My brother-in-law Brady was in town last week, and his presence turned my 2-year-old son into an absolute puddle of goo. Harvey has always loved his uncle, but with age, time and Brady’s surprise Mr. Incredible Halloween costume (which I think actually turned my kid into the heart-eyes emoji 😍for a second), their bond is being written deeper and deeper into stone.
While staying with us, Uncle Brady was the first and last person Harv wanted to see every day, and nothing was happening if it wasn’t happening with Uncle Brady.
This level of adoration is pretty special, but my wife, Elenor, and I have noticed recently that our little dude has a unique bond with the men in his world (stand down, dissenters, I’m not saying I think my toddler is gay). He certainly loves us ladies, but there is a different kind of connection he has to his male counterparts.
I know kids don’t need two different-gendered parents to grow up to be healthy, happy and successful, so I’ve watched this phenomenon with curiosity and delight, and I’ve wondered what drives it.
Maybe men are a bit of a hot commodity given that he’s batting 1.000 with female parents, has almost exclusively female child care providers, a female doctor and so on. Is there such a thing as supply-and-demand role-modeling?
The thing is, I’m not even sure Harvey is cognizant of sex or gender at this point in his development (which, now that I think about it, explains his regular mismatching of gender pronouns), and yet he seems to know that these are his people — his dude people.
He rough-houses with them, watches them with awe and mimics them in ways he hasn’t done with any of us gals (aside from him repeating some of his moms’ choice swears, which equally delights and unnerves us).
But using a napkin after each bite of food? That’s from Brady. Yelling at soccer players on TV? That’s from our friend Blake. Eggs? Won’t touch them unless they’re from Grandpa Barry.
My nerdy gender studies brain has delighted in applying research and theory to my kid’s adoration of men, but it was last week’s election results that made that little lightbulb turn on above my head.
As the results rolled in, I had felt this wave of hope wash over me as if I were lying in an ocean surf when I realized that for the first time in our nation’s history (which is both a stunningly good and somber reality), we elected the first American Indian and Muslim women to congress, the first openly gay governor, the first bisexual person in the Senate (and Arizona’s first woman in the Senate), some states’ first black and Latina women to Congress, the youngest-ever woman to Congress, and other candidates who represent minority populations.
I was inspired thinking about the things these amazing humans might accomplish in office, and I was bursting with hope because more young people are going to see themselves reflected in our highest levels of leadership. And that is what bodes well for our greater future. Possibility, for them, just expanded because versions of themselves are now visible doing more revered things.
Maybe that’s why our Harv man idolizes the dudes in his life — they’re, in part, what make his world of possibilities expand.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.