While it only took a few minutes for my older son, once he feasted his eyes on the hermit crab table, to pick his beach vacation souvenir, my younger son vacillated wildly when making his decision.
My younger son, who recently turned four, has always been a big boy. He came stumbling reluctantly out of the womb two weeks late, weighing in at 9 pounds. When I tell people that, they always give me an amused look and say something like, “WOW. And you were able to squeeze him out vaginally?” and I’ll give a proud shrug and say, “Yep! And it didn’t even hurt.” Then, by way of explanation, I’ll add: “I was a huge slut in college.”
When he was 2 years old, we went to my dad’s house to celebrate Easter with the family like we do every year. It was a gorgeous, sunny spring day, and my dad’s neighbor walked across the street to Dad's yard to have a beer while we watched all of the little cousins race each other around the yard, giggling and squealing as they found the hidden eggs. I remember my son toddling over to me, clutching a light blue plastic egg that he’d just found in his sweet little fat fingers and waving it up at me proudly.
Before I could congratulate him, my dad’s neighbor looked down at him. “What are you doing wearing a DIAPER, son?! Aren’t you a little too old for one of those?”
While I don’t get offended easily, I also felt like he would’ve ruined the moment if my son had been old enough to get embarrassed by things like this. Which he hadn’t been, because, as I’d explained to the neighbor, “He’s TWO.”
“WOW, no shit?!” he said, and I couldn’t help but laugh. My son had already looked 4 at that point.
So, on vacation a few weeks ago, when he walked up to me with this as his souvenir choice, somehow it was even sweeter just because he’s such a big boy:
“Mommy,” he said, holding it up to me, “I’m a boy, but sometimes I like girl toys.”
The sweetness of it brought tears to my eyes. As he gazed down at the mermaid set, so happy with his choice, I smiled and said, “That’s okay. You can play with girl toys if you want to.”
“Yeah, Mommy,” he agreed, never taking his eyes off of his prize. “Sometimes I like girl toys, but that’s okay.”
“Of course it is,” I said softly. I was, for some reason, overwhelmed with emotion, and I bent down to hug him. He was too excited to hug me back because he wanted to find his brother or one of his cousins to show them what he had picked. As he turned to do so, however, his eyes landed on this:
Suddenly, he dropped the mermaids and grabbed the pirate set.
"No, Mommy, THIS is what I want. Sometimes I like girl toys, but TODAY I want to be a PIRATE. ARGH!!” He punctuated the ARGH by jumping into a defensive ninja warrior stance that looked nothing like a pirate, but I didn’t correct him. It was cute.
I picked the poor, forgotten mermaid up from the floor and returned her to her rightful hook.
For the rest of the week, my younger son walked around asking people (mostly me) to put on the skull mask that had come in his pirate set.
“Why?” I would ask every single time.
“Because I’m playing pirates, and I need a bad guy to stab with my dagger.”