There are pieces of being a parent to all boys that sometimes evade me — I feel one day that they are so different from the quiet, contemplative little girls who accompany their mothers on play dates to our house, the girls who play so peacefully and quietly alongside their mamas while we discuss books, life, friendships, and parenting. Most of my friends have girls. For some reason, it just happened this way. My boys love to play with their girls, but they play differently. Not worse, just LOUDER.
They are climbers, movers, jumpers, and runners. When we have people over, this is all magnified. They are excited to have their friends on their turf, so they are louder, more boisterous.
But I don’t think they are all like that. And on the other hand, I think some boys just tend to take a bit longer to reach that quiet point. Milo has reached it. He reads for hours, and now lingers nearby when adults are talking instead of going off and doing his own thing right away. He wants to hear everything we say, and I can tell he is weighing each topic in his mind. He often brings up what he’s heard later, and asks compounding questions. I love this new conversational stage. I love talking to him about how the world works, or doesn’t work, for that matter.
We talked this weekend a lot about implicit racial bias*, about how complicated these unconscious beliefs and feelings can be in our country, and how we must constantly work to be aware of them, challenge them, and change them. He is reaching the age where fairness is extremely important. We talked about the complicated events of last week and some of the underlying problems that lead up to them. It’s a discussion that we will have over and over again. I hope that things change for the better in his lifetime, and that he and his brothers will have a big part in that change. I want my boys to grow into compassionate men who always see the good in people, and who stand up for what’s right, especially when it is uncomfortable or difficult.
There is also the subject of nurturing. Emil had been asking over and over again why we don’t have any babies in our family. My response, because all the babies grew up! is not enough. We have three close family friends who are pregnant right now, and he has seen and heard the conversations around the babies to be born soon. So, after talking about how we have decided that three kids in our family is enough for us, we decided to give him his own baby. Baby Tommy, Emil’s little boy doll, has gone everywhere: the Bahamas, the swimming pool, grocery shopping, play dates, playgrounds, restaurants, bathrooms, you name it.
We’ve watched the magic of how Emil nurtures and fathers Baby Tommy, pretending to feed him, changing his diaper, sharing his water and ice cream and toys with him, pushing him in a stroller, wrapping him in blankets and putting him to bed, seat-belting him into the car… it goes on and on. And it all comes down to role models. Emil has had the best male role models in his life so far. Andrew of course, who shares in all the childcare and has from the start, but also the fathers in our neighborhood and the fathers of our closest friends. These men have shown Emil (and Oliver and Milo, for that matter) that fathers are just as nurturing as mothers. I love that Emil can walk proudly down the street pushing a baby in a stroller and no one bats an eye. It’s normal. It should be.
*If you want to learn more about implicit biases, including those associated with race, but also including age, gender, religion, or disability, among others, read this, and take the test (you can sign in as a guest) to become more aware of your own hidden biases. The more we understand our own biases, the more we can work to dismantle them.