Flowers Versus Safaris

Dear Blue,

Burlington Coat Factory, on the corner of Baldwin and Duarte, does a neat little trick. A regular sized department store from the outside, it plays a trick on physics and opens up into a three-story emporium on the inside. It’s like Hermione’s purse in Harry Potter. It was the third floor we wanted, the aptly named “Baby Depot.” Nestled within the armada of strollers, forests of onesies and walls festooned with pacifiers, a crib mattress was our target.

We ended up mulling over buying a dinosaur quilt for a half hour before ultimately leaving the store with just a beanie in hand. While there was the occasional robot, car or construction motif sprinkled in the spread of blankets before us, the overwhelming majority of sets either featured butterflies and flowers, or jungle animals.

I guess jungle animals are the “in” thing for baby boys right now. I’m not sure why jungle animals are so tied in with nursery themes. As cute as monkeys and lions and and hippos may be on a quilt, in real life, it would be nothing but nomnomnom… Aaaannd Goodbye Blue. Don’t believe me? Check out this, and then try to tell me (like some of the commenters) that the lion was trying to “play” with the little guy. Jungle animals are carnivores. You are carne. That’s a bad combination, Blue.

Disregarding that obvious fact, it’s clear why jungle animals are associated with boys. You share wildness, and parents, no matter how much they complain of this essential nature, know that in its mature form, wildness evolves into some positive things. Pride. Boldness. Tenacity. Courage. Just to name a few. Every parent wants this for their baby boy. Hence, jungle animals for boys.

And flowers for girls. To be honest, Blue, I’m glad you’re a boy.

If the essential nature of wildness is what parents want to encourage in boys, then beauty is what they hope to inspire in their little girls. At their core, the female portion of our species is just better at being human, Blue. Just know it now. Some day, we hope to mold you into a man full of empathy, compassion and kindness towards others, but you probably won’t get there until you’re pushing thirty. Even then, on a relational scale you’d be the equivalent of a five year old girl. They’re just…better people.

It’s not your fault, Blue. Boys and girls, men and women, are just different. Even though we occupy the same planet, we come from different worlds. The best way to illustrate is through example.

Take your cousins Annabelle and Jacob. One day, your mother and I go over to their house to hang out. While we’re playing, we start to dance around. Your cousin Annabelle loves to dance, and as she starts to twirl around, showcasing her latest ballet moves, she becomes so overwhelmed with excitement and glee that she rushes over to your mother and hugs her leg tightly. She’s happy, and being a girl, she understands intuitively how to convey her emotion in a way that immediately relates her to others.

Your cousin Jacob, on the other hand, is a proper barbarian. After dancing with Annabelle, we started to chant his name. It’s a ritual we have. Caught up in the fervor of the chant, Jacob started to pump his arms up and down while stomping his feet. He squealed with delight as the chant heightened, and at its apex, overcome with excitement and with no other available outlet, he searched around frantically, locked in my thigh, and rushed in to bite it while I held him at bay. He just had to do SOMETHING, and his essential wildness did the rest.

See the difference? One of them gives hugs. The other draws blood. Sounds like one is definitely better, but here’s the rub. On both fronts, it takes a lot of good parenting. Boys, by the nature we’ve established thus far, are wild and destructive. It takes a lot of wisdom, effort, perseverance and patience in order to turn that tornado of energy into something that’s productive, not destructive, to society. But it’s a straightforward path.

Girls require good parenting, too. The approach is much less straightforward, far more nuanced. Girls don’t need to contained. They need to be nurtured, to be taught how to properly channel all of that raw emotion they feel into something that’s healthy. There are so very many ways that can go wrong, Blue, and the way is long and winding.

Honestly…raising a lion sounds way easier than growing a rose.



Blood, Sweat and Cribs

Dear Blue,

We built your crib this weekend. Every time I pulled out a new plank of wood from the box, there were these weird red stains. stupid brain thought. Those strange patches of wood finish sure look like blood. Huh, what do you know! It was! I must have cut my hand on the scissors or the box. I don’t know. Never will. I removed all the evidence of the accident, except for one dried and bloody thumbprint hidden underneath the mattress board. You know, in case anyone ever tries to switch cribs on us.

It took us awhile to find the right crib. A lot goes in to deciding which one will make the best safety prison for your child. When we finally did, we ordered the crib online and shipped it to the closest Wal-Mart. One problem. When I went to pick it up, the box was clearly too big for my car. So I went back to the house to get your mother’s car, and based on vague measurements with a rain stick, it was too small as well. So we had to get your uncle David to help us with his cavernous SUV.

