Last week I told M. that I had arranged for her to have a play date with N. I had already told her about how N. had been living as a boy until recently, when she told her parents she was actually a girl.
“Oh, you mean the old Lucas?” M. said.
“Yeah, the old Lucas. But she likes to be called N. now.”
M. nodded. She gets it.
When N. arrived with her mom on Sunday afternoon, M. was ready for her. She’d decided that they should do “manis and pedis,” so she set up a nail salon in the living room, carefully arranging her rainbow of nail polish colors (25 of them! How did we acquire so many?) and draping a chair and a footstool with towels (“So my customer will be comfortable.”).
It took no coaxing to get N. into the chair and present her little toes. M. helped her select her colors and set about carefully applying the polish. The two little girls chatted and giggled and forgot all about their mothers. We sat on a couch across the room, pretending not to watch them.
They ran off and we began talking about the things we need to talk to each other about. (“Is N.’s kindergarten teacher supportive of her new name and gender?” Extremely! “How about the other parents?” Mixed.) In the background, we could hear the sounds of squeals and laughter coming up the basement stairs. After about 20 minutes, I decided to go down and check on them.
M. was running around the basement with her pants – and underpants – around her ankles, giggling. N. watched her, looking delighted.
Deep breath. “Now M., you know it’s not really polite to walk around without your clothes on when we have guests over.”
“It’s OK, Mama! We already showed each other our butts and penises!”
N. studied me, worried. Were they in trouble?
Oh shit. How do I handle this one? What would N.’s mother think? Was this OK? I took stock for a moment: They’re six years old. There’s nothing sexual going on here, Mama. They are just two sweet little kids who are blessedly unashamed of their bodies and justifiably curious to confirm what they’ve each been told about the other: That this is another girl like them. Of course it’s OK.
“It’s alright to be naked around our good friends if they are OK with it. But in general it’s not polite to just run around with no pants on, honey.”
M. shrugged and pulled up her pants. “Let’s play with my new doll. Mom, could you please go away? We kinda just want to play by ourselves.”
I went back upstairs and told N.’s mom that the kids had been checking out each other’s stuff. We laughed and then talked about other things.
That night I asked M. how she liked playing with N.
“Good.” (How can a kid with such a fantastic vocabulary be so verbally stingy when it comes to answering her mother’s questions?!?)
“So, you have other friends who are girls with vaginas, and N. is a girl with a penis. Was it any different playing with N.?”
“Because it feels good to know that there is someone else on the earth who is like me.”