I have to admit it, I just couldn't get into this birthday celebration.
Most of the time I'm excited about celebrating the birth of my children, it's not just a day for them to get presents and eat as much frosting as possible, but it's a day for me to reflect on their life, my experiences as their mother, and to remember all of the joy I had the moment they entered the world. This year was different though, Theo ages quickly, it feels like this 4T wearing, physically huge, very smart, very ambitious child was already three. It has always been a challenge parenting him because he's just older and bigger than his age in every way. But now, as I look at his behavior at the dinner table the night before his birthday, I think, "well, he's only two." But in reality, tomorrow morning he won't be any "older", his behaviors won't change for a few more months, and we'll actually be in the three-nager stage instead of knocking on it's door. Now people will think I'm lying less when I tell them his age, but they still won't believe me when I say he's three and not five, and even though he's old enough for preschool and some enrichment programs, he still has squishy features, loves footed pajamas and wants to snuggle. He's always hated the word "baby" let alone being called one, but when I look at him I see how he still is one.
Maybe it's his age that was bothering me, maybe it was the fact that he couldn't nail down the type of birthday party he wanted, we went between horse and pony party, zoo party, Elsa party, Super hero party, Spider-Man party and sports party a million times. Maybe it was because my husband was gone, maybe it's because we were living in a new place and he didn't have any friends to celebrate with. I don't really know, I just knew I wasn't as "together" as I wanted to be for this birthday. So I figured that since I wasn't prepared for this birthday, I could be prepared for something: I was going to get him whatever he asked for.
For weeks I had been asking him what he wanted, there were two things that were consistent: a Spider-Man costume and an Elsa Dress, with crown, and braid. I double checked about 100 times with him to find out if this is really wanted and he always said yes. So, I went online and selected exactly what he asked for. I told my husband that's what Theo wanted, and he said, "get the kid a dress, it's what he wants" and that's when I hit the "complete order" button and smiled, I married a good one.
On the 21st, we had an Elsa party, Theo picked out the Frozen themed cupcakes from Kroger and we went out that morning to buy some Elsa balloons. When it was time to open presents, I couldn't wait. I got just as excited as he was. His eyes were already huge at the notion of presents, but when he tore off the paper and saw the Elsa braid and crown, he was so happy. He wanted it on immediately. When he opened the dress, he demanded it go on right away, in fact, we stopped opening the rest of the presents so he could make himself "beautiful".
I couldn't believe it, Theo put on the dress, braid, crown, slippers and gloves. He spoke softly, he held himself differently, more feminine. He asked if he looked beautiful. He danced around the living room to "Let it Go" and asked to look at himself in the mirror. We obliged and played along and had fun doing so. I was in shock as this dress transformed my Thornado of a child into... a princess! Hanky complimented him on his dress and how pretty he looked. I just couldn't believe what was happening in my living room.
After insisting that I put my hair in braids like Anna, and after singing "Let it Go" about four times, we opened the rest of the gifts.
Next up was the Spider-Man costume. Theo, just as excited about that costume as he was about Elsa. He asked we remove the dress and he put on the Spidey suit. As soon as he had on the Spider-Man gloves he was transformed yet again into a crime fighting, bad guy stopping Super Hero. He jumped off the couch and landed in a "Spider-Man pose", he wrinkled his nose, furrowed his brows and used a deeper, more aggressive tone of voice. He became Spidey, just like he became Elsa.
I truly could not believe my eyes, before me, I had the most rough and tumble boy switching back and forth between a "boy" character and a "girl" character. And each time he did it his actions and tone changed, his body language changed, he changed. I don't think I'll ever forget how he tried to get into the toy cabinet to grab his Elsa, Anna and Olaf barbie toys but couldn't open the door because the baby swing was in the way. Instead of being his usual self and throwing everything in his path away, he asked for Hank to help. Hank was wearing the Spider-Man costume.
"Hanky help me! You're stwonger, you're Spider-Man," he cried from across the room.
Hank was too busy to help out as he was landing like Spidey jumping off the coffee table and couch. I looked at my sister and back at Theo. "Theo, you can move it, you're strong too!"
"No I'm not."
"Yes you are. Elsa is a Queen and she is the ruler of a whole kingdom. She's brave and strong as she goes off into the mountains to figure herself out. She made a castle out of ice! Of course you can move that swing." He just looked at me, once he realized that I was right, he picked up the swing and moved it out of his way so he could get at his Frozen toys.
Did my son really just believe that a girl wasn't strong enough or mighty enough? Does he really think that Spider-Man is tougher than Elsa? Apparently so, and I can see that in his behaviors and the way he portrays each character when he's dressed as them.
For a child who has NEVER seen a super-hero-action show in his life, and has only seen Frozen one time, for a child who has only been in school for two weeks, and for a child who has parents who encourage creativity, being yourself and being open to all walks of life, I was completely surprised to experience this with him.
How could it be possible?
After the hype of presents was gone, the boys went downstairs to play. I came downstairs after cleaning up to find Hank dressed as ELSA! This is a child who has said, "I don't want to go down that aisle, it's the girl aisle because it's all pink" and "I don't like Princesses". We've always responded with "There are no girl or boy toys, and Dad wears pink". But to see him be fully supportive of his brother in a princess dress made my heart melt to see that he was just as welcoming and open as we are trying to raise him. But when he had the dress on, I just stood there with my mouth open. He too wanted to see how he looked. He mentioned that he liked wearing a dress because there was more room for his legs, but he didn't like how it got cold under the dress. He asked for an Anna dress to play with so he could play with his brother. He left it on for the remainder of the night as the boys played Super-Hero-Princess and saved us from all evil and bad magic. It was a moment that I'll remember for ever, it was a birthday that I will never forget.
That night after convincing the boys that they shouldn't sleep in the costumes, I came down to look at Facebook. I wanted to post the pictures of Theo and Hank dressed up as Elsa but was afraid of some potential nasty comments from a particular group of Facebook Friends. I vividly remember a day I responded to a parent as she commented on Theo's Doc McStuffins pink socks while he was baby wearing. I quickly and bluntly said, "What's wrong with him wearing pink and playing with a doll? You mean I'm teaching him to be a great big brother and how to be a great dad?" She didn't ever say anything to me about his love of dolls again. And I was fearful of what people may say on the internet, because let's be honest, we all think the internet makes us invincible and we all are a little more mean there. I posted them anyway, why should I be afraid of what they were going to say? My kid was happy and that's all that mattered.
In the morning I had lots of "likes" and comments in support of Theo and his dress and not one negative thing. One person said I was a great mom, but I simply responded, "In this house we like what we like, we are who we are and who doesn't love Let it Go"? I'm not a great mom. I'm a good mom who would do anything for her child. I would never let my boys, or my daughter do anything that was harmful to themselves or others, but if they feel like doing something out of the norm, then why stop them? There are way bigger battles to fight along the road, exploring what is familiar to them, pretending to be something they idolize and letting them figure out who they are is more important.
This birthday that I was under prepared for and sort of dreading, actually turned out to be one of the best birthdays. Seeing his joy as we sang to him, seeing the excitement as he tore off wrapping paper even though it was Christmas paper, and seeing the delight as he played with his new toys made me remember what it's all about: him.