Recently a close friend announced that her and her husband are expecting a baby boy. They already have a daughter so there were lots of remarks flying around such as “oh it’s SO different with a boy” or “just watch out when you change his diaper!” The mom mentioned that she wasn’t sure what she was going to do with a boy, since all she knew was being a mom to a girl. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big advocate of not stereotyping based on gender. I am all for letting children explore and play however they like, but in my three years of raising boys, I can’t help but notice interesting differences. So what exactly DO you do with a boy?
You wrestle. And I don’t mean pillow fights or silly tickle-wrestle. I’m talking throw-down, drag-out, somebody’s probably going to get hurt before the end kind of wrestle. When my husband’s home, I defer all wrestling matches to him, but when he’s not here, I’ve learned to put aside my feminine worries of being too rough and learn to roll with the punches (literally, because though these toddlers may be small, they are bony and fast).
You get dirty. REALLY dirty. Even though I grew up with all sisters and was quite the tom boy, I had no idea what dirty meant until having boys. They’re attracted to mud puddles, dirt piles and sand like magnets. Early on I was quick to dust off their little hands after every fall, whip out my stain-remover stick on every spot and Purel them like the playground swings were some kind of Petri dish. Now I pat myself on the back if I remember to have them take their shoes off and dump the other half of the sandbox out before coming inside. We have fun at bath time trying to guess what sticky substance is gluing their hair together this time. Not one of my most stellar mommy moments was when I recently took James to the doctor to have them look at an odd red-splotchy mark on his leg that resembled a burn or a rash. The first doctor we saw couldn’t explain it, asking all the usual questions to see whether it was an allergic reaction or if it caused him any pain. Another doctor, the boys’ regular physician, stopped in to say hi and took a look at the odd mark. After a couple seconds, she licked her finger, and started rubbing the spot right off. It was some kind of dye or ink that he had somehow got on his leg, unbeknownst to me. Now, before rushing to the doctor for anything, give it the ole mommy spit test first.
You get jealous. I seriously want to go right now and give my mother in-law a hug for all the times I hurt her son’s feelings or broke his heart. Even though my boys are still so young, I get very protective if little girls hurt their feelings. I assume it would be the same for a daughter, but there’s just something about a mama bear with her little boy that I never knew existed. I don’t even want to think about when they start dating — you know, when they’re like 25.
You learn to not just like, but LOVE large moving machinery! The louder the better. And if smoke comes out of it in any way, that’s worth at least pulling over to watch or take a picture. I don’t even know how to change a tire, but I know the difference between steam engine versus diesel train, bi-planes versus pontoon planes, fire engines versus ladder trucks, back-hoe diggers versus bulldozers, and lots more trivia that I probably won’t be pulling out to discuss at the next Mom Night Out with my girlfriends. Unless they have boys too.
You get loved in a sloppy, messy, knock-you-over with their tackle-hugs kind of way. My sons beat me up with their love sometimes. It’s raw, passionate and often leaves scars, but it’s one of the most rewarding kinds of love I’ve known so far. They’re still learning that women can be fragile, and we as their mamas are the ones who have to be their practice ground, and that can hurt sometimes. But one day I hope my future daughter-in-laws will come to me and say how sweet, thoughtful and kind my sons are. Until then, I’m going to keep jumping back in the ring, teaching them how to love, and how to be the best boys, and eventually men, they can possibly be.
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Mandy Watts is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Crownsville with her husband, Justin, who runs their family business, and their two sons, 3-year-old James and 1-year-old Luke.