Over the next several weeks, I never saw Tristan without bracelets. I often found him in his room, way after his bedtime, making bracelets next to the lamp by his bed. He started making necklaces and hair barrettes. He looked up videos on YouTube of other kids making different bracelets. He got more efficient. He used his chore money to buy different looms. He got really good at it, honestly. I was surprised.
Some of the names of the bracelets made me feel better about the whole thing. Names like the dragon tail, the snake, and the step ladder. Some of the videos had boys doing the instruction, and that was good, too. The whole family seemed to constantly be wearing bracelets. Norah had one or two on her wrist at all all the time. And Tristan might as well have been a young, lower income, Mr. T with all the jewelry he was wearing. Mel and I, we were wearing them all the time, too.
One Saturday, Tristan was in the front yard playing basketball with three boys from the neighborhood. There was Jake, who was always at our house. And there was Robert, and his brother, Jackson, from next door. I was in the garage building some flower boxes that Mel wanted in the backyard.
I could hear them dribbling the ball, talking about boy stuff, boogers and farts. The normal. There was a pause in the game, and Tristan said, “You guys want to make some bracelets.”
I looked up from what I was doing. I wanted to see how this all played out. I hoped that Tristan didn’t find himself in a bad situation. But at the same time, I had a thought that I’m not proud of. I kind of hoped that his friends would mock him just a little. Just enough to push him in another direction, and towards something else. Something a little more masculine. Something that might not send him down a path that ended in him being beat up in the high school parking lot.
Tristan was wearing his usual wad of bracelets. He held his arms up to the boys. He said, “This one here is a monster tail. And this one is the snake. I could show you how to make them.”
The boys didn’t make fun of him. They didn’t call him gay, or anything like that.
Rather they said, “Wow!” and “Those are cool.”
And suddenly, all four boys were sitting on my porch taking lessons from Tristan on how to make bracelets. He distributed out his many looms, and they were all braiding away, with hooks and bright rubber bands.
Later that same week, Tristan brought his loom to soccer practice, and the same thing happened. Each boy took turns making bracelets while warming the bench. At one point the assistant coach had to grab the loom from one of Tristan’s teammates and say, “Listen. Arts and craft time is over! I need you to play forward!”
With in a few weeks, every boy on the team was wearing bracelets that Tristan had shown them how to make. All the boys in the neighborhood were wearing bracelets now. I went to pick up Tristan from school, and it seemed like all of his classmates were wearing them, too. Boys and girls.
Boys didn’t come over to play basketball anymore. They came over with their own looms and to watch instructional YouTube videos on my iPad on how to make bracelets.
It was the strangest thing.
And perhaps this trend was already taking off. Perhaps Tristan didn’t start it. But from my angle, it seemed like he had done something remarkable. He’d taken a good-sized group of boys and got them excited about doing something girly.
I’m not going to say that I still wasn’t a little nervous about all of it, but I was also amazed that Tristan had pulled it off.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley