Like any normal three year old, my daughter Serena is obsessed with her birthday. Although she just had her birthday in November, she's already planning her next one, and talks about it all the time. At this point she's planning two parties: first an Ariel party and then a Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer party the next day.
Her birthday obsession recently spawned an interesting conversation.
I was waiting for Serena to finish her business on the potty one day when she announced that she would be getting a penis on her next birthday. She pointed to her side, back near her right kidney, to indicate where her new appendage would be.
Interesting, I thought. I tried to keep a straight face while I composed my response.
I told Serena that penises are great, but vaginas are special too. (Please forgive the anatomical talk; we're big on correct names for body parts in our house. This has led to some awkward conversations at daycare, but that's another blog post.)
'I know, Mama!" she said, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. "I'm going to have a penis AND a vagina!"
I explained that people either have one or the other. When she asked why, I said that God chooses for us to have either a penis or a vagina when we are born.
Serena mulled this over. This seemed to her like a reasonable explanation, but she wasn't letting go of her request.
She was quiet for a few moments and then said authoritatively that Jesus said that she can have a penis too.
Turns out that Jesus is much more sympathetic to transgender issues.
It was about at this point that my mother came in the bathroom to put away some towels. She had overheard the conversation from the next room. On her way out she smiled at me. With just a trace of revenge in her voice she whispered "You can't imagine how much I'm enjoying this."
By now Serena was in the shower. She continued to talk about the new penis she was getting for her birthday. Now that she had escalated the issue to Jesus, she was confident that it was a sure thing.
She launched into a stream of consciousness monologue (as she often does) in her sweet, high, singsong voice.
"I said to Je-suuus, can I have a pe-niiis, and he said OK!!!"
After her shower, the penis talk petered out, so to speak, but it's come up again from time to time. If you ask her, I'm sure she'll tell you that her new penis will arrive on or before mid-November.
I'm not sure what this means. Does she just want to be able to write her name in the snow (we were in Michigan at the time, after all), or is there something more?
Maybe someday I'll look back on this conversation as the first time that Serena verbalized her desire to be a man. Maybe it's natural body curiousity. Maybe she's just feeling outnumbered by the penis-sporting majority in our house. I know I do from time to time.
There are a couple of bright sides to this incident: first, it's a good blackmail story for when she's older, and secondly, I admire her debating skills. It's not every three-year-old who can top God in an argument.
I just hope there's enough time between now and her November birthday for her to forget about her request. I might give in to two birthday parties, but for a new penis she's on her own.