“Are you sure you want that?” I asked my son.
The subject of my son’s newfound affection hosted purple spots on plushy pink fur, with eyes round as a full moon and full of pink glitter.
This is not my son.
My son is a Lego guy, ceaselessly building and destroying tiny ships, cities, or worlds. He is a dinosaur boy, with plastic dinos like vicious caltrops for me to step on. He has other plush toys but none of them are new anymore. And none of them are pink.
“Yes, Mom, I’m sure,” he reassures me, confident in his masculinity.
“You’ll have to buy it with your allowance,” I said, a last ditch effort to make him consider his purchase.
“Okay!” He agreed readily and ran back to the front of the store (for at this time, we’d left it well behind. My distraction tactics failed.)
Further conversation reveals that his little friend Angela had one. Now I understand.
We bring it home. I capitulated, telling him he didn’t have to buy the toy himself. Now I get hugs both for the toy AND for the saved allowance. It’s a good tradeoff.
He wants to sleep with the toy, whom he has named Glitter. (A stretch – it was on the label.) “Glitter will protect me from bad things that happen at night.”
I stop. My stomach bottoms out. “What bad things?”
My son shrugs. He often does this, refuses to explain how he feels or what he means. I don’t press. It makes him withdraw farther.
In the morning my son wakes up, bright as sunshine, with disheveled hair and a brilliant smile. “I was right! Glitter protected me from the bad things!”
I brighten. It’s impossible not to be impacted by his smile. And if all he needed was a pink stuffed animal to make him feel safe, it was well worth the price.
Later that afternoon, I took a walk to stretch my legs. I worked from home, and my son was away at school, playing with Angela and their other friends. Or maybe learning.
Walking back towards the house, I see it. I stop walking. Staring in disbelief.
Scorch marks slash across my son’s window frame. Long, black marks that start at the roof and end at the first floor. These are not the burn marks made by children playing with matches. These are the black, ashy remnants of… what? Fire from above? That couldn’t be possible.
I can’t see the plush clearly, but the bright pink blob sitting in the windowsill looks vigilant, somehow. Ready.
Back at the store, I had a hard time reconciling my boy wanting a girl’s toy. I thought myself a feminist, but it took my son’s views on gender to make me realize I learned to see girls as equals. Not him. He’s always thought of them as such. Illuminating as it was, it was a hard conversation to have.
Not nearly as hard as this one would be, though.