Lego. Cars. Meccano. Paper planes. Rocks in pockets. Blocks. Dirt.
Forget ADIDAS. My life is ADIPUL: All Day I Pick Up Lego. Lego breeds under the cushions of the couch, in the back seat of the car; it spontaneously appears in my pockets and my handbag. I welcome it however, for the same reason I welcome sand: it absorbs his attention and provides moments of peace with relatively little damage. Before he gets onto the next task, like painting my car with mustard or giving himself a punk haircut.
Being outside always helps. Climbing trees, picnics, picnics in trees.
I’ve tried to protect my boy. I’m afraid I’m still new at this job.
I wanted to provide him with opportunities for roleplay, practise at being kind and compassionate. And I don’t want to lock him into rigid gender roles. So I bought him dolls as well as trucks, princess books and ballet slippers. I tried my hardest to remove gender bias in his upbringing.
He used his teddies and dolls firstly as cargo in his dump trucks. As he grew older, he played short enthusiastic roleplays with them about wee and poo, tossing them across the room when he was done. Then they sat in the little toy cot, gathering dust for months until I gave up on the idea. This year I took my son’s dolls to the op shop. He hasn’t missed them. I felt sick as I handed them over; what if no one takes them and loves them? But they weren’t getting loved in our house.
I didn’t give up. Would you buy your son the pink fairie dress he wanted in the op shop? He was five. As soon as he got on the school bus, the other kids started asking ‘why are you wearing a dress?’. I’m not a cruel parent – I packed a change of clothes and told him where and how to get changed if he wanted to. He was still wearing the dress at the end of the day.
He’s pretty comfortable in his own skin.
And he likes his own skin to get muddy. Completely painted with mud. Or lolling in a warm seaweed bath.
He likes to move and climb and run and push and twirl. Sometimes I can harness this energy in a useful way. Sometimes he just ends up stabbing the bookcase with a screwdriver, or painting the rug with red wine.
Even his drawings are full of movement. This is the most important thing to record: the way things move.
And monsters. And wee and poo. Even in the same drawing.
He pushes me to the edge of my limits. Past my limits. I often don’t know what to do with this chaos, crudeness, defiance, destruction. He requires me to seek out good men, to strengthen my boundaries, to increase my patience.
He’s taught me how to take things apart, how to find compassion in my anger and what was at the back of the plastics cupboard. He takes me into the darkest places in myself.
He pulls me up into the trees, down onto the ground to make ramps for cars, to eat salt off the rocks, to wrestle, explore, protect and delight.