At my son’s most recent two year wellness visit, he was again off the charts in Age Percentile for Height and Weight.
He has consistently been so since he was 9 months old.
Which also means that my two year old son wears clothes that are sizes 4t and 5t.
(On average, the clothing numbers are supposed to correspond to the child’s age.)
When he was nine months old, but already the size of a two year old, strangers would chastise me for carrying him.
this happened at least once a week.
These strangers, always an older black women, would tell me that he should be walking.
and that he shouldn’t have a pacifier.
They would say this in loud voices and they would say this often. (W.I.S.E. up)
At first, I would smile and acknowledge them, but not respond.
Sometimes, i would ignore them.
But eventually, i decided to respond with one simple question.
“How old do you think he is?”
100% of the time they guessed wrong. They were off by two years or more than his actual age.
and i’d let them know that.
then i’d hold my tongue with everything more that i wanted to say to them.
it seems that my son has taught me a temperance that i could not learn on my own in the 31 years before him.
When he was a baby, i often felt openly judged as a mother.
as a new mother.
and, most often, i felt publicly judged as a white mother to a black son.
Yet i never felt that my son was being judged.
but now that he is a toddler, who looks instead like a little boy, strangers will directly address him.
and that changes everything.
he is beginning to understand things.
words. tones. facial expressions.
and that scares the shit out of me.
Because strangers assume that he is much older than he is.
They assume that he can communicate on a level far beyond his ability.
They assume that he is developmentally further along than he is.
They assume that he will be a professional athlete of some sort.
And suddenly, it’s not just about me being perceived as a bad mother.
it’s about my son meeting (or not meeting) someone else’s expectations – face to face.
and parenting just got real.
i want to protect him from these unrealistic expectations.
or even hide him from the every day realistic expectations.
but especially the unrealistic ones. the ones where i know that he is being set up to fail.
because it’s just too soon for that.
for both of us.
i want to shelter him from becoming complicit in this game of standards and comparison that i find myself being drawn into everyday.
because there are assessments at his daycare.
and because for the rest of his life – the struggle is real.
and at some point, he will start to learn that it’s either good enough to just be himself or he will learn that it’s more important to become the person that others want him to be.
“others” might include his parents.
if i so desperately want to shield him from any misunderstandings about his age/height/abilities now – will i just lock him in his room at 15 when there are far greater expectations from his peers regarding his identity?
aside from transracial adoption, the teenage years alone are a guarantee that there will be expectations put on him.
there will be misunderstandings.
and there will be tears and much prayer here.
i want to be able to say to my son: you do you
and mean it.
and i also want him to have the freedom to fail other’s expectations as he discovers who that is. even mine.
i want him to take his time. to take his turn.
and maybe i need ten, fifteen, twenty years to learn to allow him to do so.
the struggle is real.
and i don’t imagine that any of this will become any easier with two children.
(we just completed the home study for our second adoption.)
on so many levels, i am both thrilled and trembling at the idea our growing family.
thrilled and trembling.
you do you, little man.