Then we had to build the thing. I dreaded this step. Of all the things I try to emulate from Jesus, carpentry is probably the one that needs the most work. For example, when your mother and I moved in to the apartment, we bought four things from IKEA: two bookshelves, a dresser, and a tv cabinet. Four items took SEVEN days, and a sprained toe, to assemble. Probably would have been six if I didn’t have to redo the tv cabinet after putting on a shelf backwards.

The crib took approximately two hours to assemble. Once again, your uncle David had to help in order to prevent any further injuries.

There a few key lessons to learn from this, Blue.

1. Never shop at IKEA. It’s terrible. Most everything there is nothing but overpriced, high end cardboard. To make matters worse, you don’t save any money by buying their cardboard and you have to assemble everything yourself. It’d be like a t-shirt company selling you yarn. Sounds terrible right? Apparently not, because every weekend the place is complete chaos, one precarious Swedish meatball shortage away from becoming the grocery store scene in World War Z. (Hope that reference still makes sense. Zombies were cool when you were born, Blue.)


2. Mark everything you own in blood. Don’t trust technology. Bury gold in your backyard, etc.

3. Some rules might be made to be broken. Instructions to assemble furniture are not some of these rules. Seriously, Blue. Know the size of boxes before you try to fit them in your car. Know that cardboard can cut you. Know your nuts. Know your bolts. Know that the headboard (A) has wood screw holes on the right side of the board while the footboard (B) has them on the left. This is all really important. That’s why I left the bloody thumbprint. To remind you that there is wisdom in knowing what rules can be broken, which can be bent, and which have to be followed to the strictest letter of the law.


Nana, The Reverse Pickpocketer

Dear Blue,

As parents, it’s our job to connect with your roots. And boy, do you have interesting roots. There are plenty of places to begin, but I figure the best place to start is probably the place it started with us. With our parents. Your grandparents.

Let’s start with your nana. Your mom’s mom. As we prepare to bring you into this world, your nana has made it her personal mission to keep your mom’s stomach perpetually filled with food at all hours of the day and night. Whenever we visit, we come back with a stack of takeaway boxes, lining up on each other in our refrigerator like Styrofoam pagodas. Not only that, but our haul also includes fresh tomatoes picked from your nana’s garden, persimmons and a loaf of bread she makes in her own bread maker. It’s a bounty.

Beyond that, your nana and your mother play this cute little game every week. When we visit, your nana likes to take money and sneak them into your mother’s pockets. Your mother has good kung fu moves, though, even 5 months pregnant, and frequently evades and blocks your nana from reverse pickpocketing. When your nana is spurned, she turns to me and tries the same thing.

This past weekend, your mother successfully chop blocked your nana not once, not twice, but three times. Each time, your nana turned to me, with a sympathetic plea in her eyes, and then tried to stuff the cash in my pocket. I am not as good at kung fu, so I just ran.

I don’t know why we play this game. I guess it’s because our parents have done so much for us, that maybe we feel like a burden if they keep doing things. You’ll understand some day. It’s important for grown ups to feel independent, and so…kung fu and running. That’s why we play the game.

So, with your mom vigilant and me evasive, your nana pulled up the white flag, slipping the cash back into her own pocket. This time, we were the winners of the game. We spent the day there, helping your gonggong pack for his trip to Malaysia.

A nana’s love, if it can be defined and contained within one word, is persistent. It keeps pressing forward like a hydraulic pump, never giving in to anything else until it accomplishes what it set out to do. Your nana is a very gentle, very kind soul, but never mistake that for anything remotely related to weakness. Her love is fiercely unrelenting, and when we tell about your roots, know that this is a part of you, too.

When we left the house, we packed up our car and hugged everyone goodbye. Secretly, your mother and I were both pleased that we had won the game without any more struggle. It never occurred to us that we got by too easy. We were overconfident, proud, and in the end, we never saw it coming. Your nana gave us some vegetables in a paper bag, and then, nearly clipping my shoulder in a rushed movement, she closed the screen door and locked the bolt in place.

She smiled slyly. “I put money in your purse when you weren’t looking.”

Your mother and I exchange shocked looks, and after putting up a token display of refusal, we know we have lost. We hang our heads in defeat, pocketing the cash.

Game. Set. Nana.