweet, smart boy who deserves every last bit of happiness that this world has to offer and that he will feel whole and he will feel complete because it is our job as his parents to make him feel that way. My husband thinks what I do: that no adult has the right to steal the magic of youth and innocence away from a child over something so silly as a cat painted in glitter that washes away after five days, that our son has a beautiful heart capable of so much good and so much beauty. That our son is who he is and we will love him, every bit of him, for who he is and who he becomes. Regardless of if he plays sports or wins a Grammy. Regardless of if he joins the baseball team or directs his first independent film in high school.
These are the same wishes we share for any future children, regardless of if they're boys or girls. Regardless of if they love athletics or art or the novel concept that they could be capable of liking both. It is the same wish and want that I can't imagine any parent not wanting for their own children: a wish for happiness, for complacency, for understanding that they have no limits in this vast world. Perhaps it's idealistic for me to believe that as adults, we should encourage our children to explore the deepest depths of their hearts rather than to limit themselves to fit absolutely irrational, insane societal norms, but I've never been afraid of idealism. Something about having hope that maybe, just maybe, children can be children without a struggle.