I've come to really love Monday mornings. They are like reaching land after being lost at sea for a few days. Our weekend wasn't bad in any way, but it wasn't overly relaxed either; such is the norm with young children, in our family at least. And so I think of Mondays, when T takes the boys to school and I can stay in my PJs until pick-up if I wish, as a much-needed bit of quiet R&R. By 8:30, I'm on my own which feels like such unbelievable luxury. Even to then simply clean the house feels peaceful: vacuuming random shreds of just-cut whatever; washing down the table which is perennially sticky with watermelon juice, syrup and jam (and to which I literally adhered this morning; gross); compiling the myriad piles of Legos, beads and other "treasures" into one larger mound of each which will be the boys' responsibility to clean later (that's wishful thinking but I persist in insisting it's their job even though it means I have to ride them to do it); checking the potties for not-quite-flushed situations; and so forth. My tasks today also included applying clear adhesive to half our furniture so that Nutmeg will be disinclined to use those pieces as his scratch post. I love that cat, but grr on the claws! While tidying up, I came across Ol's Cinderella dress which I hung back in his closet. If you remember where this story left off, we had ordered slippers and a dress but the lace on the latter offended every inch of his sweet skin, so we had to return it pronto. I searched for a new one and came across a brand of Princess attire created by two moms who were sick of watching their kids squirm uncomfortably and end up ravaged by rough lace that also prohibited the dresses from being machine-washable; their dresses are infinitely soft and pretty and are machine-washable which I think is a brilliant filling of a hole in the pretend play market AND just good common sense for which I am happy to pay. Ol was very pleased.

I know that some people aren't totally comfortable with -hell, maybe they're completely UNcomfortable or appalled by- my decision to buy Ol the blue satin dress and matching slippers. All told, there are three bows, a rosette and two plastic images of Cinderella's lovely countenance appliqued to these items, in addition to the subtle sequin banding and velveteen bodice. And I admit that buying the first one online was psychologically easier than walking into a local toy store, doing a thorough search and then purchasing the prettiest, softest one that was reasonably priced. The discrepancy in experience bothered me, about me, by the way. We are all works in progress, yes? And work through it I have.

At the end of the day, all I care about is that my kids are happy and feel supported, loved and valued for who they are. And so if Ol wants to put on a Cinderella dress after school a few days a week and twirl gleefully about and learn about how you have to lift a long dress when you walk or climb stairs so you don't trip or ruin it, well great. I truly couldn't care less. A smile like this one is worth anything really. Well, almost. You know what I mean; I'm not going to suggest he try smoking or tattoos or such but you get my drift.

I mean really, isn't he SOO precious!??!

He is very private about it all and will not let anyone speak about the dress when we're not in our house. This makes me both a bit sad and also amazed that he already seems to know that others might laugh. We don't watch much TV, and we never just flip it on so the boys really don't see commercials or random channels.* I have never heard anyone say to him that "boys don't do X or Y", and Jack is absolutely amazing. When Ol wears his dress, Jack always says, "that is SUCH a pretty dress, Ol. You look just like Cinderella. Your slippers are so nice. Remember to lift your dress when you go up and down the stairs." I could not be more proud. They'll be killing each other with swords, grabbing their privates, potty-talking to beat sixty, and then Ol will decide to slip on the dress, and not a thing changes between them except what Ol is wearing. I love this, and I burst with pride when I see how much Jack loves Oliver simply because he's Oliver- all that that may be.

If a little girl wanted to dress like a train engineer or a fireman, no one would bat an eye. And this is exactly the same situation minus the gender expectations and stereotypes imposed and imparted by society. It's like when Jack wanted a pink bike for his 4th birthday, and Tom was a little vexed, and I was like, really? You would never tell a daughter she couldn't have a blue bike! And that was it, and we got a magenta bike with white flowers, handlebars and seat, and Jack loved it and then he outgrew it, gave it to his cousin who is a girl, and asked for a green one. End of story. Simple. And now I'm so proud of Tom because he doesn't bat an eye when Ol twirls, and I love him more because of that. Each and every time.

I haven't the slightest idea what my kiddos will grow up to be or do, how they'll identify themselves, where they'll live, etc. Their current plan is that "because we can't marry you, Mom, we're never going to get married. Instead we are going to live together in a house we build. It's going to be awesome because we're going to fill it with candy and iPads and snakes -rattlesnakes- and matches." If I took that as the gospel, I'd be a hot mess because really, what a death-trap hell-hole. You know?

My attitude is that if Oliver grows up and prefers to wear dresses, well, we'll all have gotten an early start on it, and he will NEVER have felt unloved or unsupported for who he is. And if this is a phase, as was Jack's "I wanna be a mermaid so can you make me a bikini top?" which I did and he wore for a week and then shoved in a drawer, well the point is still the same.

Life is basically just a lot of time to try all sorts of things and learn from them. Only in that way can one truly winnow through what he is and is not, what she does and does not believe, what's important and less so. And I hope that my kids always have this wildly enthusiastic and expansive curiosity, that they maintain much of the "just put the dress on and go" attitude that they have now. Cheers to you, my sweet boys!

*In fact, the first few times Jack did see commercials, he shouted, "Daddy, this ISN"T THE SHOW!!" Hah.