When I was seven, my Mum left my Dad and took us all to Ibiza for an extended holiday. You can’t blame her – my Dad was a scout leader so poor Mum had dealt with jamboree and damp tents in random fields for 17 years by that point.
A lot of things happened on that trip – I fell out of a tree and was treated in a Spanish clinic where a nurse poured iodine over my stomach while my brother sniggered: “Oh, this is gonna hurt sooooo much” (he was soooo right). Also, we learned to ride, and dive, and we even bunked down with some 20-something football supporters when we lost our hotel room temporarily.
But all anyone ever remembers is: “Hey, wasn’t that the trip where Sally pretended she was a boy called Steve?”
Ugh. Families. Fortunately, karma being a good friend of mine, I’m now storing up a plethora of embarrassing gender-related anecdotes for Flea’s teenage years.
Last November, Flea decided she was a boy called Aiden. At first, I presumed it was just a phase – but then she started correcting me every time I forgot to call her Aiden, and she would get tearful if I called her a good girl. “But Mummy, I am almost definitely a boy!"
It’s been almost eight months now and Flea is definitely still a boy called Aiden. Her t-shirts are adorned with robots and pirates, she will only wear boys’ shoes, and her favourite toys are knights, pirates and monsters. Occasionally, she still weeps with disappointment when she wakes up in the morning and realises she still hasn’t grown the necessary ‘boy’ anatomy. Her school uniform is the only skirt she will consent to wear. She refuses to wear pink and will occasionally consent to yellow on the basis that "boys AND girls wear yellow, don't they Mummy?"
I’m not complaining. I hate pink, and there's no room in my life for anything sparkly. I really don’t know how I’d cope with a child who wanted to play with fairies or princesses (or, "inappropriate gender role-models", as I prefer to think of them). The health visitor who did Flea’s three year check said it’s very unusual for children to be so fixed in their pretend identities, but it’s probably just Flea’s “highly creative” version of having an imaginary friend.
But what I really love is how other kids are so accepting of Flea’s dual identity. Recently, Flea was playing with her cousin Harry and he came into the kitchen to ask for some snacks.
“Sally, can me and Flea have some biscuits?”
“Sure, help yourselves.”
“AIDEN, your Mummy said yes!”
On the bright side, my cousin's eldest daughter pretended to be a cat for a whole year. She can be seen on their wedding video, in a lovely white dress, miaowing to the congregation.