One of my son's favorite books is a flip the flap Superman book, called My First Superman Book. He's on his third copy. We got the first probably right after he turned one, and he delighted in pulling the tabs and looking underneath the flaps. To be fair, he loves all flip the flap books—I'm sure most toddlers do—but this one in specific was especially special. But being so little, he also loved to tear, and number one was soon in shambles beyond repair. I kept the pieces that are intact and stowed them away thinking they'd make cool framed pictures at some point.
Then we moved onto number two because he just really liked that book and I had ended up giving him a Batman book in the same series. This one too met an untimely end, but he was a little more careful with it. The third time around was last Christmas when he was two-and-a-half and able to understand the rules: Don't rip it. I'd have to say he's doing pretty well with it, although a little worn in some areas, he's taken care of this one. But my point isn't the Superman book or even the Batman book, it's the Wonder Woman book, also in the same series, that I also bought him more recently. I knew it existed and I kept thinking how I wanted him to understand that women could be superheroes too, so I ended up buying it for him.
He took it to his pre-school class recently and his one teacher looked up at me and said, "This is awesome." If he wanted to wear pink, I would let him too. He also thrust a pamphlet into my hand about a dance class at school, and when I asked him if he wanted to take it, he confirmed with a "Yeah, yeah," and several nods of his head. He's been taking the dance class for a couple of months now. When I went to buy him jazz shoes, the woman at the shoe store asked me if I was looking for a girl, all the while my son's hand was in mine and he was standing next to me. I was happy when I went to a different shoe store and the woman didn't bat an eyelash when I told her I needed dance shoes for my son. Boys like to dance too.
There's been stories where parents didn't tell friends what gender their baby was because they didn't want to push the child into gender roles. I'm sorry, but I think that's a bit over the top. Girls and boys ARE different. That doesn't mean one can't do something the other can and vice versa. But we're built different, we have different hormones, we have strengths that sometimes stereotypically play out. Sometimes they're the same strengths, sometimes they're different interests. But there is no shame in being different. There's also no shame in being the same.
In many ways, my son is so very much a "boy"—the dirt-love, the wrestling, the bad guy comes to take down the good guy play, the rough housing with daddy and the dog. . . I didn't put Hot Wheels in his hands until he expressed a deep interest in cars. But, his number one wish for this Christmas is a doll house. His pre-school teacher recently told me he was caring and kind. If I can raise a kind, caring, happy, self-aware and loving human being, then that's all I care about. Purple, pink, blue, cars, doll house, Superman book, Wonder Woman book . . . As long as he can be himself triumphantly, then I feel like I'm being a good mom, gender roles or no gender roles aside. He still knows he's a boy. It's a part of his growth, understanding that there is a difference. But I also don't specify whether an interest he has is "girly" or "boyish." If he wants to play dolls, go ahead. Build huge Lego towers, have fun. His father will say, "He has your heart." OR "He has my sense of humor." But there's no dwelling on where our son's interests lie. It's just about letting him have the freedom to discover who he truly is. And it's one of the most joyful aspects of parenting. So here's my poetic ode to his growth since I couldn't quickly find a poem that fit the scenario. I'm a writer, but I've never claimed to be a poet, so if you know of one better, please share.
A child stumbles and picks up the step
Walking has happened and running is next
He grows to love play, little cars run into trucks
Sesame Street happens and, at fun, Elmo is the best
The 'choo-choo' sounds from his thin little lips
Puckers, however, come from the same popsicle kiss
Wonder is written in the bright of blue eyes,
As Auntie's old dollhouse comes as a surprise
He runs fast and twirls strong
He wrestles 'Puppy' and sings songs
He likes to be the good guy of the day
He likes to dance and keep Mommy in sway
He likes to play, and it doesn't matter if it's with Peppa or Jake
He's just using his imagination or dreaming from beyond the frosted birthday cake
He knows girls are just as strong as boys in this world
Because no one has told him there's those who've thought otherwise at all
Our dog recently got spayed, and she didn't deal very well with it. She's doing much better now, but we're keeping the cone on her because I'm not sure I can trust her quite yet not to go at it. Stitches out Friday, so only a few more days! Anyway, I took her cone (Elizabethan collar) off this morning so she could play without smashing into furniture and walls like a raging elephant and was inspired to write a haiku.
Happy puppy leaps,
in a dance across the room
a cone of shame reprieve...
Here's a picture of her looking quite depressed from last week. Fortunately, she's perked up. :)
Thoughts on Poetry
I've read a lot of poetry lately from fellow writers floating around on Facebook and authors' blogs. I used to be really into it when I was a teenager and even in my early twenties. But at some point it became less of a focus, or else I just lost my knack for it. But I've always loved to read it. I have books that belonged to my mother and my grandfather before her, that I'd sit with, endlessly flipping pages and trying to find the perfect poem to describe a mood or situation. A lot of angst-ridden teens, or even those without the angst, tend to get in on the moody word play that can be so satisfying in the art of poetry.
