“What you got in there?” a stranger asks nodding to the stroller I’m pushing as I’m going about my day with my four kids.
“A little boy,” I reply, knowing exactly what’s coming.
“Ah, you finally got your boy!”
I smile. You’d think by now I’d have a quirky comeback, I’ve been getting the same comments for over three years.
It started after my first son, baby number three, was born and the conversation usually ended with the kind stranger letting me know I can be done having babies now. But there’s been a recent resurgence in the events and they always turn awkward as I point out that I, in fact, now have two boys: the baby in the stroller and my three-year-old.
I’ve always blamed it on his long hair, my inability to let go of his blonde surfer locks that he naturally had before daddy and grandpa cut off all his wispy baby hair I so adored. Friends and family are always shocked by the comments, pointing out how he’s clearly dressed like a boy in his blue hues, dinosaurs, trains and airplanes and little leather loafers. They’re confused by how people could even think he’s a girl standing next to his two big sisters in their sparkly pink and purple ruffled dresses, tunics and leggings they adore.
But I’ve noticed something recently. There is something about his silvery eyes, round cheeks, soft smile, long eyelashes and silky skin which is a stark difference from the Petri dish of newborn skin conditions he started out with.
And as I brush the long hair out of his eyes with his bedtime kisses, I see it: I have a pretty son.
Yet behind his long locks and gentle features, he’s your stereotypical boy. Rough and loud with non-stop energy. Obsessed with fire trucks, weapons and farts. He’s covered in bumps, scrapes, bruises and sports a gnarly gash on his upper lip from a run-in with the wall while playing tackle zombie brains.
He plays with the same toys as his sisters and has grown up with more sequins and princesses around than they ever had. Except he pushes baby buggies filled with blocks into the walls instead of carefully driving baby dolls. He builds guns instead of houses. He lines up princess figures then crashes them down. He cooks me meals in the play kitchen then throws the food all around. He dresses up in Mary Jane tap shoes and feather boas then stomps around the house while chasing the cats with a sword.
He’s always been different from his sisters. My second daughter is high-energy, but not like him. My eldest daughter is loud, but not like he is. My girls like trains, too, but they don’t squeal in delight every time we see one or cry because the firetrucks didn’t come when they got hurt.
These are all things that are a part of who he’s always been, from the first little wiggle in my belly to the first snuggle in my arms. He doesn’t know he’s seen differently from other boys. He doesn’t understand that his hair and sweet smile make everyone think he’s something other than what he is.
And he doesn’t care. He’ll proudly proclaim “but me a big boy!” when I tell him he isn’t allowed to do something. He’ll gladly explain that the difference between him and girls like me is who does and does not have a penis.
I may get sideways looks and uncomfortable comments about my son. And I’ll probably have to continue dealing with these awkward conversations unless I decide to cut his hair but I don’t really mind because his long hair and eyelashes don’t define who or what he is.
I may have a pretty son but none of it changes what he’s made of.