My son, Luke, my baby, will turn two in a little over two weeks. He’s the spitting image of me as a child–wide blue eyes, perpetual smile that showcases big teeth, and wild, winged blonde curls that stick out in all directions. He’s a love, truly. He’ll smother me with wet kisses on demand and when he gets hurt, he’ll present the body part to his big sister for her kiss. He smiles almost constantly, and it lights up my world.
But the kid is nuts. He’s a maniac! His behavior is so different from my daughter’s at this age, that I can only say, “He’s all boy.”
I hate engendering my children. I never thought I would. Am I pushing Annabel toward dance and baby dolls or does she instinctively like “girly things?” And does Luke naturally love cars, trucks, smashing down dirt, or have I perpetuated society’s gender expectations? I hate to say it, but I do believe that there are innate differences between boys and girls behavior.
Case in point, we were playing in Annabel’s room the other day. She was quietly putting all of her baby dolls and stuffed animals to bed, tucking them in with blankets (or sometimes diaper wipes) and singing lullabies. I turned to look at Luke, who was playing with Annabel’s Fisher Price dollhouse. For a moment, I thought, “How sweet. He sees his sister play with that and he’s imitating her pretend play.”
And then I watched him put the daddy into the dollhouse stroller, whack them off of the table at full speed, and then erupt into hysterical laughter. Over and over again. Luke didn’t want to play, he wanted to destroy! Thank god these toys are made of hard plastic (probably in China, with lead-based paint, yikes!) otherwise Annabel would have erupted into tears, not laughter. To her, the dollhouse is a pretend fantasy world. To Luke, it’s a fantasy to crash every piece together.
Luke also manages to find ant hills, dead cockroaches, and duck poop in my yard and delights in rubbing them on his legs. When I set up watercolor paints and the easel outside, he wants to eat the paint and drink the cloudy water. He flushes the toilet constantly and bangs his mini choo-choo trains together, threatening (all with a smile), to throw the trains into the afore-mentioned toilet. And he does all of this while running. Seriously, the kid never walks.
Annabel was much calmer at two. She’d sit with me for hours and finger paint on the actual paper. She’d build Lego towers galore, not wanting to only knock them down. Yes, she’d bang musical instruments and pots and pans together, but she’d do it while singing, not just for noise.
The gender differences show up with table manners, too. Luke’s fork ends up being raked through his hair, leaving peanut butter, maple syrup, or spaghetti sauce in its wake. I have a Spray n’Wash party with Luke’s clothes on a daily basis, trying in vain to get strawberries and soy sauce and ketchup stains from taking hold. He eats rice by the fistful, all while resting his spoon in the other hand. On the contrary, Annabel’s learning how to use chopsticks. Enough said.
When Annabel was two, she was just beginning to learn to swim. She’d hang out, splashing and kicking, on the steps. Or, she’d use a ring or noodle to kick around the pool. Or, she’d wait for me, jumping into my arms.
Luke thinks he can swim. And he can’t. I need to invest in our own personal round-the-clock lifeguard. For that matter, I really should buy him a helmet, shin guards, a mouth guard, and a never-ending supply of band aids, because this kid is an accident waiting to happen.
For you mothers of boys, does any of this sound familiar? Are you smiling, shaking your head, thinking, “Yep, that’s a boy for ya!” Are our boys the reason for the extra worries, wrinkles, and ibuprofen?
But god, I love him. I got home from work this morning, and he came barreling through the room to launch himself at me. He tripped over two matchbox cars and a book on the way, but when he finally made it into my arms, I was rewarded with a banana-breath kiss and a softly whispered, “Mama.”
He’s worth the headaches.
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