Yesterday I took my newly minted 6-year-old for his annual well-check. My son strolled in — flower-printed blouse, pale pink skinny jeans, rainbow sneakers, and a rainbow unicorn headband atop his short, French braided hair. I wasn’t sure of the reactions we’d receive or the questions we’d get — as he was far more flagrantly himself this year than last — but that’s life with my sparkly son.
As with most of my days, the well-check took a surprise turn. It went from health screening to gender-inclusive career advice in a heartbeat.
“What’s your name?” “What grade are you in?” “What’s your favorite food?” All the standard pediatrician conversational screening questions. Then, “What do you like to do outside of school?” “Play outside with my friends,” my flower-shirted son said, “and ballet.” Straightening his rainbow unicorn headband on his short French braided hair, he added, “Oh, and ice skating too.” He smiled at the pediatrician, my son’s striking blue eyes peeking through ebony eyelashes.
“Well then,” replied the doctor, wheeling his chair closer, “which one do you like better: ballet or skating?” This was clearly a humdinger of a question. My son tapped his delicate finger on the paper-sheathed exam table. “Hmmm… ballet.” “I was in a ballet performance. ‘Sleeping Beauty!'” “Did you like it?” Responded the physician. My son nodded emphatically and I added how even with 3- to 4-hour long ballet rehearsals, he still couldn’t wait to attend ballet classes afterwards. “You may have to step it up, then,” the doctor warmly grinned, “this is such a fun time when kids really begin to hone in on their interests. My daughter did the same with soccer. If he likes it, go for it!” My son beamed at the suggestion.
What’s your favorite color, the doctor asked, holding a light in front of my son’s eyes. “Glittery purple.” The pediatrician put down his light and grabbed his stethoscope and cellphone… both dark purple. “You see these?” He asked my son. “I searched to find ones that matched and this is as close as I got. I love purple. ANY shade of purple, from lavender to plum… but I really like this dark shade like my phone case best. We BOTH like purple!” Both my son and the physician grinned. The doctor returned his stethoscope and cellphone to their respective positions and resumed his eye examination.
“I never thought to say, ‘glittery purple’… that’s a great color! Very specific.” As he had my son follow the light with his eyes, the doctor continued, “Do you know I have SIX purple shirts I wear to work?! All shades of purple. I love purple.” My son smiled, clearly envisioning all six purple tops.
The visit continued with all of the usual wellness checks: ears, nose, throat, etc. “Can you hop down so I can check your back?” Requested the doctor. My son landed in soft precision on the gray speckled tiles.
“You know, you’ll be very strong if you become a ballet dancer,” the doctor said, lifting the back of my son’s blue and pink flowered shirt. “And I’ve never seen a ballet dancer with poor posture. You’ll stand so tall!” He patted my son’s head saying that his back looked healthy.
The doctor looked at me, pausing his chart notes, “Theater and dance are two professions people do because it’s what they love. You don’t hear people in that line of work moan, ‘Ugh I have to go to work.’ It’s not like an office job.” He looked towards the ceiling as if struck with a poignant realization, “That would be wonderful,” he said quietly with a gentle smile.
The doctor put down his pen and turned to my son, looking him kindly in the eye, “I really want that for you,” he said, “I want you to really enjoy what you do.” The doctor turned to me, “Wouldn’t that be fantastic?”
I nodded, tears in my eyes.
It would be.