She pulled out a box of trinkets and we awaited my eldest son's choice.
His four year old little boy hand hovered over the plastic animals, little girls barrets and plastic rings with Disney princesses on them.
It was not long before his fingers scooped up a ring with Princess Tiana's face on it.
I blurted out almost immediately, "Are you sure that's really what you want? A ring?" As soon as I said those words I wished I could slap them back into my mouth. For if tables were turned and I had a little girl who chose a hot wheels car? I would be proud, thinking I was doing a wonderful job raising my girl without societies stifling ideas of what girls or boys 'should' or 'should not' be playing with. Because a girl that loves to play with cars? Is pretty badass. I loved to play with cars when I was a little girl...actually I still do thanks to having boys.
"Yes." He nodded emphatically. His face had that serious look of definite decision. So that was that. I paid for our purchases and he wore that Princess Tiana ring proudly on the ride back home. I could see him in the rear view mirror holding it up, admiring it like I did my new engagement ring 7 years ago.
My mind went into overload as it does when I drive...or walk...or sit...or read...or listen to music. I really disliked that part of my mind that was rampant with these double standards. It became uncomfortably clear to me that society had swayed me in a way I didn't wish to be swayed. In a way I never thought I could be swayed. Sure, wear pink! Purple! Play with dolls! Dress in princess costumes! He's done all of those things without it bothering me before. But when I second guessed his toy of choice...it made me realize I still had a ways to go. I'm still learning about all of this...I'm relatively new at this parenthood thing. Although that feeling probably never does go away. Maybe? Parenthood is definitely a work in progress...a constant evolution of revelations.
Did it matter that he was wearing a princess ring? That he loved it and was going to probably show it to all of his friends in the neighbourhood? Well. I guess that was what bothered me the most. Other kids reactions...other boys reactions. It was the fact that he was choosing something out of the 'norm' for a boy to choose. And I couldn't bear to see him teased.
As I watched him in the rear view mirror, so content with his newest costume addition a realization hit me like a large stone to my chest. I won't always be there to protect his feelings. I can't always be there to protect his heart. He will be starting JK in the fall and experiencing an entirely different world. As much as we always wish for our children to be clothed with our deflective armour it's not a reality. Life is not always happy go lucky, there are disappointments, bullies, messy emotions...all that and then some.
But at that moment he was one happy boy.
And ultimately that's all that truly matters in my children's life.