I honestly haven't written a poem in years at this point except to have put together a prophecy for my novel, Fractured Dream, and that sort of writing is kin to poetry. But I thought I'd share one I wrote when I was 20 or so. This was after my first love broke my heart and I was left picking up the grainy pieces. And then the second is just my favorite poem from when I was younger. I used to read it over and over. It's about death, which is morbid, but it's also about endless love. And I think that's what I liked best about it.
The poem by me is called I Loved You Last. I actually had it published in some book at the time, but it was one of those set-ups where you sent in a poem and, to actually get a published copy of it, you had to spend $20 or so to buy the hardcover book, which in this case was called The Brilliance Of Night: The International Library of Poetry. I don't really think they were too discerning about who they put in the book. What can I say, I was young, naive and broken-hearted . . . I do have the book though. It sits on a shelf beneath my coffee table, although the cover is by now pretty worn. I did get to show the boy in question some years later the poem I had written after he'd so effectively torn my heart asunder. But by then, I was of course beyond the apology that was issued, although it was appreciated. Hearts break all the time and sometimes poetry is borne from it. I've since found two loves of my life, my husband and son, so this poem is just a blast from the past, but the heart healed long ago. You can be the judge of whether it was bad or good.
I Loved You Last
Do you remember when we first sat there and you told me you loved me? My gaze drifting away uneasily as I slightly smiled and said, "Thank you."
And you claimed you'd love me until the end of eternity, and that roses would never smell so sweet, and that the sun would never burn so hot, and the wind would never feel so right if I wasn't there.
Do you remember when I first started to love you, when your smile shone from the depths of your soul and I couldn't help but fall, my "thank yous" stopped and "I love yous" began?
It somehow seemed at the end that it was I that loved you more, and the irony has fallen deeply on me since you've gone away, for the snow is not as fresh, nor the autumn leaves as beautiful, nor the night's deep stillness as mysterious since you've gone away.
You loved me first, but I loved you last.
Now, reading the below poem, I remember why I liked it so much as a teenager. One, I think I was really into the fact that she had dark brown hair, like me, and thin lips, also like me. I was self-conscious at the time that I didn't have the lush, full lips of all the girls in the books I was reading, or the movies as well as some of my actual friends. Second, I was fascinated with death, the afterlife. At that time in my life, my one friend and I had weekly sessions with the Ouija Board. And of course, finally, this poem is also a love story. I'm not the same teenage girl, but I do still love this poem. I like it now because I like what it says about living beyond death (my aging self likes to believe there's something beyond), and that love never dies, which my now-jaded spirit can still get in line with. I'm a writer after all.
He and She
"She is dead!" they said to him; "come away;
Kiss her and leave her—thy love is clay!"
They smoothed her tresses of dark brown hair;
On her forehead of stone they laid it fair;
With a tender touch they closed up well
The sweet thin lips that had secrets to tell;
About her brows and beautiful face
They tied her veil and her marriage lace;
And over her bosom they crossed her hands,
"Come away! they said; "God understands."
And they held their breath till they left the room,
With a shudder, to glance at its stillness and gloom.
But who he loved her too well to dread
The sweet, the stately, the beautiful dead,
He lighted his lamp and took the key
And turned it—alone again, he and she.
He and she; yes she could not smile,
Though he called her the name she loved erewhile.
He and she; but she would not speak,
Though he kissed, in the old place, the quiet cheek.
He and she; still she did not move
To any one passionate whisper of love.
Then he said: "Cold lips and breast without breath,
Is there no voice, no language of death,
"Dumb to the ear and still to the sense,
But to heart and to soul distinct, intense?
"See now; I will listen with soul, not ear.
What was the secret of dying, dear?
"Was it the infinite wonder of all
That you ever could let life's flower fall;
"Or was it a greater marvel to feel
The perfect calm o'er the agony steal?
"Was the miracle greater to find how deep
Beyond all dreams sank downward that sleep?"
"Did life roll back its records, dear;
And show, as they say it does, past things clear?
"And was it the innermost part of the bliss
To find out so, what a wisdom love is?
"O perfect dead! O dead most dear,
I hold the breath of my soul to hear!
"There must be pleasure in dying, sweet,
To make you so placid from head to feet!
"I would tell you, darling, if I were dead,
And 't were your hot tears upon my brow shed--
"I would say, though the Angel of Death had laid
His sword on my lips to keep it unsaid.
"You should not ask vainly, with streaming eyes,
Which of all deaths was the chiefest surprise,
"The very strangest and suddenest thing
Of all the surprises that dying must bring."
Ah, foolish world! O most kind dead!
Though he told me, who will believe it was said?
Who will believe that he heard her say,
With the sweet, soft voice, in the dear old way;
"The utmost wonder of this—I hear,
And see you, and love you, and kiss you, dear;
"And am your angel, who was your bride,
And know that, though dead, I have never died."
--Sir Edwin Arnold
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.