I love the conversations I'm having these days. Honestly, nothing tops them.
"Mommy," Hawk asks, "why is there a goat on my yogurt?"
"Because I like goats' milk yogurt better than cows' milk."
"Cows make milk, too!"
"Yes, all mammal mommies make milk for their babies: bears, tigers, horses, beavers..." I wondered if I'd lost him with the whole "mammal mommy" thing, so I added, "Mammals are animals who give birth to their babies through their vaginas then feed their babies at their breast" (I may have done a weird squat and baby-catching hand gesture as I said this).
Elated that he knew what I was saying Hawk interjects, "And you made milk in your boobs, too!!"
"Yes, I did! But it doesn't last forever; just so long as the baby needs it."
"But you still have boobs, right??"
I glance down at my chest, "It sure looks like I do!" and he giggles as he scoops another spoonful of wildflower honey yogurt in his mouth.
Has Hawk's exposure to other children bent him towards more "traditional" boy colors?
There's something I've never really come out and said on this blog, though I've alluded to it in other places around the Internet: I'm bisexual.
As a young woman away from home this manifested in a proper girlfriend for a few months and later morphed into something less romantic and more sexually driven. I've never had a relationship with a woman since. I prefer relationships with men but am still attracted to women and enjoy their company when compelled. If you can imagine that sexuality spectrum then I'm somewhere left of center closer to what would look like straight to you.
All my family and friends know, but I keep it close to my chest in most cases. Every time I tell someone I'm "coming out." It's a never-ending process and always causes me some nervousness. The word "bi" seems trite and fickle, when it's neither. I just don't have a better word for it. Rooster knows how I'm oriented and never bat an eye about it; friends all knew long before I did and my family pretty much pretends I never told them (why wouldn't they? if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, blah blah blah).
I'm sharing this now because Hawk is a boy -- genetically speaking, and I have raised him as such -- but I am extremely careful about the words I say when it comes to attraction and love. I avoid asking him if he has any "girlfriends" at school, instead I ask him if he likes any boys or girls. I encourage him to show loving affection to anyone who seems amenable to it, regardless of whether or not the recipient is a wee boy or girl. And I make sure he sees me as openly affectionate to the world as I want to be.
I've trained my family and friends to do the same. I'm the one who always adds, "... or boys!" to the question of "Are there any cute girls at school??" I'm pretty sure my family and in-laws think I'm nuts and overzealous about all of this, but too bad.
But my goal here is to normalize the spectrum of feelings he's beginning to develop; the bonds he's making with other children both boys and girls. I remember quite vividly being attracted to boys when I was three because that's all I knew, but by the time I was six I had intense infatuations, lo, crushes, on other girls that I couldn't make any sense of. If anyone had ever said to me, "Hi, Jessie! So are there any boys or girls you have a crush on at school?" it would have revolutionized my childhood and I might have skipped over years of self-loathing and fear of my sexual proclivities. Or maybe not, it's hard to tell, but it couldn't have hurt.
I don't want to take for granted what I imagine for my son. I have no freaking clue where he's going to land on that sexual spectrum. He could be as queer as a three-dollar bill or be straighter than a friggin' arrow, but I damn sure don't want to be the cause of fear and loathing in his own private Vegas. Sexuality is confusing enough without any outside pressure to be someone or do something that doesn't come naturally.
At school he has two best friends. A little girl named Fleur who plasters herself all over him on a daily basis, towering over him by an inch and toppling him with her vigor; and Keenan, a sprite of a boy with strawberry blond hair and bright blue eyes. The two boys are particularly drawn to one another, seeming to share some unspoken thing between them, but Fleur isn't discouraged in the least and the three of them are usually found napping or eating lunch together like a pile of puppies.
Hawk's little heart is so open and pure to friendship no matter who it is right now. When else are we ever this blank? this accepting? I'd venture to say never again as we grow up and learn to judge others and it's now that I want to impress upon him the range of love.
Ok, so I've got my non-straight vernacular down and my kid is hanging with boys and girls with equal fervor. What's next?
Well, quite honestly, it's onto tackling gender stereotypes.
I've written before about pink shoes and gender-neutral nurseries and how I've avoided shirts with footballs on them and things that hype up masculinity. I buy more expensive Gap clothing for the sheer fact that I can get pink shirts there or Easter-colored plaid shorts (at least they used to have 'em).
And now that Hawk is more engaged with me as a little person he wants to do what I do, so that means every morning when I put on makeup, he "puts on makeup, too." He paints his face with blush and smears his chin and lips with gloss and peers into the mirror exclaiming how pretty he is. I encourage the exploration as enthusiastically as I would him mirroring his father's morning ablutions. I mean, why not?? Allowing him to explore every facet of his life (which includes mine) will help him better define himself later on down the road when decision making is paramount.
All gussied up.
Since starting school Hawk is exposed to so much more than just my bathoom. The children at his school do all sorts of "traditional" play while continuing to mix it up and bend gender biases. Boys shoot each other with sticks while wearing dresses and girls try to figure out the best way to scoop dirt with the dump trucks while braiding each other's hair. It's all a hodge-podge, as well it should be.
