Saturday, March 11, 2006

A Girl's Guide to Boys

As a tomboy growing up, I thought boys and girls were pretty much the same. Then I had three sons. They gave me a crash course on the world of boys.

I know they have a lot more to teach me, but here it is so far, a girl's guide to boys:

1. Mud comes in many different colors: red, brown, gray, black...All are equally delicious. None are poisonous. Most eventually wash out of clothes, which is more than you can say for popcicles.

2. The following items are swords: lightsabers, sticks, tree bark, empty paper towel rolls, unsharpened pencils, zebra figurines, spoons, carrots and thin air. If your brother hits you with any one of these, you scream in agony. When your mom comes to take away the swords, you miraculously recover and assure her that everybody's having a great time.

3. Not all superheros fly. Some are just really, really strong. But they all wear their underpants outside their clothes. And that never stops being funny.

4. Darth Vader used to be Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi that promised to surpass even Yoda in his ability to use the force. Then he joined the dark side. And no matter how many times your mom explains to you that he was just trying to save his beloved Padme's life, you will never understand why he switched sides.

5. Batman and Robin have no actual super powers. They are simply rich and smart and have all sorts of gadgetry in their Batcave. Wearing your Batman cape and mask, you will vehemently deny this when your big brother points it out to you.

6. You can recall the names of 1,000 species of dinosaurs and 26 kinds of frogs. You cannot, however, remember not to slam doors, say "butt," or tackle your brother on the hardwood floor.

7. Science is not memorizing bold-faced words in a textbook. It's exploding model volcanos and melting chocolate and mixing glue and borax to make flubber. It's believing that if you put that flubber on your cousin's basketball shoes, she'll slam dunk, like in the movie. It's getting down on your belly to watch a mantis pray. It's hiking through woods where little men live in hollows of trees. It's feeling the milk rush down your parched throat and into your tummy and trying to describe what that's like. It's cleaning creeks so that turtles don't get caught in trash and grow deformed shells. It's believing that mice ought not be killed because they are our evolutionary cousins. It's reading about real life sea monsters in National Geographic and forming opinions about the Loch Ness Monster. It's changing your mind every week as to whether the New Jersey Devil and the Mothman are real. It's lying on a blanket, watching the night sky and asking, "Is that the wishing star?" It's one part observation, calculation, hypothesis and experiment, and a million parts wonder.

8. Of all the words in the English language, butt, booty and poopy are the funniest. They are also the baddest, guaranteed to make your mom crazy. They are the most insulting, destined to flip your brother's lid if you catch him in the right mood. They are the most chantable: "Booty in the Butt. Booty in the Butt." Obviously, they need not combine to make any sense whatsoever. They are the best fighting words, too: "I'm going to sue your butt." "No, I'm going to sue your butt." "No, you are a poopy head." "No, you are a bubble bottom." And on and on. The bigger deal your mom makes out of all this, the more you'll say it.

9. The Blue-eyed Thing and Superman are equally as strong, but Superman can fly. Daddy claims he is stronger than either one of them. And you believe him.

10. You hug your brother 10 times a day. Then you crash to the floor and wrestle each other until someone says, "You win. You win." That's how you say, "I love you." And mom just doesn't get that. So you go in time out on the stairs, where the only thing to do is look at her cookbooks.

11. But you pick a yard full of dandelions for her anyway. You see them and say, "I'm going to give these to mommy" and hearing you, your mom's heart melts before you even beam with pride as she puts them in a water-filled baby food jar.

12. The walk from the car to the grocery store is 100 yards, a perilous journey, to be sure. It takes two hours. Every curb must be tiptoed across, lest you fall into the abyss below. Every bush has to be kung-fued. Every mechanical pony has to be Chris LeDouxed. Every approaching shopper is a bad guy who must be hidden from. The asphalt is hot lava--your shoes must not touch it, even if this means pulling your mom's arm out of the socket. When you make it--if you make it--inside, you must run around like an ecstatic madman, celebrating your victory until it's time to make the journey again on your way home.

13. Multiply that time by four if it rains or snows. It goes against the law of boys to pass a puddle without splashing in it, to walk through snow without throwing it and to see mud without squeezing it. Neither can you wonder without asking, lose faith without finding it again, or love without hugging (i.e. tackling.)

14. There is, indeed, a time for war, and that time is when you’re making Christmas cookies and one of the cookie cutters touches the other. The situation explodes and the next thing you know, it’s gingerbread man versus Santa Claus, battling for the right to dominate the dough. Santa Claus wins because he can fly--like a superhero.

15. For all boys, there is also a time for peace. It is after you eat your fruit loops like a velociraptor devouring lizards, after you burrow into the snow to find hibernating animals and barrel back into the house, carrying cold air on your shoulders and slush on your shoes, after you gulp down two cups of hot chocolate, after you climb onto the counter to reach mom’s secret stash of chocolate, after you smuggle some of it to your brother, after you prove that “quiet time” is a joke, after you recite your abc’s with gusto and wonder why there are no large mountains in Missouri and whether your friend Parker is named after Peter Parker aka Spiderman and how many days there are until Christmas Eve and why people can’t walk on clouds, after you test how far you can jump off the couch and wrestle your brother, after you watch the Jeff Corwin Experience and Power Rangers on T.V., after you break dance to the Veggie Tales Sunday school CD, after you threaten to get the bad guys who killed Jesus with your sword (or pencil, actually,) and learn that he wouldn't want you to do that, after you greet your daddy with a big tackle, after you suffer through dinner in order to get dessert, after the sharks attack the whales in the bath, after you listen to a book about a little superhero boy who doesn't save the world but rescues rabbits and kittens from peril.

It’s when you are tucked in bed under your Spiderman sheets and blanket. You jockey for the nightlight side of the bed and blink slowly. You pray that Santa will bring you a real T-Rex skull for Christmas. Your mom explains that it is very hard for the elves to find T-Rex skulls because the ice in the North Pole is so thick. You don't believe it.

Your mom calls you and your brother her babies. Normally, you don’t like to be babies. You want to be big boys. But when she says it right before night-night time, you smile and wiggle deeper into your covers.

And for the first time all day, you rest peacefully.

16. Then, all the sudden, you're not a baby anymore. You buy a $200 car and eat Subway sandwiches in it with your friends on the way to parties. You do dumb things to make each other laugh. You're never home. You're more man than boy. There are songs about "Daddy's Little Girl" that women dance to with their fathers on their wedding days, but no one calls you "Mommy's Little Boy." Not after you reach second grade, anyway. Talk about embarrassing.

But the secret of boyhood is that you never really grow up. Not all the way. You fall in love, have kids, say dad things like "because I said so." But you still bring flowers to your sweetheart and send bouquets to your mother and ponder who is the strongest man in the world (and wonder, sadly, if he's on steroids.) You still wrestle your brother and think about the secrets of the universe. You still play in puddles--or purposely drive your car through them, anyway. You still fight the good fight, trading, in many cases, the hammer or pen for your sword. You teach your sons how to be tough but not a tough guy. And you finally get why Anakin Skywalker went over to the dark side. You just don't understand why he never came back.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Mom said...

You really know how to draw the emotions. I went from laughing out loud at the early yrs to crying out loud when the boys grow up!!! When I'm a mom, next time, I want to be just like you!!! What a great mom you are and what a great account of your boys life this blog will be! I love you, Mom

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow...i'm smiling through tears. one of my favorite entries!! lib

7:21 PM  
Anonymous pat said...

I'm leaving this one for your Nana - she said she read it today and cried all through it. I just read it again and still have streams of tears on my cheeks. It is a great one!!!

6:20 PM  

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