Wednesday, January 13, 2010

. . . And Then We Had Boys

Parenting boys?  It's no different than parenting girls.  Or so we thought until we actually had boys.  As the parents of six daughters, my husband and I thought we had the parenting thing down pretty well.  We never thought we wouldn't have the chance to experience sons.  In fact, we never doubted that we would someday have boys running through our house.

I grew up like most little girls in America, dreaming of motherhood and playing with dolls.  I had dolls that cried, dolls whose eyes opened and closed, even dolls that wet their doll-sized diapers.  But through the years all my dolls had one thing in common . . . they were all female.  I'm not sure how this impacted my developing psyche, but after the blessing of six daughters in my life, I just assumed that parenting was the same regardless of gender.

Then the wonderful day finally came when we welcomed home not one, but two sons through adoption.  Matthew was four and Mason was a bustling 23-month old.  We prepared for their arrival by painting and decorating their bedroom in a sweet baseball teddy bear theme, complete with coordinated bedding, pillows, and wallpaper border.  My heart warmed as I looked into the completed room with the thought of the two boys happily playing in it.  Little did I know what fate awaited the room and us.

The day we picked up the boys to bring them home was filled with excitement.  We carried them into our once tranquil, unsuspecting home to introduce them to their new stomping grounds.  Almost immediately, there were signs that gender differences were more profound than I had thought possible, and that I was completely unprepared for them.

One delusion I had was that we would have a "no gun rule" with our children.  No toy guns, no cap guns, nothing resembling a gun.  Of course, with all girls until then, that rule held up pretty well and was never disputed.  When I shared my no gun rule with my friend Collette (mother of four boys), she grinned and said, "Just let me know when you get over that."  I was horrified!  How could she say something like that?  Get over it?  It's a rule!  If we say "no guns" that's the way it's going to be.  I thought that obviously, she wasn't the conscientious and effective mother I am.  Boy, was I in for a rude awakening!

Well, reality struck when within the first week at home, the boys had their own creative solution to the "no gun rule."  They crafted guns out of anything and everything.  Lego blocks, sticks, eating utensils, straws, Play-doh, hangers, you name it.  And would you believe even their sister's Barbie doll?  I began to notice that it wasn't just them.  Little boys everywhere were doing the same thing.  So much for gun control!

A few years and hundreds of homemade weapons later, I finally relented.  I told the boys that they could play guns only if they pretended to shoot 'things' and not people.  Unfortunately, the term 'thing' ended up being a bit ambiguous.  One day I caught Matthew shooting Mason with a Lego gun.

"Matthew, is Mason a person or a thing?"  I asked.

"I'm Anakin Skywalker!"  Matthew announced proudly.  "And Mason's not a person, he's a Sith."

Hmmm.  Interesting loophole.

At a loss, I turned to my husband for some sort of support.  As surprised as I was, he just laughed.  Then Dad, in all his sci-fi/Star Wars wisdom proudly reminded the boys that Anakin and Siths use lightsabers, not guns.  Thanks Dad.  So much for the "no swords or lightsabers rule."

Oh, and by the way, that adorable baseball teddy bear bedroom?  By the end of the first year, the bears were decapitated, the cute bedding became permanent marker Picasso reproductions, and the windows had to be replaced twice because the "no baseballs in the house rule" didn't hold up either.  And who needs to learn faux painting or wall texturizing techniques when you can have boys throw muddy balls and drive dirty toy cars on the walls?  By the way, the cute wallpaper border . . . completely stripped off.

I've learned many lessons from my sons over the past eight years.  Valuable lessons I never would have learned through my daughters. 

Here are the top 10:

10.  Boys are actually different.
9.  They break things . . . anything.
8.  They move from 0-to-60, nothing in between.  Walking pace isn't a part of their nature and needs to be developed over the years.
7.  They can't just sit on something, they have to jump on it.
6.  They jump on each other for no apparent reason.
5.  They believe nothing in the world is funnier than bodily noises.
4.  They take great pleasure in terrorizing their sisters and each other.
3.  The toilet bowl just gets in the way of 'target practice.'
2.  A "no gun rule" may be a bit unrealistic.  Maybe a 30-day waiting period would be a better option.
And my number 1 is . . . I wouldn't have it any other way.

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