You know you are the mother of a toddler when you have your first temper tantrum – that moment when you desperately want your child to do something, and they simply refuse.
Such was the scene in my son’s preschool earlier this week when each child was lovingly gifted a handmade pillow by the crafting ladies of the church. It was a beautiful gesture. Really.
Except my son didn’t want the pale blue pillow placed in his cubby. He wanted the vibrant floral one…with the obnoxious lace ruffle. His kind teachers allowed him to switch. And just when I thought I could let it go, I snapped.
I felt the need to justify his choice to every parent we encountered down the hall.
“Oh, yes, his sister will inherit this one!”
Clearly, something deep was happening. Why couldn’t I support my son’s decision?
In truth, the event that set my emotions off occurred a few weeks ago. My daughter –who had just turned one – was fighting her brother for the opportunity to unwrap her birthday presents. In the midst of the fray, I caught a most surprising glimpse through the decimated paper: a baby doll limb.
If there is one thing being a scholar mom has made me, it’s careful. I remember all the time and energy I invested into registering for gender-neutral baby items during my first pregnancy. Yes, I didn’t want to spend more money if we had a girl down the road, but, really, the last thing I desired was for oppressive gender norms to be cast onto our little boy. Let him be little.
But despite all the freedom in toys, books, and clothes we offered our son, he has largely pursued the stuff of stereotypical little boy dreams: cars, dirt, and loud machines. And we have accepted this is who he is. But I suppose this is why the unopened baby doll box presented such difficulty in my mind. What if my daughter embraces female gender norms – and all the trappings along with them?
It didn’t take long for reality to catch up with my racing thoughts. Within seconds, a plastic doll nestled in the safety in my daughter’s arms. And a toothy grin calmed all fear.
Just last night, as I was picking up our children’s toy room (i.e. the entire house), I came across the pillow and the baby. And, truthfully, I felt the hard exterior that I had been building begin to melt with gratitude for two objects that have brought my children such joy.
As for my kids, they won’t be perfect, and they won’t always make decisions I can understand. But all things work for good – even when I can’t see it.
And the little things only change everything when we let them.