Friday, February 15, 2008

Boy Crazy

Once Dan and I knew we were having a boy, it was all boys all the time for me.

I am an only child, technically speaking--I have two half-brothers from my biological father's previous marriage, who, for most of my childhood, lived with my mother and I. Complicated. One is nine years older, the other eleven years, and neither of them have remained close to me. Also complicated.

The result of me doing most of my growing up without a male in the house was that it made me slightly boy-crazy. I always had big, juicy, emotional crushes on multiple boys at the same time in high school, but I rarely had a boyfriend. My senior year, when I did, I felt so conflicted: a simultanious need to cling to this guy and to spread my wings and test uncharted waters at the same time.

I spent the first half of my pregnancy consuming entire loaves of toasted white bread and reduced-calorie cranberry juice and wondering what I could possibly figure out about raising a son. Girls I knew; I had some experience. I was a relatively late baby--my mother was 35 when I was born--so I hit puberty right about the time that she hit menopause. Dear Lord, the hormones flying in that house. You would not BELIEVE. But I had no experience with boys, except to know that I hadn't married a typical one. As one of my good friends said when she got pregnant, unexpectedly, under some incredibly frightening circumstances, "What do I know about teaching responsible penis usage?"

We of course found out we were having a boy; from the moment that the unmistakable shape of male genitals appeared on the ultrasound screen, it was boys for me. You find out what you're having, and even if you were expecting something else, really believing in it, there's no turning back. I was mother to a boy before he was born.

There is something unique about parenting a boy. He will unexpectedly climb into your lap to give you the warmest, tightest hug in the world, then jump down and run off to play, but he will rarely cuddle with you. He will understand that, while his father holds the earth up on his shoulder, you are the one that makes a soft spot to land. You will be the one who he gives in to, not his father, when you are trying to make him do something he doesn't want to do.

He will break your heart when he asks for his father when he's as sick as he's ever been, but it'll heal you when a train whistle frightens him and he pushes people out of the way running to jump into your arms. You'll be the first one he says "I love you" to.

Personally, I love this all-boy kingdom I have. I know that things will change as he grows up, and the toilet seat will always be up and there'll never be any hot water for a shower for me. I know it'll be like AM Sports Radio at the dinner table. I know that instead of girls' nights with pedicures and chick flicks and dress-up, there'll be lacrosse practice and girls calling my house at dinnertime and fart jokes.

But I don't know anything about girls. Even as a child, other girls were mysteries to me--they seemed catty and cruel and untrustworthy. I've had a few close girlfriends throughout my life, but not many, and rarely have any of them liked each other very much. My birthday parties always devolved quickly into several bickering cliques between which I felt torn. As a mother, as little as I know about responsible penis usage, I know even less what to do about a Barbie Doll crisis, a cheating boyfriend, a best friend who buys the same prom dress, or any other girl-specific crisis.

My mother was sure I was a girl. Back in 1975, before ultrasounds, there was no way of knowing, but she didn't even think up a boy's name. I doubt that she knew any more about raising a girl than I would have, but she did her thing and she did it as well as she possibly could. The paradigm of my family is so different from hers. As the mom, and the girl, in this equation, I have a unique position as the center of my boys' universe, and I like it here very much.

If there's ever another one, I can't help but hope he's a boy. I feel like I was born to be a mother to boys. He fits me. When I thought about him before he was born, thought about what he would be like, he is so close to what I imagined, he is so much like what I thought he would be like, sometimes I can't believe he's not a figment of my imagination. I think that the universe somehow sends you just the right kid for you, the one who will test you and push you and make you grow in leaps and bounds.

If I had to describe parenting in one word, it would be transformative. In the little galaxy of our family, we are each other's centers of gravity. Adding Max to the mix changed everything and made us complete in ways we never thought of. The fact that he's a boy made me something special in this equation.

That song by John Mayer, "Daughters," talks about the power of a father's love in a daughter's life. There is an equally important story of mothers and sons to be told. I haven't seen enough yet to be able to tell it. I just feel incredibly lucky to be learning these lessons.


Kimberly said...

I hope you're right, and the universe has sent me just the right son.

Heather said...

Yep, you're right boys are like that. Although my son, at 3 1/2 is still a cuddler. My daughter is equally great. I think we each get just the right child(ren) for us.