Preface: Before anyone freaks out and gets defensive or sensitive on her behalf or on behalf of girls-I have a daughter. I love my daughter and it’s an incredible privilege to have her and she is goodness and light but in my own limited experience it has been different raising a girl than raising boys. Different. I want to talk about boys because I’ve been thinking a lot about the raising of my boys. Look away if you don’t want to read it because it offends you.
Boys. I just love boys. Living with boys is like living with an overflowing bucket of puppies. Loud, fun, unpredictable. Like puppies, they require so very little to be happy. I can boil it down to one on one attention, food, decent tennis shoes and fresh air for my sons. A lot of the classic boy stereotypes that people talk about, complain about, warn about have proven true in my experience…
There is high energy. There is bathroom humor. There is unabashed nudity. There is filth. There is the mysterious stench of the shoes/mittens/bedrooms/soccer bags/feet.
One uses a general clumsiness method to destroy family heirlooms, the other uses brute force and a penchant for flinging things through the air to destroy things. Equally effective. There is the requisite arguing with me about how they should be able to wear the “nice warm up pants” to a wedding or to church or to a nice dinner. They leave wet towels on the bathroom floor and step over messes never considering the damage to the floor or the bacteria that might be multiplying. They bring me art projects that I do not understand. My daughter brought me drawings of rainbows and butterflies.
I did the ‘good mom’ thing and said, “Tell me what is happening in this picture?” (instead of what the hell is this?) My son says, “Oh…See there are these guys in a garden with flowers and the guy on the ground got shot with a tranquilizer gun.” Nice. Falling off of their chairs when someone else uses the word “balls” in a sentence happens a lot lately. Any sentence. Any context. It is beyond the giggles…it’s downright mirth. Also on the “cannot be uttered list”: Nuts. I’m serious. We can’t say balls or nuts anywhere close to bedtime right now. It can derail this entire household for over an hour. But I think a lot of the best in them; the very best things about raising boys have been things that nobody told me. It is their sweetness, their charm, and their easy humor. Their levity and how it brings out levity in others. My boys have very different personalities (what children don’t?) but they share those things I mentioned and it makes me better for having them. They are a pure and simple fun and they draw it out in me-they loosen the reins of control. Oh…they probably stole the reins, tied them into an Albright Knot, lit it on fire and buried in the backyard. They get me to do things that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Below: Ran a 5k in sub-zero temps.
There is the old (and albeit archaic) saying, “A son is a son until he takes himself a wife but a daughter is a daughter for the rest of your life”. Okay, horribly outdated but the sentiment here seems to be that if you have girls they’ll visit you in the nursing home but if you have a son…he’ll be with the in-laws at that nursing home. So I guess if that holds true to any degree I’ll put in the time with the boys right now. I play the video games (and I really suck at it and they let me know). I play basketball in the driveway. I wrestle with them.
I fish. I read to them. I play tic tac toe. I light things on fire with them. I listen to them recount their day at school.
And I feel the urge to hug them and bite their faces out of pure love and awe for what God has made and let me borrow for a short while. And even in the happy I feel a tiny bit melancholy sometimes-they are just 6 and 11 and they have already been told to “walk it off”, “quit their crying”, “toughen up” “act like a man”. Girls of this age are not told this. Society saves their “Get over yourself” messages for girls for adolescence…but with boys…it starts so early. Way too early and from too many different sources. When little girls do things that fall outside of traditional girlness (like prefer baseball to ballet) they just have girl power or are modern, independent, full of personality. When little boys do things that fall outside of traditional boyness (like prefer ballet to baseball) the world can be cruel. I have one son that just doesn’t get the intensity of sports. He can’t understand the competitive fire playing sports or the hype of watching them. It’s not his thing. He was on a 40-degree football field at practice one time (his rookie and retirement year all at once) and the coach told the boys to “dig deep.” I was watching from the warmth of my car and I had to laugh. Dig deep. He was 8 years old. Where was he going to dig? The worst things that had happened to him up until that point were either circumcision or eczema and I’m fairly sure he doesn’t remember the circumcision. It wasn’t much to draw on. I guess now that he is older I can tell him to ‘dig deep’ and he can recall the adversity he felt on the chilly football field.
I hope that I can cultivate their unabashed zest for life before the world beats it out of them. Before they walk it off. I can’t lie, I would love it if they were polite and used table manners and I toil toward that end (it is NOT going well-we just had to review the merits of wearing shirts to the dinner table) but I would love most if they just held fast onto their love of life. The way they are drawn to joy and relish fun with no concern with what happened before or what will happen after. Their days are full now with the richness of being present minded. It’s hard but wonderful and important to remember that our fathers, uncles, husbands, stepfathers, grandfathers, brothers, step brothers, half-brothers, neighbors, co-workers and male friends were boys. Boys. They are all still boys with the spirit of a boy in varying degrees in each of them. So mothers of boys are a little nuts (see what I did there) because they see the spirit in their boy, no matter the age and they don’t want that spark to ever go out. And now I’m one of them. The crazies. Keep your sparks protected my beautiful sons. And forgive me world when I forgive them everything…because I will always be able to see the wild spirit of the boy because I was there when it all began.