There’s an entry in The Harry Chronicles – a collection of “Harryisms” my now 24-year-old son expressed during their* first decade – that makes me smile every time I read it. It’s a question they* asked in February 1993, a month before their third birthday.
“Am I great?” they wanted to know.
And while the question caught me by surprise with out-of-the-blue cuteness, it was a reminder of just how important my job was as a parent. This was the same curious, developing child who’d told me only six months earlier, “inside my head I’m a girl.” And I didn’t know what that meant at the time.
Books like Diane Ehrensaft’s Gender Born, Gender Made and Lori Duron’s Raising My Rainbow didn’t exist. And neither did the terms gender non-conforming, gender fluid and gender flexible. I could wonder if my child was “maybe gay,” and that was about it.
I didn’t know what prompted Harry’s query about greatness, but I knew it was the perfect opportunity to nurture my son’s self-esteem and confirm their own uniqueness. And I was reminded how important it was to put any expectations of my own in check.
“Yes, Harry, you are great!” I said, knowing that wasn’t enough. “You’re fun to be with. You’re helpful. You care about your dad and me and everyone in your family. And you matter so much to us for just being you.”
Their lips shifted to a proud setting, and I returned that little smile with a hug.
A year and a half later, in July 1994, Harry’s dad Ken told them they were “the greatest kid in the world.”
And Harry replied, “Not the whole world?”
Ken and I exchanged a knowing look. Our kid who liked “girls’ stuff” knew he was loved, valued and appreciated simply for being. So the next time your or any child asks if s/he is great, you know what to do. And you don’t even have to wait for the question.
*Even though he says he doesn’t really care, I know my offspring Harry’s preferred gender pronoun is They. I also know it takes some getting used to.
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