Yes, mom is a girl

By Jane Flanagan

My son Rusty, 5, is figuring out that I’m a girl.

I first realized this one Sunday morning while sitting at breakfast. He walked up to me, smiling, holding something behind his back.

“Mom – does a Blackbird have stabilizers?” he said.

A Blackbird, as I learned from parenting him, is an airplane.

“Ummh…. Yes?” I said.

“Nope,” he said.

He gave me another chance.

Whisking the hidden object around, he held up a mini, toy airliner for my inspection.

“What kind of plane is this?”

“A 747?”

“Nooo. It’s a 727.”

He posed three more questions. I got one right.

This took me by surprise. Up until then the most guile he exhibited was “tricking” me at breakfast by pretending he didn’t like eggs when he did.

But I was even more startled weeks later by another question.

“Mom, what color Power Ranger do you want to be?”

“Ahh blue?”

“No, you can’t be blue. You are a girl. You should be yellow. Yellow is the strongest one of the girls.”

I’m still mulling this one over. But while I’m annoyed at whatever those Power Rangers might be up to, I suppose I can’t blame him for noticing the gender gap. Because the difference between me, his Dad, and, well, males everywhere is huge.

Take driving. As a child, I logged incalculable backseat hours chauffeured along the same town and county roads on Long Island. But when I turned 17 and went solo behind the wheel, I surprised myself by how often I got lost. I was not paying attention back there.

Rusty? Beginning at age 4, he issued directives from his carseat on how to get to the supermarket. He checks the speedometer if he thinks I’m going unusually fast or slow and frequently queries what gear I’m in. Odometer and tachometer are staples of his vocabulary.

He also enjoys helping me out whenever he can.

One day, he and I were driving along the country roads of Connecticut. I was headed to the train station to pick someone up and didn’t want to be late. I’d allowed extra time to get there, but traversing country terrain always takes longer than I anticipate. Suddenly, I made a made a turn and nothing looked familiar. I feared we were lost and, as I always do when nervous, expressed my fears aloud.

Taking note, Rusty weighed in.

“Mom, I remember this,” he said.

“Really?” I said.

He spotted another barn. “Yeah, I remember this,” he said.

I was comforted.

We arrived at the train station on time.

“See, I told you,” he said.

Days later, when he came home from kindergarten with three versions of a single incident, believing each one, I remembered he was five.

But now, it seems, he doubts my credibility on directions of any kind.

Sitting at the kitchen table one evening he wanted to know something. A friend, an 11-year-old boy whom he looked up to, had just visited from Texas. Looking out the window, Rusty asked which way to the Lonestar state.

Since the sun was setting, I pointed toward it.

Later, when my husband came home I overheard Rusty and he talking.

“Dad, which way is Texas?” he said.

But directions are the least of it.

Rusty has discovered sports. His Dad can barely believe his luck. My husband has been a Columbia football fan for 30 years. Early on in our dating life, I was foolish enough to take needlepoint along to a game. It continues to haunt me.

This past weekend, Columbia had its opening home game. In making plans, Rusty asked if I would be joining his Dad and him in the stands. When I said I would be, he wanted to know one more thing.

“Will you be bringing your knitting?” he said.