My grandson Christian is 3. Today was his first soccer game. From the minute he was born, he has always looked really serious. It is hilarious to watch him doing certain things while looking totally serious. Like his version of break-dancing, drawing a picture or painting (not dying) Easter eggs. How do you do that and maintain a straight face? When he finally gives us a smile, with great deep dimples on both sides like my mother, it is like the sun comes out. He is absolutely beautiful. But, his usual look is a serious one, as if he has matters of great importance to contemplate.
As a mother of three girls, and having grown up with 3 sisters, I have also been fascinated from the start at how Christian had such masculine traits at such a young age. I don’t think I’d really given it much thought before, or if I had, I would have though nurture played as big a role as nature. I’m not so sure now. Maybe I should have bought a clue when my first two daughters totally balked at playing T-ball. I don’t know if they’ve forgiven me to this day, for having them out there playing in the hot Florida sun. :-) At any rate, as a grandma (Nana!) who isn’t busy about the business of raising him, I get to look at things in a different way now, and I am constantly fascinated at how what society considers to be his masculine traits develop so young and without seemingly any input from the three females with which he lives. I promise you, we were not the ones who created his fascination with cars and trains. We just followed his lead. He did not get it from his Dad either. It is even more fascinating to me that the traits he exhibits are so subtle, but unmistakably those we associate with males, especially around leadership.
One of the things Christian has also always been fascinated with is flowers. He loves them. He loves to look at them, pick them for us, and to learn their names—even when he wants to name them himself. No matter how many times I tell him a dandelion is a dandelion, he insists it’s a sunflower :-) I get it. It certainly looks like a little sun. I teach him the names and tell him which ones he can pick in the garden and which ones he can’t. He loves smelling the flowers and herbs growing, and watching onion sets he poked into the earth sprout up just days later. He will stop dead in his tracks to look at, and most likely pick, a flower.
Today, after we parked for his game, on the way to the soccer field, he became excited at seeing the clover and dandelions (sunflowers…) along the way. I told him the names (with him still insisting the dandelions were sunflowers) and he picked a few.
I guess we really shouldn’t have been surprised that when he got on the playing field, being on the field would not have stopped him from picking the clover and seeded grass that apparently looked like blooms to him.
So, there he stood, looking very serious, in a group of little ones all dressed up in their soccer uniforms to play their first official soccer game, with a stem of clover in his hand, twirling this way and that, totally fascinated, as if he’d never seen it before.
Of course, the coach was talking to the team.
But Christian was more interested in his stem of clover. He turned and held it out to show his mother, his sister and me. Mortified, we said we saw it and told him to turn back around and listen to the coach.
This continued, the game started, and Christian ended up making the first goal, running down the field with a stem of clover in his hand, kicking the ball into the goal.
What?! Who does that?
I can remember in junior high school gym class being put out in the outfield playing softball and, like Christian, being more interested in looking at the flowers. But for me, I tuned out the game and concentrated on the flora, only tuning back in at the sound of my classmates roaring for me to run to the next base because someone had hit the ball. You can imagine how popular that made me when it came time to choose a team. Whatever…
While we congratulated him and hooted and cheered, Christian spied another clover flower, picked it, and joined his teammates and concentrated more on the clover flower than the coach talking.
Then he made the second goal, much like the first.
He made the third one too, but into the other team’s goal. :-)
He looked very serious and he held his clover and blades of seed grass the entire time.
I know there is a lesson in there somewhere. And I love it without even fully knowing what it is.
We don’t generally associate boys and flowers. We don’t generally associate flowers and soccer. We don’t generally associate boys and flowers and soccer.
But, Christian didn’t know that. What he knew is what was important to him. And he made it work. He multi-tasked listening to the coach, making three goals, and holding onto his clover and seeded grass blades.
I hate even thinking about the time that will inevitably come when he realizes, through omnipresent acculturation, that he is not “supposed” to be interested in flowers unless he’s studying them as a scientist or giving them to someone. Or that clover and dandelions are generally considered weeds. Or that because he is a boy, he can’t pick flowers while on the soccer field.
I hate thinking about how society ends up squashing who we really are and all we really can bring to the table, for the sake of conformity and ease in pigeon-holing people so we feel some measure of control about the predictability of our surroundings. Look at all we gain when people can bring their entire selves to the table.
When that inevitable time eventually happens with Christian (and I’m sure it will be much sooner than I’d like), I know he will ignore me when I tell him how he can do all three and it will be ok, because he will still make the goals just fine like he always did.
He will simply look at me very seriously with those incredibly beautiful big brown eyes and tell me he will no longer pick flowers, but only make goals.
I will be sad.