So, my brother is in town from the other coast. Also his wife, and their son, who was born the same year as Miss M and Miss R.
The week has been full of activity. Last night we had a professional photographer come over to my mom's and take pictures of the full set of grand-kids (nephew is the only one not local), and of the family groups here (a few of my generation sibs were not here - two on the other coast, one on this coast but not local enough for an evening drive-up during the week). That was, uh, loud. Very, very loud. All the cousins together at once, in the evening, after a rainy day, before dinner. Woo! But there are some good pics out of it. Same photographer our family (small family) usually uses, she's got a great eye.
Anyway, that was last night's adventure (followed by driving all over the place to find the post office that is open for mailing tax forms - we did most online, but paying still means mailing if we want to choose that timing. Sigh.).
Tuesday's adventure was ep taking all four kids to DC for the day. Which means driving a long way, followed by taking the metro a good long way, too. Met up with brother and family at the National Building Museum, plus sister (local there), for lunch, then went to the Natural History museum on the mall (more metro). They saw all sorts of things. I missed it. Waaah.
One of the guys at work asked if ep brought home the same number of kids he left with. Yes. And the right ones, too.
But it was more successful than that, even. Miss M and Miss R were lit up with joy and delight when they got home and saw me.
Miss R: Mommy, Mommy! We rode on a train! FIVE trains! And three elevators!
Miss M: And that stair thing that goes up! And FIVE TRAINS!
heh. Museum, what museum? There were TRAINS. And ELEVATORS! And ESCALATORS! YAY!
Miss M: Mommy, Mommy! I held D's mommy's hand! On the esca... escavator!
Miss M: Mommy, Mommy! I bought something in the store! I got a two monsters piggy bank, and I can paint it and... I want to paint it NOW. NOW!
Followed by collapse in despair over it being to late to start an art project. Ah, well.
And then we had the first hard light of the 5-year-old gender-is-everything show up from Miss R.
Mr B was showing me what he bought (a fossil skeleton model), and Miss R said, 'I don't like that, I wouldn't buy that, it's (made gross pukey face)! I bought a baby blanket, it's pretty.'
Mr B was really hurt. He did use really great words saying it, though. He said, 'I don't like it when you say that. I don't say mean things about your toys. That wasn't nice. It was mean.' (and then he looked down at his toy like she'd stolen some of the fun from it - freenacin* drain, oh, no!)
Before Miss R could launch into more 'I bought girl stuff, boy stuff is YUCKY, that's BOY STUFF' (I've seen this before from the other gender side, so it's a recognized pattern for the age), I told Mr B how much I'd have loved that toy when I was a kid, how I memorized the dinosaur cards we had, and how my sister and one brother fought over those cards. Yeah, that toy is cool.
Miss R watched me like a hawk (I was watching her out of the corner of my eye). I watched her redefine 'fossil dinosaur/dinosaurs' as 'girl-friendly'. And sure enough, right after Mr B trotted off with his toy, fully mollified that it was precious and cool and a good choice, Miss R restated her position, new version:
I really LIKE that skeleton toy. It's COOOOOL. It's really cool. That is a good toy.
And I watched her watching me for signs of approval over this newly defined reality. And yeah, I smiled, and thanked her for saying nice things about his toy, and left a beat in there before asking her about the baby blankie she bought, and the things she liked. They don't have to be the same. From the other room, Mr B also thanked her, so she got double strokes on that shift in expression. Good job on moving to Respectful and Kind.
The whole hard-line gender definition thing is one of my least-fun parts of this upcoming age. Girls can do this, boys can do that, girls CAN'T do this, boys CAN'T do that. Ugh. I know it will shift outwards again after they mature into their sense of gender and friendship and roles and all that. It's just really annoying for the moment. I automatically broaden the definition at every turn. The range that is all-boy and all-girl is sooooo minuscule, in my mind. There are definitely some things most girls can't do, and some things most boys can't do, and some things that are biologically or physically not possible for each (within the standard definitions, anyway). I'd rather not even define a range by gender at all, but I know that's part of this age - who am I as a girl (or boy), what does that mean, how do I know where I fit, am I normal, am I like the others, all that.
So, whee. But at least I saw it, and got a chance to remind Miss R that what is cool is not just what her friends think are boy things and girl things, but what is interesting to any individual. This is extra important because Miss M is so interested in biology and rocks and science and dirt and trucks. They spend unsupervised time together, and I don't want Miss R badgering Miss M about not being a real girl, or not playing 'right' for a girl, etc. She's applied that pressure before (long ago), and she's prone to wanting to apply it to everyone (ESFJ, or ENFJ, I think - likes to control the social world, including being right up in everyone else's business). Miss R likes everyone to play by the rules and roles that feel safe and comfortable to her. Miss M, not so much. Miss R is more pushy about it, and more extroverted (all over Miss M). Learning to navigate that without hurting each other is going to be a life-long task. Right now, first priority is allowing Miss M to feel like herself and also see herself as a normal girl. First is also allowing Miss R to feel comfortable in her own likes, and to give herself and others enough room to be, without making it too big an idea to find comfortable. That side is actually going to be more tricky, because Miss R likes to wrap herself in a cocoon of rules and structure and roles - that's what feels good to her.
Yeah, this is going to be quite an adventure.
*Freenacin is a made-up nutrient my family uses to explain that sense of happy, fun, or joyful that comes and goes under different conditions. Like, new car smell, and new toys, and how when a toy breaks all the freenacin leaks out and even when fixed it isn't the same... but if your grandmother fixes it for you special, then it has extra freenacin added back in, and so forth. Lack of freenacin creates low-grade depression and restlessness. A freenacin drain is any time the fun goes out of something. It's nice to be able to say 'ugh, I need some freenacin' because it doesn't sound like 'how come you aren't making me happy' or 'I need some more fun, you're not any fun'. It makes it just a problem to be solved, like 'I need a snack' - and not a loaded statement. VERY useful.