There are Lots of Ways to be a Boy.


If there was a day at the hospital after giving birth when they handed out instruction manuals and rule books; I missed it. Perhaps I was too busy gazing into the eyes of the most handsome men I had ever laid eyes on. Perhaps I was falling deeply in love with my babies. Perhaps I was struggling to master breast feeding. Or perhaps I was simply marveling in the pure joy all around me.

Never the less; I missed the “how to” day at the hospital. And even if I had attended, even if that was a real thing they offered to first time parents, there is no way they could cover every single thing. Every obstacle you may encounter. Every triumph you will experience. Every struggle you will navigate. Every decision you will second guess.

So we go out into the world and we become experts in the art of “winging it”. We make decisions we are uncertain of. We navigate obstacles we don’t understand. We lead with love and we hope for the best.

And every day we navigate things we never expected along our parenting journey.

Case in point.

My four year old son wears dresses. He has a beautiful imagination filled with magic and princesses and happily ever afters. He loves to wear dresses and jewelry and wigs and sparkly shoes. He likes to unhook his glasses strap so he can pretend it is a ponytail. He finds random things around the house and turns them into fashion accessories.

When he plays pretend he is usually a princess. Or a damsel in distress. He talks about being a bride and getting married in a dress. He only sings the girl part of most Disney duet songs. He sings and twirls and dances his way through life. He is filled with joy from the top of his wig to the bottom of his sparkly toes.

He started dressing up when he was two years old. It started with my shirts that he pretended were dresses. And his love for dressing up in all the beautiful thing just kept growing.

He does not understand why he has to wear black leggings to dance when the girls in his class can wear pink and purple tutus. He does not understand why he cannot wear dresses to school. He does not understand why anyone else would care what he is wearing. Because he is so sure of who he is. And because he is happy.

And I get that it might be shocking to see a little boy in a princess dress. I understand that other boys his age are playing sports and running wild.

But here is the thing; he is doing those things too. He does the things that make him happy; all of the things. And as his mom my most important job is to love and support him while he figures out who he is.

I give him the freedom to express himself. But, I also set boundaries. I buy him dresses and wigs. But, I also buy him sport shorts and t-shirts with bugs on them. I tell him that I love him every day. I embrace all of the pieces of him. I want him to know that no matter how he chooses to present himself to the world that he will always be my son first.

This is my son. He is wildly creative and confident. He is un-apologetically who is every single day. And the best part about that is that he doesn’t even know who he is yet. But he is figuring it out a little more every day.

One day at a time.

One creative make believe story at a time.

One fort creation at a time.

One Disney princess fashion show at a time.

One play-doh masterpiece at a time.

One dance class at a time.

One basketball practice at a time.

Each and every experience will play an important part of shaping the person he will become. Even dressing up in princess gowns.

Maybe he will grow out of it. Maybe not. The fact the matter is that either way; I don’t care. I only care that he keeps his spark. Keeps his magic. I only hope that he finds who he is and holds tight to it. That he continues to live a life that is bold and creative. That he never worries what other people need him to be. Or need him to do. Or need him to think. Or need him to wear.

This is my simple truth, the only thing I will every truly need my children to be; is happy. The rest just doesn’t really matter.


Color Inside & Outside of the Lines

ColoringAnyone raising children understands just how unique each child is. Before you start a family you innocently marvel at all of the wondrous possibilities for your family. “I’ll have three kids! Heck, make it 7.” Because you will totally nail the whole parenting gig. And after the first child you will know basically everything there is to know about raising a child, right? Wrong.

I am raising two children who are completely different from each other. They have been different in so many ways from the very beginning. Sleep patterns, eating habits, milestone progression, clothing preferences, interests, personality. The list of differences goes on and on. When I found out I was having a second boy I thought “Great! I’ll be able to reuse all of the same clothes.” But even that commonality has proven fruitless due to their different personalities and different. Because my children are different. They like different things. They express themselves differently. They are each unique and special in a million different ways.

My oldest son has autism spectrum disorder. His diagnosis came at have 2, just months before my youngest son’s 1st birthday. I was already seeing the stark differences between my two children. But in a way I cannot fully explain; receiving a diagnosis really magnified the differences.

My oldest son seeks routine and patterns and order. He likes it when life fits nice and neatly inside of a box. He does not like when we veer off course. He likes to know what is coming. He likes to be prepared. He remembers even the smallest details about every experience. He makes methodical and well-thought out decisions and commits fully to the coarse he is on. He likes to play with games and toys that provide structure. If we sit down to build he wants to build exactly what we built the last time. It is difficult for him to see familiar things in a new way. He sees the world in only black and white.

My youngest son is sporadic and whimsical. There is no rhyme or reason to anything that he does. He gallivants through life infusing fun and imagination into everything he does. He likes to dress up and play new games every day. His mind is full of imaginary lands and out of this world adventures. He makes quick decisions and changes his mind often. He loves to be surprised and to make imaginative guesses about what the surprise might be. Every day he does things in a new and unique way. He sees the world in so many bright brilliant colors.

If you read through the descriptions above you would likely believe me if I told you that my oldest son colors inside of the line, while my youngest son has zero regard for the lines. Except that is not true. The exact opposite in fact. My oldest son refuses to color inside of the line and my youngest son colors perfectly inside of the lines.

I don’t understand it. It actually makes zero logical sense. Everything about my oldest son screams order and structure. Yet when he pics up his crayons to color the result is chaotic and unstructured and completely outside of the line. While everything about my youngest son screams whimsical and free from boundaries and structure. And somehow when he sits down to color the product perfectly precise and inside of the lines.

I think the way my boys color is a perfect example that no person is just one way all of the time. There are pieces inside of all of us that are structured and whimsical and organized and chaotic. At certain points in life we all color inside and outside of the lines.

I like that they are each able to depart from the normal constructs of their personalities from time to time. It makes me feel secure in the fact that they will be able to adapt and find a home no matter what the circumstances. And it will be our job to teach them how to call on different parts of who they are as they navigate through life.

I am not sure if my sons will ever be more “the same.” They are being raised in the same home with the same morals and the same family structure. And yet they are still very different.  I hope that we can hang on to the difference. I like the way that Is provides so much variety and difference into our life. I like the way it helps us to talk to our boys about all of the ways that other people can be different from us.

I think more importantly than whether you color perfectly inside of the lines or color without bounds; color the way you want to. Express yourself the way you want to. Be the way you want to. But do not limit yourself to being just one way. Be messy in some ways and ordered in others. Give in some instances and take in others. Give your life structure and find time for a little chaos.

Color inside and outside the lines as you please. In art. In life. In all things that you do.