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Monday, May 19, 2008

Where the Boys Are

I read this article in Wondertime Magazine while waiting for my doctor appointment last week. I laughed throughout the whole thing...I'm sure the other women waiting thought I was losing my mind. But it's funny because it's true--raising my son, but mostly growing up with 4 brothers have taught me this. If you have a minute read it, especially those with sons.
Where the Boys Are
Written By Jacquelyn Mitchard
Raising five (five!) sons! It's not pretty. But it is pretty great.

Don't try to mess with me. I'm the equivalent of a 30-year beat cop or a career fighter pilot. I have five sons.And I'm here to tell you the truth about those blue-ribbon babies. They really aren't just like girls in most essential ways. While they sometimes seem to have the emotional range of single-celled organisms, boys can be moved to tears by anything involving a dog. But they're unmoved by the tears you shed when you find the cupboard drawer containing the half-eaten pudding (the fossilized pizza, the Oreo pucks).

And it's not only boyfriends or husbands who loathe and fear the words, "We need to talk." Sons do too. Male humans, in my experience, will begin answering questions with monosyllables as soon as they can make disgusting sounds, which is almost immediately. Making those disgusting sounds will serve as an endless source of amusement to them and their friends for at least the next 20 years.

My friends and I came up with an essential test regarding the difference between boys and girls: It's called the Wet Paint Paradigm. Girls, it seems, can learn from their own experiences and even, occasionally, from others'. However, if a boy sees a sign that reads Wet Paint, he'll touch the wall to determine it's not a joke, and then his friend — standing right behind him — will have to perform the same test with his own finger. Boys are not dumber than girls. They simply have a rugged and individualistic sense of discovery and wonder, untrammeled by prior evidence.
A boy's got to do it his own way. The sooner a mother learns this, the less time she'll spend on futile interventions and headache medication.

You can raise your son any way you want to and, the first chance he gets, he's still going to burp the national anthem. You can raise your son as a Quaker, a vegan, or a pagan; he's still going to fight with his brother over an unused pen cap as though it were the Star of India.

You can kiss him every night and sing to him of milkweed and nightingales and give him his own doll and play kitties with him instead of Navy SEALs. Go ahead. He's still going to make a gun from a toaster waffle and fire it across the table — even if he's never seen a gun that didn't squirt water and wasn't shaped like a caterpillar. If you are quiet and have the patience of Job, as my friend Pam has with her son Carter, who's 4, your son will still emit shrieks that can make a dog pass out, while running through the house whipping a metal tape measure around his head.
All this may smack of gender bias. But I know and you know that it is only the unvarnished truth. In their preverbal (and postcollegiate) years, a boy will crawl under anything, fall off anything, roll over anything, kick anything. He will chew with his mouth open while tipping his chair on its back legs as soon as his legs are long enough to do the tipping.

My boys also have the sex-linked trait for absolute single-mindedness. Long after my daughters have given in and asked for crayons or a board game, my sons will keep looking out at the still-snowless mudslide and insist, "You said we were going sledding!" And they will sled — down the stairs (I have a long mirror that hid a large hole in the wallboard as evidence) or through the mud over rocks (I have a toboggan that looks like the prop from Ethan Frome).

Remove whatever is on the Y chromosome and you just may eliminate most of the crime and most of the comedy on earth, but I'm not sure the latter would be worth the former. I'm heavily invested in that Y. My life without my sons would be a haven of peaceful and predictable days and nights. Who wants that? My daughters make sense. My sons make nonsense. They say things with such righteous absurdity that it's impossible to stay angry. To quote Marty: "The hamburger meat is in the cupboard because the refrigerator was full!" At dinner when he was small, my Dan dipped dandelion petals in his milk and ate them. Asked why, he explained, "Otherwise, I can't stand the taste of the dandelions."

I love my boys for their pure sense of mayhem. As I was writing this, Will approached his sister with safety scissors and was narrowly diverted from cutting off her 22-inch ponytail, as 2-year-old Atticus shouted, "Go! Go!" He wasn't being particularly malicious. He just thought it would be interesting to test the limits of the scissors (and his sister).

Heed this furthermore: My sons are considered good, at least by Nanny 911 standards. They've never seriously damaged anyone or anything. Okay, maybe the toboggan. And the wall. But nothing important.

And when they are tender, no one can more thoroughly make putty of my heart. Their valentines are smudged with glue and feature not flowers and hearts, but bats or brachio-saurs. Yet those dinosaurs are giving me the same moony grin my sons give when they catch sight of me — even as they attempt to balance their sister on a stack of 12 cardboard blocks balanced on a stack of folding chairs. So what would I do without my built-in gladiator-and-standup show? After I was widowed, being a single mom to three boys made me strong — literally and spiritually. When I remarried, along with my girls, our family got two more little men. When 4-year-old Will says, "You are prettiest mom on the world," I think, so what if my window screens will do nothing in the way of actual screening for the next 15 years — this because my boys consider screens the expedient alternative to a doorknob? My sons have made me crazy. But they've given me permission to be crazy too. As surely as my two daughters found a room in my spirit and inhabited it totally, the boys knocked down the walls and enlarged the whole place.

Note: Jacquelyn Mitchard cautions the parents of sons to put aside $100 a month for college and $1,000 a month for ankle casts, carpet cleaning, and little metal cars.

4 comments:

Nikki

I love that, I have three younger brothers and wow I feel for my mom somedays. She has so many holes in her walls, and has gone through so many broken arms, it amazes me when I see moms raising a bunch of boys, it's got to be tough! Cute story.

The Earls

Ah, the things I have to look forward to. That was a good article.

Stacey

okay, that's one of the best articles I've ever read. And it's crazy how much I can relate. Yikes...two of those in the house might be an eye opening experience. Strangely, the article made me feel at peace knowing I wasn't the only one and I only hope to remember it when my angel niece is quietly obeying while Jace is "discovering if the paint is wet." Thanks for the post! :)

Jennifer Flake

So cute! I have to say my Adelin meets all the discriptions of a boy in this article! She's got a mond of her own!