My dude

I have been commenting a bit less on blogs these days.  I am still reading, I promise, but y’all are writing an awful lot and if I commented on all those posts, well, I’d never see my kids.  And then what would I write about?


           Benjamin, as I have mentioned before, is strongly anti-mitten.  Mittens, in his opinion, are designed for the sole purpose of restricting his tactile involvement with the world.  He has, however, lately softened his approach, demonstrating a willingness to wear gloves, at least, on what I refer to as “Bronte Days” here in London.  (These are the days I picture meeting Heathcliff on the moors in winds so fierce they could shear your nipples right off.)

             He seems to have recognized that my efforts to encourage mitten-usage are maternal concern, not maniacal, controlling, and creative attempts at torturing him.  He does not always consent to wear the gloves, but he has become less offended by the mere suggestion.

            So it was that, one recent weekend afternoon, we went out for a walk and I tucked his gloves into my pocket.  Our “walks” lately do not get very far.  Zach is on his scooter, but he gets awfully frustrated, because Benjamin is moving on his own agenda.  Pushing the doll’s carriage.  We make quite a sight on the streets of Southwest London, where gender stereotypes for babies and toddlers are all the rage.  Ben is very tall for his age and all torso, built like a brick outhouse with limbs, and he is also the only eighteen-month-old boy in a two mile radius to be seen plodding down the road behind his baby.  If the doll slumps over, he stops, looks at me, and says “baby,” while attempting to straighten it up.  He refuses to proceed until his progeny is comfortable once again.  Sometimes, he ditches the stroller and carries the doll instead.  He’s a new-age kind of parent, and he has taken a page from William and Martha Sears.  He is all about baby-wearing.

            It surprises me how many smiles he gets, how many people actually comment on how cute it is.  This is a neighborhood where little girls wear dresses every single day in the summer and many days in the winter, even just to climb the monkey bars at the playground.  When Zach wanted pink shorts, it was very hard to find them, because the boys don’t wear pink and the girls don’t wear shorts.  Since ours is the house where once-upon-a-time Zachary breastfed his panda bear, a pink doll’s house rises up between the large bin of vehicles and the toy farm, and it is a toss-up whether the play kitchen or the train set is the favorite plaything, we often stand out in a society that embraces gender stereotypes so fully.  Yet, people love to see my little guy charging down the street, stopping now and then to kiss his baby doll.

            Zachary can only wait patiently though so much of this, and on the day in question, when Benjamin stopped two doors away from our house to pull out his baby and carry it the rest of the way, his older brother scooted on ahead and knocked for his father to let him in.  Ben, however, had more immediate concerns.  He held his baby.  He examined its little hands.  He looked up at me.

            “Baby,” he said.  “Cole.” 

            “The baby is cold?” I asked.

            “Baby… cole… mitten.”  He looked up, brown eyes wide and serious, as he gently fingered the bare doll hands.  “Baby… baby… cole… mitten… baby… cole.”

            “You want to put mittens on the baby?”

            Ben learned the word “no” long ago.  “Yes” is a different story.  Instead of saying it, his whole face acts it out, lighting up with a mischievous smile and enthusiastic head-nodding, often accompanied by a full-throttle laugh.  And so it was that, ten feet from our front door, we found ourselves pulling out the gloves I had brought along, just in case my baby needed them, and fitting them onto his baby’s little hands, instead.

28 responses to “My dude

  1. that is absolutly precious!! and ben will be glad to know there is probably little need for mittens in LA 🙂

  2. Ahhh, that is too sweet and it shows that he really got the concept, eh? 😉

  3. who could keep a stiff upper lip in the face of such pure love?

  4. But would Heathcliff still love Cathy without her nipples?

    Oh, wait, that wasn’t the point of the post was it?

    I concur with the previous commenters: very sweet, indeed.

  5. Awww…can I say how much I love that you foster your boys nurturing sides?

    And you know, BTDT about kid mittens going to the baby. Well okay not mittens since we do not need them here, but shoes and the like.

  6. the sweetest post, Emily. Oscar and Ben would get along well, i think…two little mitten-hating, brick-shithouse-built boys carrying along their babies, being as loving and as nurturing as can be.

    i’m really surprised, actually, that England appears even more traditionally and rigidly gendered than here in backwoods Canada. go figger.

  7. awww…that is so sweet! My little one also hates mittens, always has.

  8. You go Ben! We attended a wedding (okay, actually my non-religious husband performed it) in Alaska once where one of the guest’s 4 year old son solemnly carried his baby-doll in a front-pack all the way up the mountain and tenderly “shushed” it throughout the ceremony. His Texas-born, tobacco-chewin’ father declares that so long as his son will still go fishing with him he doesn’t give a damn WHAT the kid wants to do.

  9. Bless his little heart 🙂

  10. This is the cutest thing ever!

  11. How much do I love that Ben has a baby, that he pushes in a stroller, and that he put mittens on his baby’s cole, cole hands?

    Too, too sweet. Whatever girl finally snags him is one lucky thing. He’s going to be awesome as a dad. 😀

  12. Aw. He’s a good daddy.

  13. That is wonderful. I think it’s great that your boys break stereotypes (why on earth should boys not have babies? they likely will when they grow up!). And the image of you putting dolls on Ben’s baby…priceless! 🙂

  14. What a sweet boy! I have tried to encourage mittens, because getting little one’s fingers in all the right places in the gloves drives me BATTY. Maybe a post topic of my own 🙂

  15. Awe! What a sweet nurturing little man. I love it!

  16. Fantastic post– it really brings the boys alive and is so sweet. (I also love the reference to the Sears).

  17. awww. i loved this post. loved it. serious props to you for nurturing your boys’ desires, even if they fly in the face of convention.

  18. Okay. I know I said that several of your most recent posts were my favorite. But I was wrong about them. They were fine. But this one is my new favorite. I love how you describe his face…I love how you describe “YES”…wonderful!

  19. I love this post! So sweet!!!

  20. jeez…make me CRY already…

  21. What a sweet boy.

    Also, I think I’ve figured out why women in Bronte’s day wore those corseted dresses. Crisis averted.

  22. i’m getting to know your boys through your words. and the more i know them, the more i like them.

    they are dear.

  23. Gender stereotyping – that’s an interesting topic. Seriously, I don’t think I have seen any pink shorts or even pants being sold for boys. To find a red one would be tough enough, don’t even talk about pink!

  24. awww….don’t you just love them? really.

  25. That is totally charming. Totally.

  26. I love that you let him cross the gender lines once in a while. Manly men take good care of their babies.

  27. Girls in dresses all the time? Wow. Every one, boys and girls included, should own pink shorts at some point in their life.

  28. Oh, Emily. That story is just too precious. I found myself getting all teary eyed thinking about your baby taking such good care of his baby.

    Our little kitchen is definitely a favorite toy in this house. The boys “cook” me breakfast every morning.