I think I hear the boys calling me.
Seems strange because after nine weeks in here I’ve become quite comfortable and thought I was going to stick. I’ve grown quite a bit lately too. I even have a head! And although the rest of my body is still a whispery mess of cotton-wool-type stuff, it’s definitely there.
But there’s a weird feeling somewhere in Mum’s belly. Coupled with the faint laughter of the boys, I can’t help but think I might be heading back to Marshmallow land.
Marshmallow land isn’t bad though. In fact it’s pretty cool. It’s high in the sky, soft and bouncy and full of little kids my own age. Going back means I get to catch up with my mates Tommy and James (we call him Jimbo) and Max. And Hanna of course. I have a crush on Hanna. It’ll be great to play with them again so at least I have that to look forward to.
Mum’s going to be devastated though. For that reason I hope I’m wrong. I can’t see the big man yet and it’s not until he shows up that you know it’s time to go back.
I remember when I first moved in here. Mum and Dad weren’t even really trying to have me. Those early days were awful and I was so small I’m surprised I hung on as long as I did. During my first week they went to that fortieth birthday party and Mum was drinking something called ‘champagne’. She must have liked the taste because she drank it really fast and got all excited and danced. But the bubbles kept pounding against my head and bashing me around. I couldn’t think straight or get comfortable. Then she had that thing with her work friends at a bar and I really had to grip onto the sides to stay safe.
One morning Mum let out an almighty squeal and woke me out of a deep slumber. That’s the day they found out I was here. Things simmered down after that and I managed to secure my position and burrow in deeper.
They took me to Thailand which was awesome. Well, mostly anyway. I was a bit nervous as Mum kept eating weird stuff that made my head hot. Plus she started every day with that hot black drink. I remember Dad telling her it was okay, that one a day surely wouldn’t hurt. Well, it bloody well hurt. My eye sockets felt like they were on a stretching machine and my ticker had a hard time staying in rhythm. But there was good stuff too. I got to see elephants! Mum swam in the ocean every day because there were no waves. She doesn’t like waves. I loved it when she swam. We just kind of floated around for hours. Sometimes Dad would join in and the three of us would hang on to each other, bobbing around in the calm sea. Those were my favourite days.
I didn’t like the flying part though. It messed with my head and Mum’s tummy got all tight. Dad tried to keep us comfortable but Mum just couldn’t relax.
I feel bad for Mum and Dad. They are really excited now because they get to go to the medical place tomorrow and have a look at me. I’ll try hard to hang on, so my ticker doesn’t stop.
Tommy’s told me about the medical place. The lady is really pretty and has a calm voice. She puts all this sticky gel on your Mum’s belly and suddenly you see yourself up on a huge screen! He says it’s really cool and you feel super important. Your parents hold each other’s hands and sometimes your Mum cries with happiness. I was looking forward to that part. Maybe next time.
See, Mum and Dad don’t know it, but even if I come unstuck this time they’re still going to get to meet me. They just have to wait for everything to be right. The big man tells us to be patient and wait for the right moment. I’m not sure what a moment is but I do know that sometimes when Dad is doing that rocking thing to Mum I have to move to the edge of the waiting station. If the big man thinks it’s the right moment he’ll let you take a running jump. Sometimes he gets it wrong though and you gotta go back to Marshmallow land and start again.
I’m pretty keen to see Earth. It’s supposed to be really pretty with trees to climb and big meadows for footy. You get to have a proper body and touch things. And I’m really keen to have Mum and Dad dote on me like I’m some kind of demi-god. Everybody says you get really special treatment, even if you cry or poo your pants. Your parents kiss and cuddle you all the time and Mum gives you tasty treats from her boobs. You get loads of free toys and they hang heaps of stuff around your face so you don’t get bored and miss your mates.
But at the moment it feels like I’m just hanging on. My strength is waning and Mum’s belly is tight again.
The big man is coming towards me now and he looks a bit sad. I think he’s more concerned for Mum because he knows I’ll be okay. He’s holding his hand out to me so I know it’s time to climb up onto his back. I hesitate just a moment longer. Then he smiles and lifts me all the way up onto his shoulders instead and holds my hands so I stay steady. I have never been so high! I can see everything from up here!
The big man gently strokes Mum’s hair and tries to let her know it’s not forever. There will be a next time. She’ll get to meet me if she just keeps on trying. But Mum can’t hear him and she’s crying now almost like she already knows I’ve left.
We pass the waiting station and I can just make out Jimbo and Tommy in the distance. Tommy is flirting with Hanna on the sidelines. Just in the nick of time, I whisper to myself. The big man bends down low so I can jump off and I start to run, as fast as I can, yelling.
“Jimbo! Over here!”
And the ball comes flying my way.
“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