Partly because my oldest kids are getting big, I’ve arrived at this wonderful moment in life—the one when the former babysitters have babies of their own. The babysitters’ babies! Full disclosure: I have incredible babysitter karma. I don’t just find good babysitters; I find people I will love forever.
So I have to admit that this week when one of these babysitters was awaiting the very imminent arrival of her boy, loads of memories flooded back—the ones in which she so beautifully loved my two boys, especially my second guy, during his early months and years, from moon-faced infant into construction-obsessed tot. She honored that “little boy” in him with such affection and acceptance.
The first boy had one truck he never touched so the barrage of wheels kind of took me by surprise. I’d logged plenty to wonderful babysitter hours myself camped out with toddler, stroller, snack and a real-life construction scene to just… watch moviegoers. Given that the first never pursed lips to make a brrrmmm sound, though, I hadn’t begun to imagine a world within my home with toy tool kits and trucks and train tracks in action. Here it was, in the form of my little Lulu. Carrie got it. She gave him a soft toy truck she sewed a felt pocket onto for the felt garbage. She made him a safety vest and a cardboard sign that read on one side stop and the other slow—and he spent hours and hours “directing” traffic. She also affixed barrettes in his shaggy hair. She embraced him, in his particular him-ness.
That really is the trick of raising children—to honor the persons they are, to embrace the persons they are. Jane Brody wrote about this a couple of weeks back for the New York Times, how we can’t settle for acceptance.
I also have to admit that when that sweet boy arrived this week, I couldn’t stay away.
As is my tradition (until the board books evaporate in my house) I brought a book we loved reading to the babe—and a couple of plush things from a collection that’s all pastel (classic, Gund*). The line is being marketed, I think, as ‘”appropriate” for both genders. Well, ahem, but anyway—cute, cute, cute stuff.
The thing I thought about is how when Saskia—the girl—was born we received two very girly stuffed animals (by girly I mean, wearing dresses, a mouse and a pig) and honestly I love them. Saskia does, too, nearly five years on. But initially, it was all me. And being the person I am (a self-judger) I felt badly (guilty) about enjoying the cuteness of the girly thing. I remember thinking about how comfortable it is when you let yourself do some embracing without judgment. I remembered learning to embrace the construction/truck love. I embrace the pink love. I’m reckoning with the certainty on the part of my gal that Santa’s bringing her a Barbie. Who knows?
* I’d been waiting to give these to the right person; they were sent to me—by a rep for the company, who’d read my essay—about gender and young kids—on Huffington Post. Yes, I was as surprised as you are.