Fabulous hat. Fabulous kid.

 

The Green Bean’s bedtime routine is always the same.

He discards the day’s dirty clothes in the hamper and marches into the bathroom to brush his teeth. We play a quick game of family hide-and-seek, followed by a story, a song, hugs, kisses and (for some reason) handshakes goodnight.

Last night I was sitting on the floor, while The Man of Mans and my Bean sat perched on the edge of his bed, immersed in the adventures of Geronimo Stilton. I looked up at my little boy. He’s getting big – fast.  There are days when his energy, antics and willful nature break the limits of my patience.  Sometimes I go off the rails entirely and I’m a train wreck of a parent.  There are other times – busy times – when my son’s needs become items on the day’s very long to-do list. But sometimes there are the moments like last night, when I feel compelled to stop, breathe and take him in.

He is a beautiful boy . His skin is healthy and tanned from hours of vigorous play outside. His mouth gets impossibly big when he laughs. His soft brown eyes are alight with life. He’s energetic and very adept physically. He’s always has questions. He loves being with people. He’s very much his own person.  Last night I had to smile seeing his bedtime dress, which included a kicky yellow barrette clipped in his bangs.  The Bean wants to grow his hair long and wear it in a braid  like his friend from Saskatchewan. Now that he can gather small tufts and clip them back, he’s very excited. Accessories mean progress!

My son loves to run, climb and play sports. He also likes to be in the bathroom when I’m getting ready for a night out so he can try on my makeup. His dress up outfits include sharp blazers and classic pearls. He’s a rough, loud, aggressive little boy, who loves construction sites and high heels.

I never want him to change.

Yes he will change. His preferences will almost certainly become more expansive and more clearly defined as he grows older. Some of this is – as they say – just a phase, though only time will tell if it’s his interest in sports, construction or womanly shoes that will fade over time.  But I hope he never feels he has to be someone he isn’t or hide aspects of who he is. That’s probably too much to hope for.  Who amongst us made it past childhood and through adolescence without capitulating, at least a little, to external expectations. But I can’t help it. I looked at my son last night – this lanky child with skinned knees and a funny clip in his hair – and he was perfect. That barrette wasn’t worn in defiance of gender roles or as a political statement. It was just my kid, being who he is.  I love who he is. I don’t have the words to express how much I love who he is.

I won’t tell my son that he can’t wear a clip in his hair or try my makeup or run rough shot in a skirt because he’s a boy.  But someone else will. Someone well meaning, who thinks they’re helping him learn how to “be a boy”. Or someone cruel and closed-minded, who will try to hurt him to make him ashamed and afraid of who he is. I know it will happen to him, because I’ve seen it. I know it will happen to him, because it already has. He’s already been maligned for violating the narrow boundaries of masculinity. It’s painful, seeing how it hurts him.

As I watched my son last night, I suddenly thought about Jamie Hubley. More specifically I thought about his parents. It’s been almost seven months since their son committed suicide. I wondered if they had ever sat and watched Jamie as I was watching The Green Bean. Surely they loved their son, as I love mine. Surely they had moments in their busy, stressful lives, when something had made them to stop and see their child as perfect, an indescribable gift.  Now he’s gone.

I’m still thinking about what the Hubleys have lost. What if I lost my son?  I think of all the queer and trans youth who are relentlessly tormented for just existing and being who they are. What if that’s my child?  I think of how many young people have been broken by cruelty and taken their own lives. I think of their parents and it breaks my heart.  The thought that someday that might be my Green Bean makes me frantic.

I don’t know if The Bean’s funny little clip is a phase or an early sign of his gender identity, expression or orientation.  It doesn’t matter to me.  It’s part of who he is. I love him. I’m proud of him. And damned if I didn’t hug him a little tighter and shake his hand a little more firmly as we said our good nights.

