Monday, August 19, 2013

Boy, Oh Boy*

Sometime during my pregnancy my husband and I decided we didn't want to know what the gender was of our little Sprout. We wanted to be surprised. Of course we didn't really care what the gender was, as long as we had a healthy baby, but deep down inside I knew I had a baby boy. I just knew it. I wouldn't have cared if baby had come out a girl but I would have been surprised. I vowed to myself that no matter what I would never thrust gender roles or gender stereotypes on my child(ren). My sons would play with dolls and my daughters would play with action figures. Everyone would love blue as well as pink and "boy things" and "girl things" would have no place in our house! I used to secretly roll my eyes whenever I heard a mom talk about her son being "such a boy" or "all boy". "Right," I would think. "Only because you have shoved 'boy things' in his face since birth." I honestly thought these often gender-defining characteristics of loving loud, mechanical, dirty things were 100% nurture and not at all nature. That would never be something I would say because MY son would play house and paint his nails and paint neatly and love his baby doll. And then I had my son.

My son, BC, is fifteen months old. He does have a baby doll that he does love. Here are some of the things he also loves: tractors, semi trucks, dump trucks, regular trucks, motorcycles, lawn mowers, edgers (one of his first clearly articulated words), insects, bugs, gooey things, trains, Bob the (for the love of god) Builder, sand, mud, dirt, and his penis.

BC fell in love with lawn mowers and edgers while staring out our front window and watching our neighbor obsessively mow and edge his lawn (3 times a week, roughly). I'm not sure what first sparked his obsession with tractors. He didn't own a single tractor or even remotely tractor-shaped toy until he lifted one from my husband's parents house last month. As for dirt, well, that's been a solid relationship for him pretty much since birth - much like the one he has with his penis. I didn't set him in front of all of these quote unquote boy things, dress him only in blue, and make him practice until he perfected the subtle differences in the sounds of heavy machinery. I just followed his lead which, it turned out, went directly down Boy Alley.

It's not that I'm concerned about BC's overtly "boy" interests. It's just that, while fretting over the idea of his identity being defined by his gender and of him only being exposed to "boy things", it never occurred to me that he would gravitate towards those things himself. And if I am to let my son be my son, to not interfere with who he innately is, if I am to allow his interests to lead him and encourage him to trust and follow those interests, then I need to be okay with whatever those interests may be. I wanted so badly to be the mom who encouraged her son's love of thing that defied stereotypes that I forgot to be the mom who encouraged her son's love of whatever he chose. That's a hard one to swallow. Since I'm new at this, I'll cut myself a break.

*In writing this post I realize I take the terms "gender", "boy", and "girl" quite prescriptively. I understand the complexities behind gender identity are vast and I have over-simplified them here. My apologies to the LGBT Community, whose members are heroic.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Pure Joy

Every day I try to determine
just how, exactly, I ended up
with this little ball of joy.
Pure joy is what he is.
My son moves my world
at its very core,
but also on its surface.
The topographic map of
my daily life has become
a foreign land.
There are peaks and valleys
that appear unexpectedly
in my soul.
There are rivers and streams
that wind through the forest
of my heart.
There are roads yet to be laid
and others that bear the
footprints of the thousands
who have walked before me.
Those parents look at my life
and nod, knowingly.
They see my joy,
they understand my struggle,
for they have lived my fear
and embraced my love.
They knew this is how
it would be for me.

I don't understand how they
could keep this a secret.
How are parents all over
the world not shouting,
"Pure Joy!" from every
Why aren't parents all over
the world dancing,
singing, weeping from
that joy?
We are all blessed.
We are blessed one million
times over to be witness to
the life of our children.
Let us celebrate that;
that pure joy that comes
with being somebody's
For it is, indeed, joy.
It is a blessing.
It is a heartache.
It is frightening.
It is inspiring.
It is the most difficult
of tasks.
It is an honor
and it is a privilege.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


I'm working on letting my son be. I'm trying my best to not hover, to let him fall, to let him engage in what he will without me suggesting it. I want him to lead. When I'm successful at this, our days seem to be a lot smoother. Today, I put him up on my back and went outside to hang the diapers on the line. Almost immediately, he started squirming wanting to get down. I took him down from my back and let him wander in the wet grass and soft ground. He was off. Every little blade of grass, every ant on the sidewalk, every dandelion seed needed exploring. I let him be, continued to hang the laundry, glancing occasionally towards him to make sure he wasn't trying to swallow a rock or the like. When I finished and told him I was ready to go inside, he turned towards me with muddy water dripping off of his chin onto his shirt and pants. But, oh my, he was happy. *breathe* "Let him be, Mama," I thought.

