A friend recently had her first baby, a boy. As you know, I have three boys. I also grew up with two older brothers. So my friend had some questions, and I did my best to answer. Turns out I know more about boys than I thought. (To be fair, the following is also likely true of girls, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.)
My youngest, in particular, is like a border collie, if you don’t run him enough during the day, he will dig up shrubs and chew holes through the back deck. I mean, wait — he will tie his Big Wheel to his scooter and drive the makeshift “train” while wearing a “Star Wars” mask that completely covers his eyes.
His brothers will encourage him. They will give him false directions (“Turn left, Lindell; I promise you won’t run into a tree”) before falling over laughing. Then all three will chase each other with sticks.
And it is great fun — until someone throws the hard, plastic “Star Wars” mask at someone else’s face.
But that’s why we have 10 different, kid-size football helmets, all in various states of decay (based on how long they were buried under last year’s snow or how many nights they’ve been left out in the rain), hidden in our garage.
Soon, the boys are ramming each other with their helmets.
If you think this sounds barbaric, it is. Little boys fighting in the backyard isn’t much different from a pair of deer wrestling with their antlers. Indeed, the older-brother “headlock-noogie” rite of passage probably evolved out of necessity, due to humans’ lack of natural weapons on their heads.
Boys have emotions, but their feelings usually (again, I’m generalizing) have little in common with the female variety. Or, at least, they express them in different ways and at unexpected times.
Someone (with more sensitivity) once suggested that my boys, who were mad at a friend, write a letter explaining how they “really feel.” I overheard this while I was washing dishes in the kitchen.
The boys ran through the back door, mud flying off their shoes, and raced to the drawer where we keep pen and paper. I pretended not to notice as they sat down to the table, red dirt from a baseball field lining their palms and caked to their knees, and dragged the pen angrily across the paper. The wood table creaked and shook as they wrote.
When the boys started out the door, letters in hand, I intercepted. One by one, I plucked the tightly folded papers from their fists, and stuffed them into my back pocket.
I had a pretty good idea how my boys “really feel.”
When my older brothers were mad at me, they didn’t say things like, “It hurts my feelings when you … ” or “Sometimes I feel sad because you … .” No, they told me that my real parents were monkeys and that our mom and dad had stolen me from a circus.
When I had my first boy 11 years ago, someone said, “No one will ever love you as much as that little boy will when he is 4 years old.”
It’s true. Little boys love their moms.
They might not always show it — especially after they turn 6 (they go into kindergarten as babies and come out “boys”) — but for a little boy, Mom represents everything he is not.
A mom “makes” her boy cuddle on the couch while they watch SpongeBob, and although he rolls his eyes, the boy wouldn’t have it any other way.
A mom makes the Princess Leia action figure hug her action-figure dad (Vader), and the boy is reminded that toys can be something besides an object to throw at your brother.
A mom translates “He punched my stomach and threw my football behind the shed” into its rightful meaning: I think I need a hug.
For my friend, I packed a gift bag full of things meant to introduce her to this new world of boys. Dustin watched as I wrapped a “Star Wars” action figure in tissue paper, folded a shirt with Superman on the front, and placed both items in the bag.
But when I put a package of press-on mustaches in there, too, Dustin said, “Why are you giving her things she won’t need for another four years? You expect her to keep up with all that stuff until then?”
I ignored him.
Two days later, six hours after her son was born, my friend sent me a digital picture. There was her perfectly pink, wrinkly, adorable newborn — with a handlebar mustache beneath his nose.
I showed the picture to Dustin.
I may be a girl, but I know boys. And I especially know moms with boys.