My son called his friend’s father ‘Papa’ and I freaked out. You see, my boy loves other boys and men and is obsessed with facial hair and ‘boy parts’. I don’t have facial hair or boy parts. My boy called a man ‘Papa’ and I was suddenly picturing being rejected by my son in 11 years, when he is 13 and wanting to do boy things with other males. Will he still love me, the mother who did not give birth to him but who is also not a boy?
When M was first starting to explore the world around him, he took a shine to remote controls. We used to joke that he was a stereotypical male: remote controls, facial hair and breast milk were his favorites. But now, that isn’t so funny because sometimes I worry that my femaleness will not be enough for him. I am an athlete and hope that will give me some credit, but I have never mastered peeing standing up (plus his friends will tease him mercilessly if he has two mothers, one of whom pees standing up) and I don’t even own a T.V. Yes, I know I am being overly dramatic and stereotyping, but these are the things I worry about.
When M called his friend’s dad ‘Papa’, I corrected him, “You call him Will.”* Internally, I was screaming, “ YOU DON’T HAVE A DAD!” and “I AM SORRY I CAN’T BE THAT FOR YOU!” when all M was doing was repeating what his friend had said. The reality of life is we can never be all things to all people. That would be exhausting. As a parent, I need to remember that, even if I had a penis, I couldn’t be everything to my son. He will need other people to fill special places in his heart and in his life. He will sometimes need other people more than he needs us, but he will always need us. We are each other’s home. I will try to keep remembering that when he is four and makes a fort for boys only or when he wants to go camping with his friends and their dads. Home, female parts and all.
*Names have been to changed to protect the innocent.