Where the Wild Things Are? In His Toy Box

Photo by K. Emily Bond

Put my little guy in a pile of dirt and he’s as happy as a pig in -- let’s just stick with dirt, shall we? The same goes for mud, sand, puddles, and fallen leaves.

Don’t even get me started about fallen tree debris. That would be sticks. I grew up a girl, so maybe there’s something deeply phallic going on that I don’t understand, but sticks ... oh man. Apart from the slobbering dogs he loves, the ones that routinely crap on the sidewalks while the owners look the other way, a good stick has the potential to be his best friend for the better part of a week.

That’s how it is with boys, it seems. No matter how much time or money I put into finding him the perfect toy, if I give him a choice between organic and handmade (or manufactured), he’ll opt for the former every time. By "organic" I mean any plaything he’s discovered in the wild.


Here are a few more of his favorite things:

A pile of dirt
: I stopped being fastidious about clothing, including my own, around the time my son discovered dirt. He’s drawn to it, the same way mosquitoes were lured to his chubby cheeks when he was a baby. If there’s a drop of water involved and the potential for -- insert toddlerese speak for OMG! -- mud, that bag of chips I might have swiped from him becomes a distant, if not unpleasant, memory.

Public water fountains
: There’s more dirt than grass in my part of the world. Please refer to "pile of dirt" for further details on the endless wonders of public water fountains. They also keep him cool in the hot, hot sun and wet, wet, wet for the stroller ride home.

"Shotgun" stroller rides: If, by some miracle, we’re able to strap him into his stroller dry, the adventure doesn't stop there. A father-son invention, the shotgun stroller ride involves roping a scarf around my son’s back as a "safety" harness so that he can ride standing up, facing us, mind you. Rarely does this occur when I’m around. His father assures me that it’s perfectly safe.

I do not approve.

My way of getting him to sit in his stroller is to give him another favorite toy ...

Something to squash: I was having lunch with a friend one day and she marveled at my laissez-faire way of handing off a juicy pear to my son. She wondered why I didn’t cut it up into bite-sized pieces. I, of course, followed standard safety protocol like removing the stem and keeping an ever-watchful eye on him as we finished our coffee.

"The thing is," I told her, "sometimes all he really wants is something to squash." Therefore, I carry ripe fruit with us pretty much everywhere we go. It’s nutritious and project-oriented.

A really big stick
: Like many mothers of boys, before actually having one, it’s pretty common to dismiss gender differences as a mixture of societal myths and stereotypes. When I see my boy swinging a stick around, though ... I feel like I’m betraying every gender studies professor I ever had. It’s true: They are different!


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