Rick Mercer said in response to Jamie Hubley’s suicide  “It’s no longer enough to tell kids who are different ‘It Gets Better’. We have to make it better now.” I admit, I don’t know how to make it better – but I’ll try. I love my son, so I’ll try.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Nat says:

    I adored this post. He’s beautiful (as is his mom.) I hope that through encouraging our kids to truly express who they are, they’ll have the courage to go against the grain not out of defiance (though that’s ok too) but out of self-acceptance.

  2. Danielle Gregoire says:

    When Bumblebee tell me that when she grows up she wants to be a Daddy, I don’t correct her. I tell her she can be whatever she wants. Sometimes she tells me that boys grow into Daddies and girls grow into Mommies, and I say, “The world is complex, and nothing is always.” If she grows up to be a Daddy I will be as proud as if she decides she wants to be an olympic athlete, or a shoe salesperson, or an artist…

    I love your posts on parenthood. I love that no matter where I am I can come here and read how you are feeling, living and taking on this world.

    I wrote this poem during the feature set at Capital Slam, and performed it during the second round…this is how I am parenting right now…because I want her to be critical, to challenge authority…even if it makes it tougher for me…because I want her to be the little person on the playground sticking up for everyone’s rights, especially hers.

    I Will Be Her First Villain

    Don’t mix the play dough!
    was the first ridiculous rule
    I created
    for her to rebel against
    While teaching her to sense
    the absurdity of a play dough dictatorship
    I was her first villain
    loving her so much
    that she felt comfortable
    enough
    to challenge my authority
    and when at two and a half
    she put
    the red play dough
    in her hand
    with a certainty
    only seen in surgeons
    doing brain surgery
    and she placed
    the red mass of pretend clay
    and smooched it
    with conviction
    into the blue play dough
    and she looked at me
    my daughter
    and said calmly
    “I mixed the play dough”
    and I knew
    she was expecting me
    to react
    to crack
    to get angry
    like
    when she runs towards roads
    put her in her room
    for some time alone
    like the time
    she bit me so hard I could see
    how many feet she still had to grow
    but I just smiled
    and said
    yes
    you did
    because not mixing the play dough
    DOESN’T MAKE SENSE
    and I’m teaching her that some rules
    need to be overturned
    and my authority is not
    absolute
    that we are co-creating this existence
    and sometimes I am going to
    throw curveballs
    at her bat
    so that sometimes
    she can strike out
    and sometimes
    she can hit a grand slam
    figure out that not mixing the play dough
    is just plain stupid
    I am the front line worker
    teacher her
    that the world
    needs a critical ming
    because that’s my job
    I tell her every day
    Well since the day that she said to me
    “But Mommy you don’t have a job…”
    I say

    It’s not my job to do things for you
    It’s my job to teach you, to help you
    to do things for yourself

    and for my 33 birthday this year
    she didn’t buy me a present
    she sat me down
    on the entranceway floor
    and showed me that she had
    learned to put on her own shoes
    and it was in that moment
    that I let myself feel
    that
    I’m doing an okay job
    that even though sometimes
    I play the villain
    she knows I’m on her side
    and now we mix the play dough together
    while I plot
    the next ridiculous rule

  3. Kaitlin says:

    You ladies are making me tear up at my desk. And making me want to pro-create. What is with that?

    No, really. Your boys are so very lucky to have such strong, supportive parents.

  4. Gordon Bonnar says:

    I never comment on the internet, but I was balling by the end of this. If only the world was filled to the brim with mothers (heck, people) like you. You are a wonderful human being and the green bean is growing up in a house filled with understanding and love. Honestly, I think part of what is going to make the world better is raising the next generation of kids to be kind, caring, and understanding; and on that front, you’re way out front. Keep up the great work! I’m really proud to know you.

  5. Lynn says:

    Such a lovely, moving post. I could not agree more. I have one kid who doesn’t fit the standard mold and while I worry about her a fair bit, I also love her to pieces for exactly who she is. If only the world could see her like I do.