Learning from Laughter: Wedding Veils and Wrestling

familyBy Lydia Wylie-Kellermann.

Isaac pulls a green sheet off the floor puts it over his head and says “You getting married.” (He still refers to himself as “you”). He brings Patrick, the life-size stuffed dog out of his room and stands him up to pretend they are getting married. I don’t know where he got the idea, but all I can do is smile and say “You look beautiful.”

Well, I am in my third trimester of pregnancy and anxiously awaiting…..another boy! It’s funny, I never could have imagined that I would grow up to have two boys. As far as we know or plan for, this child will complete our family. I always thought of raising a girl as almost a vocational call. However, vocation works in mysterious ways and isn’t always up to us. I trust with my whole heart that these two boys will teach me more than I could have imagined, expose and heal some wounds, and call out of me a creativity and love I didn’t know I had.

Raising boys brings up a million questions for me about nature vs nurture. I always air on the side of nurture with most things, but I also trust that my own opinions will be challenged, critiqued, and proven wrong again and again throughout this parenting journey. But one thing that I do know is that when it comes to gender- exposure and freedom are part of nurture. What kids are exposed to when it comes to toys or play or behavior affects who they become. And whether they have the freedom to engage with stuff that is traditionally one gender or the other matters too.

If we had a boy and a girl, then there would be exposure and freedom without even thinking. There would be trains and dolls and shovels and mixing bowls. But with two boys, I am realizing that it calls for a commitment to intentionally- to make sure that their dress up box includes the color pink and a wedding veil. So my brain is turning with a commitment to my kids to be intentional, to expose them to so much, and to give them the freedom to play.

In the last few weeks, Isaac has had a growth spurt- one of energy and body. All of the sudden, he had this craving to be physical and to engage in play with our bodies. With my body low on energy and filled with bone aches these days, I have delighted to watch Erinn and Isaac play together.

I am struck by how easy it would be for this energy to be turned into wrestling. I can even imagine how that could seem like the only sort of option. But instead, I have watched Erinn and Isaac finds ways to play together with their bodies that is cooperative, silly, and showered with constant laughter. There is tickling and flying and throwing. I give thanks for Erinn’s creativity and love of Isaac. Because so often, right here, at two years old, lessons around violence and competition could begin to sink into his body.

These boys are going to stretch us and mold us in so many different ways. The other day Erinn said to me, “For me, the most important things I want for our boys is that they can name their feelings and ask for help.” I smile to myself each time Isaac randomly says “You happy right now” or “Help please” or “You sad and makes you cry.” Oh how I hold and rock this kid when he cries, honoring those tears, and giving him freedom to cry as long as he needs.

So, let the journey continue filled with experiments, creativity, and delight in all that these two sacred ones are in this moment and will become. We give thanks for the community that surrounds us filled with gentle, thoughtful men. For a grandpa that cries easily and lovingly. For a donor that nurtures life, asks deep questions, and holds meaningful relationships. For men in the neighborhood who are working to know and name their feelings, who join marital groups honoring their relationships, and are constantly renouncing and aware of patriarchy and male privilege. We give deep thanks for a community that values creativity, expression, and nonviolence.

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