My daughter Kala came to us about a week before her 3 rd birthday and announced in a cheerful voice:
I don't want Barney at my party anymore, I want a Spiderman Party, because I am a boy.
As it was only half past five in the morning, on a dark and gloomy winters day, I just yawned and mumbled: oh, that's nice darling, let's talk about it later.
Hoping of course that she'd forget all about it by breakfast time, as we had already booked the themed Barney venue including a garish purple dinosaur cake. But as the day progressed she asked me at 5 minute intervals whether I had organised her Spiderman party, giving me no choice but to phone the party people and pray that by Saturday she won't turn into a frog and we'd have to spray the walls green and all wear gumboots to her pond party....
Now I know some things about phases and stages in a three year olds life as I have been there before with Leah, who transformed from princess to helicopter pilot to fairy to brat-girl and back again within days.
But Kala showed an impressive amount of consistency in all the 7 or so days leading up to her birthday party. Not only did she stick with the I-am-now-a-boy theme, she raised the bar by changing her name to Maxi and only responding to her own given name for long stretches of time - without prior notice of course.
If it was a Maxi-day, she would simply ignore any comments, suggestions or questions when addressed as Kala. There were moments during the first couple of days, when I was getting worried about her hearing or her ability to concentrate or some new form or autism, only to realise that I had called her by the wrong name. As soon as I would repeat whatever I had said but addressed Maxi instead of Kala, she'd immediately engage with a distinct undertone of buoyant glee and a triumphant glimmer in her eye.
On her birthday she finalised her transformation by refusing to wear anything that had the color pink in it, anything with flowers, butterflies or fairies, no skirts or ruffles or leggings or t-shirts that could be mistaken for dresses. Which pretty much ruled out her entire wardrobe.
Except for her new Spiderman Pyjamas, which came in handy as her chosen party outfit for the day.
Needless to say, the party was a great success. Barney was finally reunited with Spiderman - apparently they had been separated at birth - , our new 3 year old boy came officially out and she might have even helped one or two boy- princesses along in the process....
After the life changing event, I packed away the pyjamas and sort of hoped that life would now resume in it's old ways, where Kala is just Kala and the Spiderman persona retires until her next birthday (or maybe her final coming out party at 16 or so....).
Of course it did not turn out this way, otherwise, what's the point of blogging about it, right? The next day, she demanded her pyjamas back and I could only coax her into getting dressed in fairly neutral clothes by offering a trip to the next department store to stock up on themed boy's outfits.
From here on there was no looking back. It has been over 6 months now, and we had to invest in new shoes (only Ben 10 flip flops or bafana-socker-shoes in her cupboard), buy a truly scary pirate cap and even cut her hair for the first time in her life as she was threatening to take scissors to her own head.
We had heated discussions amongst us and with friends and fellow parents about how far and how long we could let this go on for without consulting a professional, how to deal with people's reactions, her sisters questions, our own prejudiced minds about what is acceptable, possible or normal in this world.
At the end of each of those sometimes lighthearted and funny, sometimes helpless and angst-ridden conversations, it only became clear that all we could do was learn from the only specialist in this particular field: Kala herself (or Maxi himself). It also helped to re-read the somewhat worn into a cliche(from hanging on too many Eco-toilet walls) poem by Khalil Gibran about our children.
Yes, it never hurts to challenge my own prejudiced mind and do some good old fashioned Kumbaya-ing along with ageing hippies from my own generation in order to get in touch with the wisdom of my heart-center. Read it again, if you haven't done so in a while and you might be surprised what suddenly jumps out at you, infused with new meaning. This was the one sentence that got me:
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
Where I may have understood this sentence on a purely intellectual level before, it now brought home a whole new emotion filled meaning. Instead of worrying about my daughter, because she won't conform with a socially accepted image of a girl/woman that is ultimately me (more or less, if you don't know too much about me that is :-)) - I can use this unique opportunity to learn how to become more like her.
I have never in my life come across a person who is so true to herself: uncompromisingly, happily and unconcerned about what anybody may think. Where I have to work hard to overcome my life long conditioning to fit the social mould, striving to eventually become my true empowered self, my daughter is still effortlessly authentic. Even when faced with the many challenges that come with being "different", she reacts only with humor and wisdom (or a well aimed punch to the head if her still limited vocabulary fails her from time to time - which I am NOT encouraging of course - but can't help admiring :-))
When told by a friend's mother, that she is not a "real" boy because she does not have a penis (really!) - she calmly replied: So? I am going to buy one at Woolworth.... (in the newly opened penis department - in case you didn't know). I could not have suggested a better response to her - and she came up with this within miliseconds of the offending remark!
So from today on I make the conscious decision to quit worrying about her - and start trusting in her.
To go with the flow and at the pace she decides she wants to grow.
Hoping that she will be happy in HER body as she grows up, as the idea of having to chop off bits here and add other bits there really scares me - but for today I am not challenging this remnant of my own conditioning as we are nowhere near that bridge.
Today I am happy that I have a daughter who chooses to be a beautiful, strong, happy boy with a heart big enough for the whole world and it's neighbouring planets.
And who knows: by tomorrow we might all decide to become superheroes and wear our Pyjamas to work....
I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them
I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them
You found my blog and as I am experimenting with the weird and wonderful world of cyber publishing, let me explain what a gunna is: it's a word for all things desirable, something that makes us happy and warm and comforts us when we feel tired or sad or lonely. a gunna is the best gadget in the world! it was leah s first word for all things she wanted. Or you might also know it as: dummy, schnulli, pacifier binky, schnuller...... and so on. So this is for my beautiful