Earlier this week, this post about Eli's love for Barbie and plans to dress as Rapunzel for Halloween was still fresh on my mind when I was introduced to someone new. We got to talking and somehow the subject of toys came up and I told her about Eli's love for and obsession with Barbie and his plans to dress as Rapunzel on Halloween. "So what!?", she said, almost a little too emphatically. I could tell by her outburst that she either expected me to gripe about how embarrassing this was and wanted to appear superior to me, or she was trying to impress me with her solidarity to my cause.
She went on to tell me about a family member whose son wanted to take ballet classes and that the dad was okay with it, despite his son being the only boy in the class. The story continued to a point in time when the dad asked the son what he liked about ballet and the boy said that the teacher was really pretty. "That's my boy!!", the dad replied.
After she finished, the woman beamed, clearly so proud of her show of political correctness, liberal viewpoint and open mindedness. As if she let air out of a balloon, she breathlessly went on to say, "Maybe he's putting one over on you and already his this all figured out...that he actually LIKES girls and thinks their pretty so is using this as an excuse to get closer to girls."
First, I wasn't so sure Eli's thinking went along such complex channels. Second, I knew that this was supposed to somehow serve as a comfort me. I didn't feel comforted because I didn't need to feel comforted. I felt irritated. I don't need to conjure up some delusion or justification about Eli's motives for his preferences in order to be comfortable with them. He will continue to be himself and I will continue to support him.
Just today, at TJ Maxx, Eli asked if he could buy something. His choices varied from a pair of fairy wings, a package of kid-size plastic kitten heel shoes and a plush purple poodle that doubles as a stuffed animal and a purse. He finally settled on a Polly Pocket. For a moment, I wondered if I was feeding into him somehow and leading him down his path rather than following him. But, as I pondered, I realized that I am equally eager to seek out the things that Ethan likes (in his case it's Lego, Indiana Jones and Star Wars) and so my enabling is the equal opportunity kind.
Will the dynamic of all of this change when Eli grows older if these preferences continue? I'm sure they will. Drastically. And I'll deal with that when it happens. But for now, if he wants to bring a pink thermos to pre-school (which he does) then I will simply enjoy the open hearts of three-year-olds and be thankful that none of his classmates seem to care about the color of his thermos anymore than I do.