Later that day he wandered over to his craft drawer and pulled out the water colors he had yet to experiment with. I knew that painting wouldn't be confined to the paper but his interest in the paints would not be deterred. I put a towel down, grabbed a large piece of paper, stripped him down to his diaper, and let him go to town. The result was a colorful and happy baby (and, okay, the paper was colorful too). Let him be.

It's easy to direct him towards an activity, it's difficult to allow him to lead. Why is that? Maybe because there is the pervasive undertone of "the parent decides" in American culture. Maybe because it is easier to plan around activities if I've predetermined what they will be. Maybe because I feel the need to "teach" him things and I don't know that much about mud and paint. But maybe, just maybe, he know what he needs and wants to learn and the experience of the doing - the being - is exactly what needs to happen.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

To My Son On His First Birthday

My dearest son,

Today you are one year old. Let me tell you something, this past year has been a whirlwind. This year has gone by so quickly so I thought I'd take a moment to jot down some of my thoughts on this day. Okay? Okay.

Your Papa and I, we can't get enough of you. We can't get over you. You are this magical little ball of energy and light. You make us laugh and laugh. But in the beginning, when you were quite new, we spent most of our time in silent awe with tears streaming down our faces. No, not from sadness, but from joy; from the deepest, soul-peircing joy there is to be had. We made you, child. And you made us parents. The joy of that is what I am speaking of here. Becoming a parent is one thing in this life for which there are no adequate prose to describe. Perhaps that's just as it should be.

I birthed you. I birthed you at home, and caught you with my own two hands. I felt as if I could envelop the entire world with the strength I was showing and the love I was feeling that day. Birthing you gave me the courage to be your Mama. That's what childbirth is for, really. Because being someone's mama is a great big undertaking and there is no opportunity to practice, no re-dos, and no manual. I needed to birth you in order to begin my new life as Mama.

In the days and weeks immediately after you arrived, we all began to adjust to our new selves. We were Mama, Papa, and Child: Family. Long hours spent nursing, sitting up in bed while you slept, and wondering who you were turned into weeks, weeks into months. Things I noticed in the enormous amount of time spent staring at precious you: beautiful hair (you had lots), crooked mouth when you yawn, monkey toes, amazingly strong neck and head, wise eyes, deep connection, clear communication, warm body, growth, my eyes, Papa's cheeks, uncle's feet, your own hands. Quick succession of syllables like "AEIOU" or "pepperoni" made you giggle. More time passed and you were rolling over, crawling, making your own syllables like "up" and "mama". My heart grows bigger along side you.

I am sure you are the best part of me. I am sure you scare me and inspire me more than I have ever been scared or inspired in my life. I am sure being your Mama is something I will always feel privileged to be. I look at you and wonder how I got so lucky. My world, and dare I say the world, is a better place with you in it. I want you to know that. I want you to know what a blessing you are. I want you to know that, no matter what you end up doing with your long life in the long run, you have made many hearts leap simply by being you. You are loved by so many people - already! You have a village at your side now and as you continue to grow. And that is my gift to you. It is likely the best gift you will ever receive. It is the same gift my Mama gave to me. It is a gift of love, comfort, and home that is woven into the fabric of your life even now. Treasure it for it treasures you.

With this first year of You behind us, I am very proud. In fact, I beam with pride when I think on this past year's journey. Not because every bump in the road was sailed over, but because they were handled with grace. That's all we can really expect from one another, I think. Being your Mama has helped me enter the world with grace; with humility and empathy, too, but mainly with grace. I will forever be grateful for that. Son, today you are one year old. Today is your birthday and my birth day; you were born and I birthed. You became child and I became Mama. Today starts year two of this miraculous life as parent and child. I cannot wait.

Love always,

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Didn't See the Day

One year ago today, I didn't see the day. I breathed it though. I dreamed it. I lived it and felt it in the core of my being. I caught my child; brought him into the world. I finally knew what the world was for. I didn't see the day, I saw my son.