Monday, January 9, 2012

I came across this article tonight and it stuck with me.  It more than stuck with me.  It made me want to hunt down this dad and offer him a few choice words.  It also made me want to hunt down the older brother and give him a huge hug and a big old kiss on the cheek.

I'm a mother to a boy who loves purple, pink and just about anything that has to do with Barbie, Strawberry Shortcake or the Disney princesses.  Though he wears "traditional boy" clothes - striped shirts, jeans, Chuck Taylors - he doesn't usually leave the house without some sparkly accessory or other feminine flair.  This is just fine with me.  And with my husband.  It's other people that seem to squirm and stare.  And I gotta say - it really pisses me off.  Why does anybody care what my son plays with or what he dresses like!?

Just last week, Eli wanted to get an American Girl doll with some money he received for Chanukah.  I was more than happy to oblige.  After all, Ethan asked to buy Legos with his Chanukah money and I didn't bat an eyelash.  Eli and I packed into my van and headed off to the American Girl store and during the entire drive there, Eli chattered on about the "American store" and how excited he was to pick out his doll.  By the time we pulled into our parking space, he was practically hyperventilating.

I tried to be cool as we strolled around the store, but to be honest, I could feel many sets of eyes on Eli and I.  After maneuvering past women and children who appeared to be utterly fascinated that a boy would be playing with a (gasp!) doll, we strode up to the cashier who peered over the counter and said to Eli, "You are such a lucky little girl!".  I decided to just let this one go by since I really didn't want to be rude and correct her but then she said, "Is this your little girl's first American Girl doll?" and I had to say, "Um...actually, he's a boy."  I said it cooly and tonelessly, plainly stating the facts and proud of myself for not throwing in the explanations that I usually have at the ready to diffuse the awkwardness of these situations.  I wasn't offended by what she said - it was an easy conclusion to draw given our surroundings.  But she stopped was she was doing, clearly flustered and started sputtering apology after apology which only made the situation more and more uncomfortable.

When we finally got away, after what seemed like an eternity, we headed to the Bistro where we greeted by the hostess who asked us how many in our party.  I responded with, "Two, please."  On the way to the table, she began to make small talk with us and asked Eli in a sing song voice, "Oh, is that your sister's doll?"  My heart sank and the only thing that kept me from bursting into tears was the fact that Eli was completely clueless.  He just strutted on through the restaurant proudly holding his big red box with his new doll.

During lunch, several people came by our table to check on us.  One manager even said, "Oh, your little girl is so cute."  Okay.  Hold the phone.  Eli IS adorable.  His hair is bright orange and fuzzy like a duck.  He has an infectious smile and gorgeous, creamy skin.  But he looks NOTHING like a girl, and certainly not a cute girl.  In fact, I think he would make kind of an ugly girl.  Plus, what kind of mother would give their sweet little daughter the messed up, cropped haircut he has and put him in dark brown pants and a pea green shirt?  (Obviously, I jest, but you get the point....)

I felt a lump in my throat for the majority of the day.  Not because anything particularly bad happened and not because anything happened that upset Eli...but I caught a glimpse of the possibilities of the future and was reminded that Eli might not always be oblivious to the stir that he seems to create around him and that while he doesn't notice the stares now, someday he will, and someday they might hurt.

I am so blessed by a loving family and loving friends who accept Eli with the same open minds and open hearts that Adam and I accept him with, and that makes me forget about all the other idiots out there who can't or won't mind their own business and won't get past what Eli appears to be on the outside and therefore will miss out on seeing how absolutely amazing he is.

And if I hear one person tell me "It could just be a phase," I might scream.  It might be.  And it might not be.  But who cares if it is or isn't?  I don't need consolation.  And while I'm sad that Eli could be hurt by the nastiest of others, I don't feel sorry for him or for myself.  I'm not hoping that Eli might turn out to be someone else.  I love him EXACTLY the way he is.  When I hear someone say "It could just be a phase," what I feel like is left off of that sentence is "Let's hope it is."  Look, I know what I could be up against.  I know what Eli could be up against. Will his life be hard if the preferences he shows aren't a phase and continue into adulthood?  Probably.  And we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.  Together.  But in the meantime, I sleep REALLY well at night knowing that no matter what turns his life takes as long as I am his mother, and Adam is his father that he will ALWAYS have the wind at his back and will always be bolstered by the pride and the unconditional love that we have for our sweet, incredible and beautiful son.  And I will take to him the American Girl store ANY TIME he wants to go.  And who could just be a phase...:0)


Anonymous said...

Jennifer, I posted on Facebook but I wanted to let you know that there is at least one other momma that feels what you're feeling. Olivia has mild aspergers and does not follow that societal mold. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to him with all of your heart and be there for him when he gets hurt. Amy

cheryl said...

What a wonderful post! Eli is lucky he has you and Adam for his parents, but you and Adam are more lucky to have that sweet, loving, impish, smart, beautiful boy as your son. The joy he brings to your life, as well as the to the life of all our family cannot be measured by what color he likes, what toys he chooses to play with, or which television shows he likes to watch. He has no idea that "society" expects him to play with trucks and cars and trains. Lucky for him he still oblivious to expectations of the outside world. He is playing with what he likes! Lucky for him that he has parents who don't care if someone snickers or stares because he has a doll in his hand. Lucky for him he has a Mom who will take him to the "American" store. and have lunch with him in the "most beautiful" place. And really lucky for him, that he has parents who will allow him to have joy in a world where childhood innocence is too short lived. I applaud you Jen and Adam - your goal is to bring up caring and kind sons, and in the end, that's all that matters.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're his mother Jenny. I so proud that you don't back down or keep yourself from doing what makes HIM happy - not what makes others happy. Eli is one of the most "normal" kids out there. He's happy, confident, wonderfully social and knows what makes him happy. I'm not sure how many people can say that. Keep up the good work! - Adam