Col is practicing his BB gun skills. We bring the gun on hikes, promising shooting time after just a little more walking; this works in exactly the same way a bag of bakery treats works for Rose.
Raising a boy is a continuing education for me. I’m hugely invested in maintaining closeness with Col as he grows, though the intersection of our interests is a stark place with lots of open seats. He loves throwing the football, studying airplanes, drawing, target shooting, making fires, engineering, building and Legos. And I like, I don’t know, making sauerkraut and then writing about it.
Rose’s world is also one I often peer into like a bewildered foreigner. Rose spends a lot of time brushing, braiding and coloring (with markers) various Barbie, pony and doll hair. One blink later, the hair is hacked – flaxen strands confettied across our floor – like Barbie finally decided to kick the patriarchy’s beauty stereotypes to the curb. My role is clear here: Hand Rose the broom.
When Col was a very small baby – the term “preemie” following his very person the way “writer” will always attach itself to Stephen King – I had just a few wishes for him. They were not that he and I share hobbies. No, they were on the order of: Please let his brain work OK. Sometimes they were more specific: Please allow him to master sucking, swallowing and breathing simultaneously.
I won’t lie and say that watching Rose paw wild berries into her mouth on a plant walk I led this summer didn’t inflate me with happiness. “She knows her wild plants! She learned that from me!” I celebrated. It’s also true that I feel just the smallest bit of envy for the hours of fellowship Dan and Col share in BB gun shooting competitions.
Recently, I asked the kids, dangling snazzy seed packets in front of them: Who wants to help me plant the fall cold frames? When they apologetically opted to instead jump on the neighbor’s trampoline, I felt the merest bit of disappointment. And yet, my truest wish for my children is that they wake up curious every day. That they find wholesome things to which they can joyfully devote their time. That they feel free to search for their own life meaning. The particulars are none of my business.
I think of my friend who gave birth to a boy, who at 4 years old made it very clear that inside where no one could see, he felt like a girl. He needed his family’s help to become a girl on the outside, too. His parents cried, researched and discussed, and then they did the next right and hard thing: They bought their daughter dresses and hair clips, switched pronouns and observed her new, chosen name. Our children’s dreams may not be our own, but this family’s courage, acceptance and love will always light a spark of inspiration in my heart.
Col came into our room at a dark and early hour this morning. I lifted the covers on my right (saving room for Rose’s eventual arrival on my left) and he nestled down like the professional snuggler he is. We held each other, and I breathed in his boy-scent, and we talked about airplane design. He told me about how he’s learning to draw ailerons so they look 3-D. I smiled, glad for his enthusiasm (even if I had to ask what ailerons were) and certain that all was absolutely right.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.