I have two children; one boy and one girl. Growing up in a household with two girls and having been surrounded by children of same sexes in most of my family, I didn’t know what to do when my daughter was born. Did I treat them differently? What about gifts? What about clothes?
There were so many questions and so many complications. I couldn’t just pass down clothes from one to another because they didn’t even work the same way – the zippers and seams didn’t mesh. I couldn’t pass down the bikes because while Lighting McQueen was great for my son there was no way my princess obsessed little girl was going to ride it.
For all that they are different, and man are they different, I still wanted them to have a cohesive relationship. The greatest relationship of my childhood was my sister. She was the only one earth that was literally in the same position that I was over and over again. She was the only one who knew without me saying a word; and I wanted that for my children.
So as soon as my daughter was out of a crib, she moved directly into her brother’s room. They shared closets and dressers, and while they had their own beds there was still a closeness that I nurtured carefully. In the dead of night, I needed both my children to be comforted by the sound of breathing from their sibling sleeping so near.
My children shared food, play dates, and most of all space. It wasn’t incestuous and it wasn’t dangerous. It was simply fostering the relationship that they could count on their whole life.
What I didn’t recognize was that I was also setting myself up for a hurt that I didn’t know was coming.
I have written about children breaking their mother’s hearts, and the reality that this is actually very much their job. They are suppose to make their mother’s hearts hurt every time they skin their knees or fail at a challenge that other’s soar through. They are suppose to make us feel proud when they grow to new achievements at the same time we are weeping that they are slowly moving farther and farther away from our arms. This is the natural relationship between mother and child. And while I will never for one moment take my eye off of them, I do have to learn to let them go.
I am just never prepared when those moments come.
My children are starting to play rough. They are starting to recognize the differences between boys and girls, and worse between polite behavior and devious humor. If I have to deal with one more joke about peeing or farting from my children I can’t be held for my reaction.
Last night my husband saw my children playing innocently in the bath together. But they were playing games that weren’t appropriate for two children of the opposite sex. They weren’t doing anything wrong and their dad and I didn’t even mention what we had seen, but it still came to light that it was time to separate my children in certain ways.
It is time that my children have their own room to get dressed and escape to. It is time that my children have separate bath times and it is time that they begin learning the separation of the sexes. My goal is never to blaring shine a light on those differences, nor to ever lead my children to believe that they can’t do something because of their sex, but I have to begin drawing lines.
And it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart because it means that my children are taking one step further from my arms. They are growing up; and I am forced to see this in the clearly innocent way they play that can’t continue. (For all you with minds in the gutters, they didn’t do anything sexual or anything that is shameful. They are still very innocent.) I have to draw lines between male and female and how to treat each; and I do it with a heavy heart.
I am not interested in my children developing any relationship beyond sister and brother; but there was a joy in watching them grow together. There was something so innocent in them playing together that is slowly going away. And my heart hurts.
I can’t have babies forever but what I would do to have them for one more day.