“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Friday, July 12, 2013

Boy Crazy

I grew up with just one brother, but I had plenty of boy cousins. And I babysat my next-door neighbors for some time, who had six--yes, six!--children, three of them boys. So I always thought that, despite the fact that I envisioned myself with a house full of girls (the sort of thing that would inspire people to chuckle and say, "Oh, poor Joe, with all those girls!"), I would be just fine raising boys.

It's just that there are certain things they do, collectively, that make me second-guess myself or, sometimes, want to faint. Especially now that they are big enough to play together. You might even say they're "in cahoots."

Once, I was at the house of a friend with little boys who were older than mine. Above our heads came the steady sound of thumping and possible wreckage. She sat beside me, serenely sipping coffee, smiling and not noticing my unshakable panic that perhaps someone should check on the upstairs situation. Maybe yelling was even in order. Not only did my friend do absolutely nothing, but she seemed to not notice anything was amiss.

"I'll never be like that," I declared to myself in my head.

But you see, now I have all these boys in my house. I suppose it's not so many. My uncle has six boys out of eight children, and my grandmother had four. I used to be appalled when stories were told of my grandmother's sometimes rather harsh methods of household management (opening the door and letting their beloved dogs run away, for example), but now, I'm shocked to say, I actually kind of understand.

What I do NOT understand, I've come to see, is little boys.

Here are some things I confidently know. The bathroom is a private place. Showers and baths are for bodily cleanup. Underpants are meant for covering things that need covering. Walking is a lovely thing to do. There is a difference between an inside voice and an outside voice. You can look with your eyes, but not with your hands. It is possible to discuss that someone might be wrong in a polite and calm way without any physical contact at all. In fact, physical contact is unnecessary in a lot of every day scenarios.

And yet, while I know things as well as I've know anything, my children do not seem to be catching on to any of it.

In our house, we have a playroom. It's downstairs. When we moved in, my husband suggested that we have the downstairs bedroom be a nursery for the baby and make the upstairs bedroom the playroom. "Wouldn't that be easier for you?" he'd asked. 

"No, no!" I'd said, amused by his foolishness. I mean, did he honestly think he should even bother coming up with ideas on the subject? Clearly I knew everything there was to know about raising our children. 

I don't think I was necessarily wrong on the matter, because it was my thought that sending children upstairs to a space of their own, out of sight and out of reach of adults, was just plain asking for trouble. "They'll never need to be in their rooms, except for sleeping," I'd announced. Really, it is sound logic, isn't it? 

It's just that today, I found myself on the couch with a book. Such a rare thing, you know. Dishwasher running, washing machine going, floors vacuumed. Total down time. And then it happened. From up above came the sound of thumping. Shrieks. Deep voices filled with bluster, which I can only imagine were meant to be warrior-like. And do you know what I did? Nothing. I did nothing!

I am shocked by my own lack of concern. I'm also shocked that somehow, it has happened that my children now have two play spaces: downstairs and upstairs. How did this come to pass? At what point did I look the other way, enough that it became just something they do? Because it certainly has. The pounding above me sounded like the devil himself would emerge through my ceiling. "My God," I said to myself. "I've become my friend, from all that time ago." And I'm not even ashamed.

The thing I've learned about having little boys is that it doesn't seem to matter how nurturing and good I am with them. They're going to think that poop and farts are hilarious (even in fancy restaurants). Last night, they spent ten minutes in their beds laughing breathlessly over the fact that Noah could snort. They flopped over backwards, barely missing banging their heads on the wall, clutching their bellies and trying to breathe, and just when they composed themselves, Noah let out yet another sound worthy of the biggest, fattest pig you ever saw and the whole thing would start all over again. I'll tell you what, there was nothing I could do but finally leave them to it. Sure, I could have stood front and center with my hands on my hips and a scary expression on my face, used my wicked witch voice and put the fear of God in them, but in the end...why?

Sometimes, in these moments, I close my eyes and imagine pink bedrooms filled with ruffles and twinkle lights and fairytale magic. I would have been fantastic with girls. I know this, and I think the Universe knows it, too. But for whatever reason, I've got all these boys. My mom says it's punishment for what a bad girl I was when I was young. I never did drugs, never drank, and really never lied to her, but somehow it happened (often) that I was grounded for being, and I quote, "Wild, out of control, and a very bad girl." I did fall in love for the first time in kindergarten, with a boy named Danny who refused to come into our classroom for three whole weeks. And then again in first grade, and second grade, and every grade thereafter until one day one of those boys was foolish enough to drop down on one knee and say, "I don't know how long I've loved you, I think I always have, and I know I always will." Thank God for that boy. Not only was he true to his word, but he also has this uncanny knack for understand little boys that, now that I've learned to listen, has saved me more than once.

 And more than that, my boys are friends. Best friends. They argue and misbehave and put their hands down their pants for no reason at all, but I've seen Joey throw himself in front of Noah to protect him from harm. I've seen Noah wordlessly squish onto the couch beside Joey, where before there had been no space at all but Joey squishes into the back cushions to make room. And they sit like that, their blond heads pressed together, breathing in sync, without speaking, with full understanding that one belongs with the other and that's just the way it is. I don't think I'll ever stop worrying about them...that thumping and shrieking is enough to give any normal person a heart attack, but I definitely love them for what they are. The Universe knew better than I did, because I don't think there is anything better on this whole earth than the little boys in my life. 

Even with their snorts and farts.

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