Mermaids are a Boy’s Best Friend

dancing mermaid

Just as we had hoped, kindergarten has been a year of enormous growth for our son. As evidence his pants are further from the ground each day, his teeth are dropping faster than the temps on the East Coast, and his adorable “Boston” accent is gone thanks to a record-setting articulation intervention for his r’s. (We had a Wodney Wat situation going on, which apparently isn’t so cute to kindergarten teachers who focus on phonetics).

While I celebrate the many achievements and milestones along the way, I have to admit to feeling relieved when I see glimpses of lingering youthful innocence. Simply put, the kid still loves mermaids. Sigh.

Here’s to not growing up too fast.

You didn’t have to grow up in the 80’s with a Jewish mother and you don’t have to love the (hysterical!) TV series The Goldbergs to appreciate the significance of the mother-son dynamic. Or the mother-child relationship in general. Can you fault a mom who is never satiated by enough “snuggies” from her “yummy” kid who “smells like the dryer?”

Here’s to the Beverly Goldbergs of the world.

Back to the mermaid. She sits next to me now as I write. This gorgeous creature was created by a spectacular balloon artist who entertains at the hip eatery Snooze on Sundays. Waiting for our pancakes, we saw that she was making the rounds and flagged her down as she approached our table. At first my son requested a puppy because it was safe. A safe bet for both of them. Somehow–perhaps after seeing the fantastic mermaid he had drawn on his placemat–the balloon artist knew that puppies weren’t really his thing. Gently and subtly she encourage him to challenge her skills.

“Would you like a merman? I did one for the bartender the other day. It came out great!” She assured him.

Bashfully my son shook his head.

“Oh, a mermaid? I think I can do one of those. But you need to tell me what color hair you’d like her to have.”

And with that we were all captivated. Yes, she twisted balloons into a fantastic form with uncommon skill. But, moreover, she read the mind and heart of a child, and celebrated a spirit that is often dismissively squashed. Yes, even Santa has second-guessed my son’s requests, and the cashiers at Target have questioned his choices. But the balloon artist? No, she was inspired by his creation. The result was one incredible mermaid and one ecstatic little boy.

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Boyish, Girlish or Scottish?

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Sam looks smashing in a skirt. As instructed by “Santa” we left the new outfit on the counter one evening so that Sam, our holiday elf, could stealthily slip into it. The kids were thrilled with the results in the morning. It was my son, our resident fashion adviser, who campaigned for the accoutrement. And it was my daughter, our fact-based literal thinker who decided that Sam could sport the skirt for two reasons:

One: Sam, who had always been referred to as a he, might actually be a she because the tight, red onesie doesn’t grant access to anatomical parts.

And two: Sam might be Scottish, and so a kilt is completely within reason.

It’s as if my daughter, four at the time she named Sam, knew that gender has no role in holiday cheer. We celebrate gender fluidity and creativity all year so it’s only fitting that we were granted an elf who blends right in with the family.

Boyish, girlish, Scottish… no matter. Sam is smashing.

P.S. To see what other elves are up to–naughty and nice–check out these hilarious ideas on Pinterest:

https://www.pinterest.com/jhudziak/crazy-elf-on-the-shelf-pics/

Unconventional Date Night

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Last weekend I volunteered my husband for a group camping excursion with my daughter. She was thrilled. He was less so. Off they went, leaving me on a mini-vacation. As anyone with children knows, the next best thing to unloading all of your kids is enjoying time with just one of them.

My son had big plans for us. We began with some holiday shopping–he has excellent taste and an appreciation for style that I lack. Barbie came with us of course. We read stories to one another–with his reading skills I have a new-found appreciation for Pinkalicious. We ate by candlelight–he insisted on a “fancy dinner” of ravioli, thereby foiling my plans of not cooking. A small price to pay for such a chivalrous gesture.Truly a homebody, he opted for two pieces of his Halloween loot in lieu of a trip to the ice cream store.

I think deep down my son cherishes tranquility as much as I do. He even noted at “fancy dinner” how nice the quiet was with just the two of us. After dinner we cuddled by the TV for a program, read some more and then he fell asleep as I snuggled with him in his bed, vying for space amid the dolls and animals.

It was, however unconventional, the best date night I’ve had in a while.

Brave Boy

Motherhood gives rise to various lose/lose situations over the years, with fashion responsible for more than several of them. Surely you can name instances of blaming your mother, “You never let me me wear what I wanted” as well as “I can’t believe you sent me out of the house like that.” My own recollections include Doc Martens (the former) and a certain Dorothy Hamill bowl haircut (the latter). Other questionable trends you might recall with nostalgia span feathered bangs, leggings with scrunchy socks and acid-washed denim jackets. And at the root of each missed opportunity and every regrettable outfit was your mom.

Just for a moment, though, let go of that hostility and step into her Keds shoes. It’s harder than it looks to guide your children through a world of constant and harsh judgment. It’s even harder on those of us whose kids have unconventional predilections. As a mother of two children who are each in their own right out-of-the-box thinkers and doers, I’m ever balancing my conflicting maternal instincts– one of which urges me to protect their vulnerability and the other to nurture their individuality.  To this end, Halloween is particularly stressful.

Spooky in origin, Halloween is actually a creepy night when wallflowers will transform themselves into Slutty Snow White and mansie-pansies into suave Magic Mike. Others perhaps are dripping with gore, or feigning super power.  People let loose, celebrating not who they are but who they could be when inhibitions disappear. They explore the other-worldly on a night when all limits are off.

Or are they?

Some lines just shouldn’t be crossed, such as when Prince Harry emerged as a Nazi. That was simply dumb. Others are more innocent. Cue my son, who makes a darling Merida this Halloween season. If you haven’t seen the movie Brave, you must, if only for the animation of Merida’s wild, fiery hair. Ironically, this was my son’s big draw to the character but now he doesn’t want to wear the defining wig. Herein lies the conflict. Clearly he is a boy in a dress, but with the wig, it’s less obvious. Protected by the wig his gender may go unnoticed as he parades around his new 1,000+ person school, complete with preschool-aged kids up to high school seniors. Without the wig, all bets are off. He is a boy in a dress.

Personally I have no problem with this. I am a woman who prefers to wear pants. This too used to be criticized and jeered– and not so long ago. It now sounds so silly doesn’t it?   I wish you’d all agree that pants and dresses don’t determine our worth as individuals, but that’s a naive request. For some reason not all of us are there yet. Articles celebrating gender creativity appear from time to time, each of which resonates profoundly. The most recent of note, from The New York Times Magazine (August), poignantly highlights boys wearing dresses.

Like several articles before it, this tells the stories of children living life unconventionally and parents supporting them unconditionally. Wouldn’t you do that for your child?

My mother thought she was doing right by the bowl haircut. I can assure you that it was wrong. So very wrong. Time will tell whether my purchasing the Merida outfit will be valued or resented. For now, what I can say with absolute certainty is that there are things much more twisted on Halloween than a boy in a gorgeous turquoise dress. Funny how if we are so concerned with what a child’s disguise implies about his or her future behaviors, decisions and lifestyles, that we condone– celebrate even– the blood-lusting, weapon-wielding, terror-seeking figments of horror portrayed by the conventional boy’s costume. I’d take unique over depraved any day. We witness too much violence in the world already. What we need to see more of are the awe-inspiring characters who encourage us all (and I write this in my best Scottish Princess voice) to follow our heartsto write our own story.

So when you see him, my brave boy, this Halloween give him a cheer. And maybe even an extra piece of candy for his mom. She deserves it.