Riley used to wear a lot of girl clothes. He still wears girl clothes sometimes, but not nearly as much as he once did. Most days, he wears sweatpants and a t-shirt and he lives for the days when his football shirt is clean.
He's always been a really sweet, sensitive boy, my Ri-Man. He's not crazy emotionally intuitive like Maddie, but he has always been a gentle soul, much the way his dad was.
Since starting public school in September, I've noticed a big change in Riley. Please note: this is not a rant about public school, and I think some of the changes I've noticed are simply related to age and developmental milestones. That said, it's true that in the past few months my sweet, active-but-not-physical boy has become more . . . aggressive. He's constantly pushing and tackling his sometimes patient sister. He hits and kicks, in play, but too hard, too much, without understanding how it feels to the one being pummeled. He's more verbally aggressive, too. He talks back, he refuses, he is impertinent and impatient. We're deep in the poop, pee, and butt "joke" phase (although I confess that my inner seventh-grader has rediscovered just how funny the word butt really is).
Riley's class has 13 boys and 7 girls in it. I've occasionally observed the kids in class or on the playground after school, and it seem clear to me that the exposure to not only the kids in his class but the other—older—kids on the playground has brought on some of these changes in Riley earlier than I would have expected. This is nothing more than an observation on my part, something that's on my mind as I watch Maddie and Riley grow and change and start to become more independent of each other and of me. I can see in these changes the beginnings of the lifelong negotiation of self v. other, of individual v. herd. I wonder how much of Riley's earlier inclination towards the feminine came from nurture v. nature, how much of what he's trying on now is nature v. nurture.
I wonder who he will turn out to be. I hope he will always carry some of the conundrum he his now, the nightgown wearing boy who is obsessed with football, the pink Crocs lined with purple fleece and the football shirt, the constant want for snuggles after an hour-long session of let's-knock-each-other-over in the yard.