It’s been the summer of the male child and we all know it. The girls took it with a grain of salt that we had to schedule our summer vacation early to coincide with the best opening in the baseball schedule. They sat through endless games, worked concession stands and got to know and have opinions about the other boys on the team with merriment and smiles. In between tournament games, we shopped and checked our Instagram, effortlessly we speak the same language.
Crash! Boom! Break… There goes another decoration in the living room as the boy child juggles the nerf basketball, nerf only because the real one that he prefers has been banned from the house 19 times. I think, “Haven’t you gotten out enough energy yet?” It baffles me. Where does it come from? I shake my head because I am tired. He looks at me like I am from another planet and not the other way around.
I had fair enough warning 10 years ago as the kicking and thrashing in my womb, somersaults and sleepless nights alerted me that this child would be different from the sweetly contented girl quietly paging through picture books at my side. When he was born, 7 days early demanding his own timing and spotlighted entrance into this world, his short red legs and spiky black hair were a shock from the angelic doll face I had expected. He was foreign, all boy at the onset and not like me at all! Yet, as the shock was absorbed, there was a jarring breathless tug at my heartstrings; the violent motion of falling in love.
I recalled a recent conversation with my Mother in which she had said, “Having a boy is different from having a girl. The best way I can explain it is that it’s almost like a romantic love”. She was right and it’s a glorious thing because from that day forward having this boy has been one of the most energetic and trying experiences of my life. Just ask him. He’s had to fall back on that deep reservoir where he’s found the mercy of forgiveness a multitude of times.
So what? You ask. Lots of Moms have boys. True, but if you too are the Mom of a spirited boy, a boy who seems to break almost everything he touches and then cries, kicks and screams that it wasn’t his fault when clearly it was, then I think you can understand.
You see, the whole “boy thing” in general has been a real learning experience for me because I come from a family that is mostly dominated by quietly fierce females. So when I come across Mothers of families of all boys, I often times think that they are the strongest people alive. As one of 25 cousins, there are only 7 boys whom I never really paid much attention to because: 1. they were younger than me and 2. they were icky boys.
I didn’t know about the boundless energy, that would come to mean that jumping off of the back of the couch onto our black lab and chasing her around the backyard while hitting her with a plastic baseball bat, at 2-years old, would be this boys favorite past time. In my ignorance, no one could have prepared me for how freakishly strong he’s always been, both in his will and physically. (When he was only 11 months old it would take me pushing, using both arms and all of my strength against his arched back to get him buckled into his car seat.)
I realize that not ALL boys are like this but this child has never known the power of his own strength. My five-foot one, “can’t we all just smell the roses?” feminine persona had to quickly adapt as to how to operate as the Mother of the could-be toddler bully and spirited boy. As you can imagine, there have been a lot of apologies over the years… to other parents, Aunts and Uncles, and Grandmas and Grandpas; most specifically for broken items and bruises.
Remember being at the playground and that chubby toddler leg accidentally kicked your kid square in the face? Yeah, that was my son.
Or the one who, while blindfolded at a 5-year old’s Birthday party, managed to whack your kid hard in the back of his head even though he was nowhere near the pinata? Yeah, sorry and I hope that emergency ice pack I gave you helped the welt go down over time.
Now if you haven’t had kids yet and yours are going to be perfect, as were mine in my mind’s eye before I conceived, then you are probably blaming bad parenting. In which case I urge you to watch Dana Carvey’s stand-up routine on why having kids is like taking care of a 100-year-old man.
One thing that helped me with my sometimes darling but most often spirited boy is that from a young age I realized that he took himself very seriously. On one hand, this meant that he would and still does demand a lot of attention. On the other hand, I realized that by giving him attention in ways that he asked for and understood meant that I was speaking his language of love.
If you haven’t read the book The 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children Effectively I highly encourage you as it’s aided me in being empathetic with people’s needs in various relationships throughout my life. “Watch me!” became his boisterous call throughout the house and sometimes if I didn’t look up from the dinner I was preparing he would come over and yank my head into a position where my eyes were focusing only on him. I quickly learned that no matter what I was doing at these times it usually wasn’t so important that I couldn’t break away for a minute and give my undivided attention to him. I realized that when he said, “watch me” he was really asking, “show me love?”.
Now he is 10 and we still have a long way to go, but for all the physical and mental strong will, the fierce competitiveness and sometimes cheeky knowledge of just about everything in the world, this courageous boy is loyal to a fault once you are in his inner circle. He possesses leadership skills and demonstrates command of the baseball field from behind home plate with a confidence that makes my heart swell with pride. He’s great at school and why wouldn’t he be? That too is a competition and he expects it of himself. I’ve watched him cut weight for wrestling on his own volition (trust me, at 10 I would not encourage it) and adhere to a self-imposed regimen of nightly push-ups and sit-ups. He helps me stay physically fit too because if you go on a walk with him, it turns into a half sprinting game of kick ball. (Although I pulled a muscle in my shin from this over the weekend and am still recovering.)
When at times he’s not with us for a few hours our daughter and I admittedly get bored. We miss his constant chatter and joking; the singing at the top of his lungs in the shower so that we don’t forget that he is there.
I’d say that he’s getting better about physical boundaries but then I look at some of the facts. Did he not just a few weeks ago give his sister a whiffle ball shaped bruise on her thigh while playing a friendly game at Grandma’s house? Was he not one of the two boys who had to be broken up from an “I’m not going to let you go until you choke me out” wrestling match on the side of the baseball field by his coaches while waiting for a rain delay? Yes, to both. I have gray hairs to prove it. So while this boy continues to find the powers and limits of his strength, I continue to find mine.
My deepest hopes are that he will value the lessons he learns and always check himself on the prospect of self-respect. Despite all, his sisters are pretty convinced that the stuff he’s made of will make him a success in life. They say that they will run his estate one day if he earns the money. (Of course as intelligent, independent girls themselves, I vote for them taking up careers of their own.) But when this happens I’d be pretty happy if his life’s acceptance speech goes a little something like this:
Cue the lights. Mommy is tired again and doesn’t want to yell anymore. Thankfully though, I don’t have to because I find the spirited boy peacefully sleeping and I whisper, “I hope you know how much you are truly loved”.