Monday, August 18, 2008

My Son, the Model

It's weird enough having a not-quite-4-year-old son who's more into fashion than I am. It's even weirder to have said son work the camera like nobody's business.

While at the Baltimore Zoo last week, Declan lagged behind the others so he could climb up on some rocks. Great, I thought; a nice boyish activity. But he wasn't looking to climb and jump and possibly scrape his knee. He was looking to pose:

Back at home, when Daddy wanted to take some pictures of Declan to forever immortalize his first (of many, I'm sure) black eye, Declan took it as an invitation to work it:

I've been reading a lot lately about gender confusion; I've even contributed some of the reading myself (see the Little Boy Pink essay I wrote about Declan's princess phase last year). But I think the so-called gender confusion is displaced; our kids aren't confused, but maybe we are.

I remember when Erika was 2, the height of her girly-girl stage. She insisted on wearing dresses all the time, preferably garish and pouffy dress-up dresses. She would no sooner play with a truck than she would an electric fence. She was a girl to the extreme. The exact opposite of Amy.

I, of course, found this hysterical: here was Amy, who basically lived in track pants and oversized t-shirts (she's a little better now), with a daughter that longed to teach Amy a thing or two about fashion. Erika was the last thing Amy expected.

Then there's my cousin Darlene, who's pretty girly herself. Her first daughter, Nancy, however, preferred football to fancy dresses. Nancy, I'm sure, was the last thing Darlene expected.

I think it's only natural for us to have certain expectations of our children. From the moment we find out the gender of our child, we start to fantasize about his or her future, try to picture what he or she will be like as a toddler, a teen, an adult. And even though I consider myself fairly evolved, when I pictured Declan's future it wasn't as a fashion designer or male model. But why not?

Now, Erika has shunned dresses for jeans and is happy to play pirates with the boys or pick up frogs outside (something her macho father refuses to do). Nancy (willingly) got her hair and make-up done for her aunt's wedding, though she still spends Sundays at Giants games with her dad. And Declan loves to pose for the camera. And bake cookies. And he can't wait for gymnastics class to start in a few weeks. But he also loves swords and jumping and wrestling with his brother.

I know I harbor misguided expectations of my boys, and I'm trying really hard to let them go. I'm trying hard not to see Ronan, my rough-and-tumble tough guy, as a footballer. I'm trying not to be so surprised when I find out that little tough guy loves to draw, and at 2 1/2 can already draw representatively.

When I look at Molly, I try to see a blank slate. And it's working. I can't quite see her future yet, or even know what I want for her. Just happiness, of course. And that's gender neutral.

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