Beautiful, Handsome, Pretty

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Leo has a pair of pink, glittery gum boots. He chose them, he loves them, he wears them all the time and every time he does I can guarantee he will get a comment (generally paired with the raise of an eyebrow in my direction) ‘Oh those are nice boots you have on’. Every. Single. Time. He thinks people talk to him and comment on them because they love them as much as he does, and maybe that is the case, but the more cynical part of me tells me they comment because he is a boy wearing a pink pair of glittery boots.
He chose them because they were the better option, as a boy, his colour option was a black boot with a red sole, no glitter, just plain black, then there were the pink ones just sitting there. Imagine that, a two-year-old boy whose parents were making him try on boring black boots while a bright pair is sitting right in front of him. “I want the pink ones” fair enough, I would too. So, the pink ones we got.
Leo has nail polish on his toes constantly, he loves having his hair tied up the way his sister has hers tied up, and he wanders around the house draping towels around him wanting us to say he has dresses on. There is no doubt these things will be great material for his 21st and some may consider it “girly” behavior but he is three, there is innocence in being a child, and there is no way I am putting a stop to any of it.

Something that you do not realise until you have a boy and a girl is that there is a difference. There is a difference to the toys that you get, to the books you are given, pink takes over from blue (or vice versa) and when you speak to them, believe it or not, there is a difference. Something I didn’t think would ever happen or that I would ever do, but I do all the time, even without noticing.
Earlier this week, after Leo’s haircut, I told him he was “very handsome” to which he replied “I don’t want to be handsome Mummy, I want to be beautiful.”

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We are very conscious of how we speak to the kids, we are extremely complementary, and there is no shortage of words like love, gorgeous, beautiful, clever, smart, and funny, flying around our household. We want our children to grow up not being afraid to accept a compliment or dish one out, to not be afraid to tell someone they love them, or that they think they are a good person. So, when Leo corrected the way that I complimented him I was quite taken aback. Did I use words like handsome towards him and not to his sister? Does he think that there is a difference between beautiful and handsome and is one better than the other? Leo asks me if I think he is beautiful, to which he revels in the fact when he finds out he is. All these words, we don’t think that they hold much, but as anyone who has a three-year-old will tell you, they pick up on everything. They notice when you say pretty to a girl and handsome to a boy. They think there is a difference, they think one holds greater steed over the other, they want to be the same as their counterpart, so why can’t they be? What difference does it make if I call my son pretty and my daughter handsome? Because to me they are, they are both so beautiful and whichever word I use to express that to them shouldn’t make a difference.

Yes, all of this will probably change sooner than I would like. School will start, he will get a little group of friends and he will start using words like ‘cool’ (or whatever the kids are saying these days) and my compliments will be shrugged off. I will look back at the photos I have taken of the bright blue toenails and the towel dresses, I will pull out his pink sparkly boots and smile at the fact that they were once his favourite.
Leo may be embarrassed by all this one day, and that’s OK. One day he will have children of his own and he will know that there is nothing more beautiful than seeing the world through the innocent eyes of a child, and, boy or girl they will be the most beautiful/handsome/pretty creation in the world to him.

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