Home > Child Development, parenting > It’s a Boy, It’s a Girl, It’s a Person

It’s a Boy, It’s a Girl, It’s a Person

From the moment he was born my son has always been such a boy. He was 9 pounds 4 ounces at birth (the poor always-pretty-small-framed me actually tried to give birth to this big baby ). A few hours after he was born, while I was lying in the hospital bed in my overly drugged state waiting for my baby to be brought to me, my husband walked over to the nursery and found our son doing leg lifts. Andrei’s baby neck was so strong that lying on his belly he was able to lift his head off the bed on the day he was born. And he even cried in a boy’s voice. Such a boy, Such a boy, one of our friends used to say often.

He was an early crawler, an early walker, an early runner. He’s been in love with bulldozers, cranes, backhoes, steamrollers (you see, I learned to differentiate between these different machines solely to be able to aid his understanding and developing vocabulary). Wow! See! You see! He screams every single time we walk by any kind of machine-looking thing. Of course, he loves trucks and airplanes too. Motorcycles delight him (we can’t pass by one without stopping to touch it and simply admire it – See, Mama, see? – while I can’t even believe I actually stopped to admire a Harley Davidson). He loves my husband’s tools, particularly the drill and the hammer.

But he has a different side. For example, he loves shoes. He loves wearing my shoes. And he loves getting new shoes. Whenever we present him with a new pair of shoes, he asks us, in delight, to help him put them on, and then he parades through the house for a while, with the attitude of a peacock, Look at me! Please look at me! Andrei is also very particular about the shoes he wears on a particular day. He tends to be in love with one pair of shoes for a while, then he suddenly switches to a different pair. What doesn’t change is his particularity about the shoes he is wearing.

He also likes hats. All sorts of hats. His hats, my hats, my husband’s hats. He is not necessarily committed to any of them – what he enjoys is simply having them on his head and showing them off. More like a fashion model  than like a proud owner of a hat.

Four or five months ago,  Andrei asked me for a baby bottle (he said mleko (milk) while pointing to the illustration of a baby in the book we were reading, but I knew what he meant). I gave him an empty bottle and then followed him to see what he was going to do with it. He fed the picture of the baby, then we continued to read the book. After that, every now and then he would ask for “mleko” to feed it to his stuffed animals.

But in the past week, these random moments grew into long bouts of organized play. Andrei would spend at least an hour continuously mommy-ing his Elmo. At times he would offer side comments: Elmo want to go for a nice, nice walk. Elmo cold. Put on jacket. Elmo want Chee-chee. Elmo want choco milk. Elmo in time-out. Elmo hit.). Occasionally he would ask me or my husband for help, for example to help him dress Elmo or get some Cheerios out of the cabinet. But for the most part Andrei and Elmo would be in a world totally separate from me and my husband. Most of Andrei’s talking would be directed to Elmo, not to us. Andrei's Elmo

The first time this happened, Michael and I sat at the kitchen table and admired our son in delight, witnessing the beginning of a new stage in his development where he was comfortably riding the wave of his budding imagination, apart from us, away from us. And what I found particularly endearing was the fact that in his self-designed world he was the caretaker, he was the one anticipating, inventing and fulfilling Elmo’s needs, he was the mommy, he was the “girl.”

I don’t know why I found the whole thing so touching, so meaningful, so delightful. Maybe it was his growing independence that got me, his mental independence in particular. Even more the fact that he demonstrated his completeness, his wholeness, that he revealed his full and diverse collection of selves.

I loved seeing them all. I am not sure which ones he is going to keep and which ones he is going to discard. I hope he preserves them all. That’s one of the things I want for my son – to grow up whole. To be able to be both a boy and a girl deep in his heart.

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