Running on wobbly legs, my fledgling, my sweet smiling boy with your trusting grin from ear to ear. Your blond hair tousled in all directions, tickling your ears, soft against my neck as we hug. “Can I have a kiss?” I ask and you oblige with your mouth open, dribble on my face, my baby’s nectar.
You bang objects hard and laugh, a loud, joyous burst. You have almost eight teeth now – four at the top and four at the bottom. You understand a lot of what we say and delight in opening cupboards that you know are forbidden or trotting off when you are called.
At the beach and at the pool you are afraid of the water, you scream and your face contorts in fear of wide expanses and fathomless depths. You are content to paddle your feet or play on the sand with your spade and bucket.
You have your first short white hairs on your legs now, legs that are not so chubby as six months ago. Your feet are size three, tiny and precious. Your hands are strong, wilful and demanding. They can pinch, smack and clap. We play ‘pointies’ where I encourage you to extend your index finger (we touch ours together) and learn how to point at things. You don’t seem interested yet.
The pleasure of books has also largely eluded you; they are for batting and slapping and chewing and throwing. Sometimes, though, you sit with me on the couch and watch as I sing and point and laugh at the pictures. “What does a dog do? Woof woof! What does a cow do? Mooo, mooo…”
Most nights you are sleeping for ten or eleven hours and on mornings like today, you wake at eight and we hear you playing. I creep up the stairs and catch your startled face, one hand high holding woolly dog and the other clutching at the mosquito netting. As you feed at my breast, you are a bucking bronco, a writhing snake, a worm with a stomach ache. But neither of us is ready for weaning yet.
You are an impulsive climber and delight in frightening us with your nimble feet scaling the sofa, heading for the coffee table; in our minds, heading for the ‘stop at the end of the drop’.
Hands outstretched, you love to bring us trophies of your exciting world – a leaf, a toy, a bottle top and yesterday, while you were playing naked, a piece of poo!
You love playgrounds now, especially the slippery dip. You slide down head first or on your tummy and hardly ever on your bottom. On New Year’s Day we met two other Harrys and talked for the first time at a playground to other doting parents while we watched our darlings chuckling and taking it all in with wide eyes.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem