Thursday, March 21, 2013

That Ought to Do It

Willem has always gone happily to sleep at night until recently, when he started saying he was scared and asking to leave his lamp on. It took me a few weeks to worm the truth out of him:  he'd picked up a spooky joke book at the school library and gotten creeped out by one of the illustrations.

We let him have the extra light for a few nights. We tried talking it out. We prayed together. None of it seemed to help, and, after a few months, I lost my initial sympathy and patience. By then, the nightly discussion of his fears had taken on the flavor of a token ritual. It always took place at least five minutes after he had been tucked into bed with hugs and prayers.


"No, there isn't. Good night."

It's gone this way for what seems like ages, so I was pleasantly surprised last night when I put Willem to bed and the conversation took a new turn.

"Mom, do you know what I do when I'm feeling scared?"

"No, I don't." Do tell.

"I think of ponies skating on lollipops. Well, not a bunch of lollipops. Just one. It's purple." Then he grimaced. "Do you think that's too girly?"

It wasn't the skating ponies or the lollipops he was worried about, just the color purple. He's been getting some (not unexpected) flak at school for carrying an orchid and lavender-colored lunch box that he picked out himself.

"No, I think it's just right."

And I do.


Ariana Mullins said...

Oh, I love it! It reminds me of my tenderest brother, who's sort of attempt at hard core was branding all of his written work with an Iron Rainbow.

Gypmar said...

That Iron Rainbow makes my day. Awesome.

josie O. said...

This gender-norm stuff is trickier than I imagined. My college self was all about pushing those boundaries/barriers. But then Dietrich saved up his money and spent it on a Barbie, and whether to let him take it to school became a surprisingly difficult question. He's such a sensitive soul, and when people speak Ukrainian that he doesn't understand and then laugh, he assumes they are laughing at him. So, Barbie is a stay-at-home toy. But my college self kind of hates my mom self for it. (Barbie was also a passing phase, and now barely ever comes out of her drawer.)

Gypmar said...

Aw, I totally feel for Dietrich. The language thing definitely adds another element of difficulty to an already challenging situation.

We had an interesting pow-wow when we bought that lunch box. Nels, Willem and I talked about how the other kids would make an issue of it, and Willem decided he was up for it. I think the teasing ended up bothering him more than he expected it too. I just hope it's giving him good practice for bucking more significant (and destructive) cultural norms when he's older!

alison owen said...

So interesting!
In Mac's weekend art class, they were making books and he chose a pink cloth for the cover. His teacher (my friend) told me very delightedly that he chose it with confidence and a couple of the kids did the whole looking askance thing and he was so unbothered by it (saying, "what? I like pink") that it just shut the teasing down. If you don't get upset, then people don't (usually. knock wood) tease for long.
But it IS hard for me to not worry about the teasing, and to not try to steer him toward "safer" options. Our boys are sweet and brave and I think they will be fine! I think all of this gender-norm stuff is slowly changing, although of course it's still way easier to be a girl who likes "boy" things than a boy who likes "girl" things. The prioritization of masculine traits...sigh...