Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Father In Him

Henry likes dolls. Today he walked into the living room holding a baby doll, left behind by one of his little friends who is, incidentally, also a boy. He patted the doll gently on the back and soothed her periodically, "shhhh, baby, ess ok." He cared for her needs very attentively for several minutes until he decided that he wanted to "take-um off baby clothes," to "see him belly button," at which point gentleness gave way to determined fury. I have friends, (mostly the kind that produce testosterone and grow chest hair,) who wouldn't stand for this kind of domestic play for a minute, reasoning that it will lead to tutu-wearing and excessive femininity, but I don't buy into that RealMenDon'tCry and BoysOnlyPlayWithGunsAndMonsterTrucks ideology. Because more than I want Henry to be a dead-eye marksman or the Monster Truck Rally Champion of the Universe, I want him to be a nice dad who doesn't awkwardly bobble his babies like sea urchins, and who isn't afraid to cry when he reads Where the Red Fern Grows.

I like this poem:

At the Church Christmas Party

My little Johnny, who was three,

Climbed with lights in his eyes onto Santa’s knee.

“And what would you like this year, my boy?

If I can I’ll bring your favorite toy.”

Johnny didn’t even need time to think.

“I want a dolly,” he said, “that will eat and drink.”

Twelve parents, at least, turned and looked at me

And a big man said suspiciously,

“Next year he’ll want a dress or two.”

I replied, “It’s the father in him coming through.”

“Well, that’s not what some folks say.

A kid’s character’s built by the way he’ll play.”

My little Johnny, who was three,

Climbed with lights in his eyes from Santa’s knee.

And the big man grinned as he watched his son

Ask Santa Claus for a tank and a gun.

--Carol Lynn Pearson

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