Here’s what I know about children’s museums. They are crowded. They are grimy. They are germy. They are overrun with children and uber-parents. They are no place for a hangover. Maybe it’s different where you live, but I doubt it. Then, I happened upon Pretend City and actually enjoyed myself (except for the part where I saw a one-year-old wearing jeans more expensive than any pair I own. True Religions in size 18 months? Really?)
“Pretend City Children’s Museum is the first educational facility of its kind in Orange County, representing a small interconnected city.” – Pretend City
C.J. and I entered Pretend City and were overwhelmed, so we retreated to the less-crowded Construction Site to gather ourselves. C.J. eyed a pink hard hat and suddenly had an affinity for carpentry. He awkwardly picked up some tools and started, um, constructing. When a little girl entered the Construction Site a student volunteer approached C.J., took off the pink hard hat and put a yellow one in its place. “Hey Buddy, you probably want the yellow hat anyway,” she said as she walked the pink hard hat to the little girl. I waited to see how C.J. would handle the situation. He followed the student helper and said, “No, I want the pink one!” She looked at me and I nodded. She swapped the hats again and I was proud that C.J. didn’t have a meltdown, but handled the situation and stood up for himself. That’s my boy, wearing a pink hard hat and wondering what to do with a hammer.
From there we went to the Farm, where C.J. picked strawberries and harassed the tiny, puffy baby chicks from behind the glass. We went to the Café, where C.J. served me pizza and called me “Mama Mia.” We went to the Marina, but C.J. refused to fish because it was “too icky.”
We spent most of our time, by far, at the Amphitheater, which is a stage complete with costumes and instruments; a soundboard that operates lights and music; and rows and rows of seating for a captive audience. C.J. found his home in Pretend City.
So many costumes, so little time. Seriously. A silver flapper dress? Oh, yeah, he rocked it for a while. A pink princess gown? It was his favorite. Now, for the shoes. Pink go-go boots? They were fabulous, but zipped up to his crotch and were a tad bit inhibiting. Ruby slippers? Werk.
With his outfit assembled it was time to hit the stage. What? Right, an instrument. Tambourine or maracas? Tambourine, you know it.
He entered stage left, ready for his solo. What? There were other people on the stage? C.J. rolled his eyes and then started throwing elbows to get down to center stage, where he belongs, obviously. I tried to explain that sometimes you have to hang back and be in the chorus. If looks could kill.
It was a solid hour of costume changes, prop switches and Broadway-worthy performances. From time to time he would get the stage all to himself. Those were the happiest of times. Every now and then an un-costumed boy would enter the stage and stare oddly at C.J. Those were the worst of times. And, if C.J. did happen to see a strange look cast in his direction, he would, in return, give that child a look as if to say “I’m so sorry that you’re not fabulous like me. Really it’s a shame.”
I got looks too. Parents smiled at the sight of C.J., up on stage, in a pink sequined princess dress with red sparkly Mary Jane’s. Then, they searched the crowd for the adult to whom he belonged. Some smiled with me, and I could tell that they were seeing an imaginative little boy expressing himself freely. Others smiled at me, and I could tell they were seeing an embarrassment of a child who would, no doubt, have issues as an adult due to my horrible parenting skills. We delight some and disturb others. Yet another thing I learned at a children’s museum.
(agrees wholeheartedly with Tommy)
Funny looks schmunny looks. Half of them are wifebeaters or visit prostitutes or drink way too much or get terrible roadrage – these are Bad Things. Having a kid you adore who likes dressing up and performing on stage – that is a Good Thing.
Hello, I just read a ton of your blog and you are the kind of mom that makes me so happy and proud and I don’t even have words, mostly just a few tears. I love how your support your son, I’m sure he will grow up to be such a fulfilled, confident adult.
I feel like I have to comment on this post because I’m a singer and I spent my morning working at theater camp teaching teens music and then my afternoon hauling and building a set. Some days you just have to wear the pink construction helmet, I usually just wear my pink converse all-stars.
Im so glad that he is getting better at standing up for himself! That was a worry i had as a reader and I know that you have as a mother. Worrying if the close-minded “haters” of the world would crush his beautiful spirit. Its great to see that hes doing so well and not letting people get him down.
I have had this same experience with my son! We actually live a few blocks away from a children’s museum, so I know the feeling all too well. My little guy adores dressing up and being on stage so that’s exactly what he’s drawn to when we go. Unfortunately, some of the kids give him awkward looks. Some even go as far as to say boys aren’t supposed to wear dresses. He gives them the same awkward look back and I know what he’s thinking… ‘why WOULDN’T a boy want to wear this fabulous dress?’
I am already feeling emotional this morning, then I read your blog and am brought to tears again. You are amazing. I envy you and your calm and conviction. I have always thought I was the same way, but I think I am still a little timid about things. My son is a pink boy, but he also likes “typical boy stuff”. He just happens to love the colors pink and purple. He also likes princess stuff and notices the beauty in places where “typical” boys wouldn’t. I won him an awesome pink hoodie that says, “Real Boys Wear Pink” and I love it when he wears it, but I also know that if his bio-father and family knew that Lucas(my son) wears a pink hoodie. *GASP*
Lucas has asked me for pink Crocs and my response was a little unsure, mainly because I am afraid of that judgement of me from other people; especially his bio-father. He also at one point, wanted a pink and purple bike, which I was willing to provide him with, but someone somehow put it in his head that “pink is for girls”, and now he doesn’t want the pink bike anymore because he says, “pink is for girls.” I know he doesn’t really feel this way, and it breaks my heart that he’s been made to feel like what he likes is wrong.
I’m sorry. I think I’m going off on a tangent because like I said, I’m feeling emotional today. Thank you so much for writing this blog and for sharing your beautiful boy with the world. Have a great day!
Ya know, breastfeeding a toddler in public got us the same reactions: some delighted, some disturbed. Some people are just *funny*. And not funny-haha.
Love Tommy’s comment.
I think it was RuPaul who said: “We’re born naked. Everything else is drag.”
Way to go, Mamma Mia.