Little fists pound on the door
like they are trying to break through it.
I imagine his knuckles bruised and swollen
like overripe fruit,
skin scraped away like a knee on gravel.

He screams out to me asking for a drink,
asking for a teddy,
asking for anything he can think of
that will get me back in the room.

Against my better judgement,
for I know I am being played,
I open the door.

Although I do not turn on the light,
it is as though I have flicked a switch.
The crying stops.
The pounding stops.
The temper abates.
And I am greeted with a sweet-voiced ‘hello mummy’.
And he gently asks me to tuck him in, ‘Please.’

Against my better judgement,
for I know I am being played,
I tuck him in,
whisper goodnight and
brush a kiss over his crocodile tears.
I leave the room and close the door.
I hold my breath and feel my nerves spike
as though with an electric shock
when he starts, again, to grizzle and get out of bed.
He runs crying to the door and
And screams.
And calls out to me again.

Against my better judgement,
for I know I am being played
I want to scream back at him.
And pound the other side of the door
until the pain in my fists makes me forget
How much it hurts to hear him cry.


© Lynette Washington

“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.

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* Gloria Steinem