our children’s dreams may not be our own
I wandered around the deflated garden yesterday, while Rose’s homeschool co-op buddies scripted their freeplay in real time. Okay, so say you’re a doctor and I broke my leg and you say: you’ll need a cast, and I say: I’ll take the purple kind, and then you say: we’re out of purple… (all of this interspersed with a tremendous amount of joyous screaming. Oy).
Meanwhile, Col’s homeschool co-op cronies, ten miles away, were conducting a coming-of-age ceremony for Seneca’s goat, Heidi, who just came into her womanhood, ovulatorily speaking. Heidi’s goat-puberty coincided serendipitously with the co-op’s current topic, Gender Studies, which includes sexual development as well as LBGT studies, sacred masculine/feminine, gender stereotypes in media…you know, typical 4th grade curriculum. Col’s co-op spent their freeplay writing a song to recite to Heidi the goat, who loved it so much she ate it. Perfect.
Rose’s co-op cohorts found 45 words to describe an antler for their studies on mindful seeing.
Col is currently immersed in practicing his BB gun skills. We’ve been bringing the gun on hikes, promising shooting time after just a little more walking; this works in exactly the same way a bag of bakery treats works for Rose (Speaking of gender studies. Oy #2). Raising a boy is a continuing education for me. I’m hugely invested in maintaining closeness with Col as he grows, though the intersection of our interests is a stark place with lots of open seats. He loves throwing the football, airplanes, drawing, target shooting, making fires, playing soccer, engineering and building, and legos. And I like, well, making sauerkraut and then maybe writing a little about it.
Rose’s world, to be honest, is also one I often peer into like a bewildered foreigner. Rose spends a lot of time brushing, braiding and coloring (with markers) various barbie, pony and doll hair. One blink later the hair is hacked—flaxen strands confettied across our floor—like barbie finally decided to kick the patriarchy’s beauty stereotypes to the curb. My role is clear here: hand Rose the broom.
When Col was a very small baby, the term preemie following his very person the way writer will always attach itself to Stephen King, I had just a few wishes for him. They were not that he and I share hobbies. No, they were on the order of: please let his brain work OK. Sometimes they were more specific, like: Please allow him to master sucking, swallowing and breathing simultaneously.
This is Mae, our new rat. As Rose said about Martha’s surprising death, “I just want to get a new white rat, name her Martha, and not have to feel sad.” I totally get this. However, we had a proper burial (in the compost pile), shed tears and offered gratitude. And then two days later went to the pet store and got Mae. She is lovely.
I won’t lie and say that watching Rose paw wild berries into her mouth on a plant walk I led this summer didn’t inflate me with happiness. She knows her wild plants! She learned that from me! It’s also true that I feel just the smallest bit of envy for the hours of fellowship Dan and Col share in BB gun shooting competitions (This just in: Col is in the lead. What?). I ask the kids, dangling snazzy seed packets in front of them: Who wants to help me plant the fall cold frames? And when they apologetically opt to jump on the neighbor’s trampoline, I feel the merest bit of disappointment. And yet, my truest wish for my children is that they wake up curious every day. That they find wholesome things to which they can joyfully devote their time. That they feel free to search and find their own meaning in life. The particulars are none of my business.
I think of my friend who gave birth to a boy, who at 4-years old made it very clear that inside where no one could see, he felt like a girl. He needed his family’s help to become a girl on the outside, too. His parents cried and researched and discussed, and then they did the next right and hard thing: they bought their daughter dresses and hair clips, switched pronouns, and observed her new, chosen name. Our children’s dreams may not be our own, but this family’s courage, acceptance and love will always light a spark of inspiration in my heart.
Col came into our room at a dark and early hour this morning. I lifted the covers on my right (saving room for Rose’s eventual arrival on my left) and he nestled down like the professional snuggler he is. We held each other and I breathed in his boy-scent and we talked about airplane design. He told me about ailerons and elevators, lift and drag. He was excited and I was excited for him, and I felt certain that all was absolutely right.