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What I Said To The Old Lady Who Told My Boy To Man Up In The Grocery Store

The following was syndicated from Medium for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].

Before my son was born I used to sing to him. My wife would be lying in bed, feel him kick and I’d press my mouth right up to her belly and start singing, so he’d recognize my voice. If I’d planned it out better if have picked a song with deep significance and meaning, but as it happened the only song that ever popped into my head was “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

After Xavier was born he’d wake in the night for some milk and sometimes would find it difficult to get back to sleep. So I’d take him downstairs, arrange the cushions at a 45 degree angle, place him upright on my chest (he never liked me holding him horizontally) and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” to him. He’d drop off soon enough.

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Three years, 7 months on, I still sing to (and now with) my boy, and I’ll never stop.

This week I’ve been on annual leave. We’ve not gone anywhere but are just going on a few trips out. He’s not at nursery school, I’m not at work, and he’s really taken to me again. Not that we’ve ever not got on, but he’s always had a slight preference for mummy. This week, however, he’s wanted to play with me, watch TV with me, and sit next to me. He’s become upset when I’ve not gone somewhere with him, Michelle and Zoë. He’s even called me his best friend all week.

We all popped to Tesco the other day to pick up a few things for our visit to Peppa Pig World and the refrigerated section was very cold. I mean, we’re all wearing shorts, a t-shirt and crocs or flip flops because of the sun and we’re confronted with the depths of winter while looking for cheese.

It’s irrelevant whether he’s a little boy or girl because his feelings are important.

Xavier says “I’m so cold, daddy!” and some older, bigger lady (I say bigger because although she is dressed in similar summer wear she clearly has a substantial insulation advantage over my son) says, “It’s not cold! You’re a boy for goodness sake!” And I say to her, “He’s allowed to be cold! I’m freezing in here!” I want her to know that she has no right to speak into my boy’s life and tell him what he can and can’t feel just because of his gender. Xavier is in a bit of a whingey stage at the moment which involves him moaning at a lot of stuff for no good reason, but she doesn’t know him, I do, and I’m experiencing the same cold as he is, and this is not him moaning. This is him being cold, and it’s irrelevant whether he’s a little boy or girl because his feelings are important.

So in the next aisle, when he repeats, “It’s so cold!” I offer to give him a cuddle, which he accepts, and so I give him a huge hug, rubbing his back and kissing his cheek. And after smiling and asking for another cuddle, I notice the older, bigger lady walking past us embracing in the aisle and imagine myself blowing a huge raspberry in her general direction.

Because I am affectionate with my boy, and always will be. It’s a glimpse of heaven when I get to spend 5 minutes tickling him until he squeals with delight, tells me to stop (which I always do, as I want him to know what consent means), and then says bashfully with a grin on his face, “Tickle me again!”

These past few weeks he’s been waking up more in the middle of the night, coming into our room (I always wake up before my wife) and telling me, “I don’t like my room.” We think it’s a combination of shadow, tales of dragons, and basically being an almost-4-year-old, but we figured some IKEA lights wouldn’t do any harm. So we headed there this week and asked him which of the strings of LED lights he’d prefer.

And he chose the string of color-changing stars. And we’ve put them up along with another big star light we bought last year but I’ve never got round fixing to the wall, and it looks awesome.

And I get to watch him sleep soundly in the soft glow, and have the privilege of waking up to his gentle footsteps to our room to say, “Hi, you’re okay, you get in our bed. I love you. You stay here with mummy and I’ll go and sleep in yours again tonight.”

Matt Little is husband to Michelle and Daddy to Xavier, 3, and Zoë, 2. Since leaving university 16 years ago he’s worked as a youth worker, trainer, researcher, science teacher and digital marketer and writes for fun on the side. Based in London, UK, he is interested in way too many things and gets riled by stereotypes. Find him on Twitter as @macroscopiclife.