All this to say, though, I am still unable to erase all gender-specificity from his life. He is drawn to things with wheels and gadgets, rockets, lightsabers, guns, any kind of tractor or piece of heavy machinery. The other day he shot an older couple at Wholefoods with a bunch of carrots, the spray of green fronds tucked under his armpit. They chuckled and told me it was "a boy thing." I had to agree since every little girl I know would have been rocking that bunch of carrots and combing the greens instead.
I also admit to not buying him clothing from the girls' section. I avoid scalloped trim and puffy sleeves, skirts and dresses. I'll buy him the pinkest pink shirt but it will be an androgynous cut. I hope it's enough to let him identify with being a boy without too much pressure to stay in that particular box. If he ever wants to wear a dress to school I'll back him up the best I can and pray the kids don't eat him alive. I'll explain to him what might happen and why and see where he takes it from there.
His bedroom is still pretty much just a kid's room, except for the tractor pillow cases he made with my mom. I mean, I'm sure there's a girl out there obsessed with tractors, too, I just haven't met her yet.
Ok, Spiderman might be a hint there's a boy in residence, too.
And yet, just the other day, we were at my friend's house with her twin daughters and Hawk dove right into a spare princess dress and happily proclaimed he was a princess, too.
He fluffed his tutu.
Kids explore and they search and they play with everything that crosses their paths and this includes concepts as well as preconceived notions. Just because we see a certain trajectory for them doesn't mean it's what they're going to choose. I believe that keeping our words non-straight friendly and our minds open to imaginative play without gender discrimination we can teach a child to accept him or herself later on down the road. And it also doesn't hurt to start to re-program our own ways of thinking about gender and sexual orientation. Take it from one non-straight person, it's better to be flexible now rather than later.
How do you guys approach this whole thing??
Oh, and here's Hawk's new pair of Crocs:
Hawk 'n Rooster. My dudes, redefined.
There have been some seminal moments in my life since I last posted. All good, some sad. I'll list them in order of precedence in my mind:
While at Rooster's house, Hawk grabbed a curtain rod (don't ask) and pulled the two pieces apart. He handed me one, kept the other for himself and started making light saber noises with his.
"Mommy," he says between "vhooms", "you're Luke Skywalker and I'm Darf Vader." And he raises his sword and strikes mine down.
My freakin' heart exploded. I mean, intelligent, imaginative play; a worthy opponent; Star Wars!?!
Rooster and I officially filed for divorce.
The day it happened I was in tears. I felt like each cell had a tiny string attached to it and they were all being slowly pulled in different directions. It was a feeling of implosion and explosion all at once.
I spent the evening at Rooster's eating chicken tetrazzini and sharing the documents with him. It was at once horrifically sad and wonderfully exciting. I love the way our relationship is transforming and molding to our situation. As adept as we were at communicating through our marriage, we're equally agile in dissolving it.
I'm proud of the way we're handling things and I am eternally grateful for his support, intellect, kindness, and devotion. We have our moments, for sure, but honestly I'll take our "moments" over other divorcing couples' any day.
Hawk has become very popular at school. Numerous times teachers have come up to me to tell me that the other children like him very much, particularly the girls. One little girl he's always with, Fleur, even told the teachers that she loves him "very much." And whenever she's around when we pick him up she races over to hug him. Sometimes multiple times.
Ok, that deserves another ♥
I can't tell you how happy this makes me. For kids to be successful, they have to be liked in some manner. Either it's a spirit they have or a talent, but it's something other kids are drawn to. And by "successful" I mean navigate through life towards their own goals with as little barbarism as possible. Likeability is a key factor in this. I know some people are born with it, others have to learn it, but I'm glad it's coming naturally to him at this point in his life, because who knows? it may not last his entire school career.
Hawk's two best friends at school: Keenan on the left, Fleur on the right.
Today it's a cape.
Safety first, yo.
Hawk wrote his name (with some direction from me).
I took my body measurements and I'm 41-32-43. This makes me very happy; I've never been so content with my body in my life. The numbers aren't what I used to want, but I love them now. It's true what I've heard about your 30s all along: they really do fucking rock. I think the days of hating my body may very well be over. Woooooo!
Hawk prefers Rooster over me, in a major way. I'm toughing it out, but it hurts like a bitch. I'm finding little moments to connect with him and keeping a stiff upper lip about the whole thing, so it's not too fucking awful (no, wait. It actually really is), but it still sucks ass.
In Hawk's eyes, it must seem like I've abandoned him -- we spend so much less time together than before. It's another hurdle we have to get over, I guess.
I often repeat, "It's a phase, it's a phase, it's a phase."
What I woke up to one morning. Yay!
A cupcake after dinner. There may or may not have been a meltdown incident after this.
A Wednesday morning (on an off-week) spent reconnecting over pancakes.
It's been an eventful week or two, for sure. I can do this, though. I'm feeling the momentum building...