Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Girls Will Be Girls: Except When They’re Boys

“Here she is,” announced my doctor as my baby took her first breath. I held her, secretly relieved my first was a girl. I grew up one of three sisters so females were familiar. I did my share of dating, and was married, but I was no expert on the opposite sex. Venus...Mars. Tomato...To-mah-to.

But a girl’s life I did know. The good, the bad, and the vicious. I knew it well and was confident my daughter would benefit from my battle scars hard-earned wisdom.

Are you laughing yet?
Like my daughter would listen to any advice I had to offer.
If you believe that, I've got a gas-guzzling Hummer you might like to buy.

The fantasies of intimate mother/daughter chats about puberty, introducing her to my generation's bible, “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret, explaining the mystery of mean girls, social cliques, S-E-X ... I get none of that. Any hint that I am about to broach the subject of periods or pubic hair and my daughter is all “Lalalalalalalalala, I can’t heaaaarrrrr you” and out the door faster than I can say "but I'll buy you a video IPod....." And she needs no advice from me on handling cattiness and cliques - she manages them just fine on her own.

When I found out the sex of my second child, I freaked out. The thought of a penis growing inside me was just – ewwww. The things I knew about penises I assure you were not going to come in handy with a baby. I am not into competitive sports, I don’t like playing them or watching them on tv. I don’t have many close male friends, so what, other than being his mommy, was I going to have in common with my boy?

More than I ever thought possible. You see, my son, despite his gregarious and often inappropriate personality, is super sensitive. Those intimate talks I dreamed of having with my daughter, the ones about bodies maturing, where we go when we die, what our souls look like, I have those with my son. He can't get enough. He has all the machismo of a boy: he loves sports, balls, guns (he can turn a benign piece of buttered toast into the meanest rifle) but the slightest drop of blood makes him queasy, diarrhea turns him into Chicken Little, and the slightest affront causes his body to stiffen and his upper lip to quiver.

The dreams of guiding my daughter through teenage angst are coming into play... but with my eight year old son. To make matters more surprising, he plays for the opposing team. He is, I fear, a mean boy. Decades ago, I might have been his victim. I shudder as he recounts how he and his friends ousted some boys from their group because they cry, they cheat at handball, or, they’re just annoying. Hearing him deliver haughty commentary about peers who scored poorly on tests and who wear the wrong kind of undergarments (apparently boxer-briefs are in), I feel as if I'm fraternizing with the enemy. I'm disappointed and scared for him knowing that bad karma will, one day, swing in his direction.

I offer the requisite parental wisdom...

“If you don’t have anything nice to say…”
Treat people the way you want to be treated”

“Keep your hands to yourself”

“Don’t pick your nose in public”


...but my boy has me stumped. I'm convinced he tells me all that he does because he knows his behavior is wrong and wants me to tell him so. But when I oblige, his chest puffs out with testosterone and he becomes steely and impenetrable.

Life throws you curve balls and I’m a lousy catcher. I never expected my boy to behave like this. All these years I've been coaching the wrong player. I love my son. He is smart, charming, funny, and sensitive. He is, as all mother’s say, a good boy. But I’m not in denial. He’s attracted to the movers and shakers, the boys with older siblings who have their fingers on the pulse and command the playground. He’s in awe of the older kids who skateboard in front of the local Starbucks. He emulates their style. He leans toward danger.

When my son was born, everyone said boys are easier. Where are you people? I have a bone to pick with you.

9 Comments:

InTheFastLane said...

I think they are both hard...but different. Good luck with yours :)

ByJane said...

Sounds to me like you've got a blend of yin and yang in both--and isn't that what we ask for in our kids??!!

Jan said...

Well, you know, one of the reasons some seasoned mothers say that sons are easier than daughters - and I'm certainly one of them - is grounded almost completely in the trials and tribulations of adolescence and the teen years. I firmly believe that while no right-thinking mother would prefer an 8-year-old boy over an 8-year-old girl (mostly for reasons like the ones you described), no right-thinking mother would prefer a 14-year-old girl over a 14-year-old boy. You'll see what I mean; it's about the time your daughter hits 14 that you find out you've become the absolute stupidest person on the planet. Some strange metamorphosis takes place, and she will suddenly know EVERYTHING and, according to her, you'll be lucky if you can remember how to get dressed every morning.

And while it's true that karma may very well come and bite your boy for his ousting of others who don't fit in, don't worry - in all likelihood it won't happen till his 20-year high school reunion and he finds out how much money that geeky little runt in the tightie-whities makes.

merlotmom said...

Jan- Thanks. I feel much better now. NOT.

Jan said...

Well, you need to know what you're headed for with the teenage girl thing - we're currently working on getting the third one out of adolescent (and while the two older aren't teenagers any longer, it's not necessarily looking any better just yet). There are degrees, for sure, but it's pretty universal.

As for your son, I really wasn't trying to be glib, although when I reread what I'd written it certainly seems so, it's just that I think you may be worrying unduly about him. I don't think he's a mean kid, and I don't think his desire to emulate the bigger kids skateboarding in front of Starbucks is a bad thing - heaven knows there are worse things for him to admire and want to do. Nor do I think Bad Karma in the form of getting the snot beat out of him by some kid's older brother is going to happen either.

We, as parents, spend so much time worrying about what kind of people our kids are going to be, and what kind of external influences are going to shape them into those people they are going to be, that we sometimes forget they're still just kids. And we lose sight of the fact that, despite all of the media hype about teen violence, the vast majority of children grow up to be perfectly wonderful adults.

He's going to be fine.

mac said...

I just spent most of the day in my son's classroom, resisting telling him off and wondering how I came to be the mother of such a foreign creature. Why couldn't he just sit still and focus on his work? Why was he talking to me in that insanely annoying baby voice? Why was he talking back to the teacher (small thanks that it was a sub)? My daughter would never do any of those things! So, it was great comfort to come home and find your post and other people's comments.

I agree with Jan, and try to remind myself often, that he is still very young. He has a lot of time to figure things out. I am pretty sure it will happen on his own timetable, whether I like it or not. By the time he grows up, I will have learned a lot more about the opposite sex than I knew before he came along.

merlotmom said...

Jan- thanks for the further clarification. i hope you took my comment with the humor that was intended.

SoccerMum said...

I have Mr 4, kind and sensitive and now Miss 1.5 comes along and is completely unruley! Looks like our combinations match and you are streets ahead of me. When you've figured it out can you let me know please.

2KoP said...

I have 6: boy and girl steps who are in their 20s now; 16-year-old boy/girl twins and 10 and 11 year old boys. What I love about my daughter is that she just "gets it" much more than any of my boys do. I'm already lamenting losing her to college and that's still more than 2 years away. What I love about my boys is that they are all so different and that they help me see the world differently. (Plus, boys love their mamas.)

It has been fascinating raising opposite-sex twins. I have an upcoming blog that looks at that whole nature/nurture controversy. I find that the issues I have with my kids are more developmental than gender-based. I belonged to a twins group where we had great speakers and one told us that "this too shall pass" applies to both the good times with your kids, as well as the bad ones. I'm really trying to enjoy those moments with my kids when I do not want to ship them off to Siberia.

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