Last week, I got to spend time with my two nieces -- one is 2, the other is 1 -- and fell in love with their pretty pouts and frilly dresses and sparkly shoes. Despite the fact that I'm far from girlie, I was outright squee-ing over all of their sugar-and-spice adorableness. At the same time, it made me a little sad, thinking about how I'll never have a daughter of my own. We're not having any more kids, happy with our twin boys -- the shop is closed. So, I can't help but get a little wistful thinking of the tea parties I won't get to have, the American Girl store outings I'll miss, going shopping with my teen...huh, okay, maybe it's not that great.
And, the truth is, I really do love having boys. I've always loved the playfulness and exuberance of little guys, and I feel so lucky to have a couple of my own. So instead of dwelling on the daughter I don't have, I thought I should instead be reveling in the joys of having rough-and-tumble boys. For example...
- Toddler boys are hilarious. They just are. Sometimes, it's unintentional, like how they toddle around with this chest-puffed swagger, carrying something heavy and manly (like my purse) as though they're big boys. The way they frown at me all serious and thinking, already little men, sitting in judgment. And then, it's just their own wild, rambunctious silliness -- the way they stand in downward dog, heads on the ground, looking at me upside down and laughing. The way they throw all the pillows off of the couch and then hurl their bodies on top of them. The way they run back and forth from room to room, wild and squealing, stopping to give their tiny-voiced "Hiiiiii," along the way.
- I don't have to do their hair. I have very curly, unmanageable hair, and zero energy to blow-dry and straighten and product to perfection. When I was little, my mom was forced (so she says) to cut my hair into a mullet because it was so difficult to brush my hair. My boys have beautiful, soft curls, nowhere near as frizzy as mine, but it's pretty poufy. If they were girls, I'd probably be wrestling those curls back with clips or hair ties, and totally unqualified to do so considering my own hair laziness. But with my guys, I can just let it all hang out, in its big, blond messy mop of glory.
- It's apparently more acceptable for them to be shoeless and dirty. Now, I personally think it's perfectly acceptable for girls to be totally barefoot and muddy, just as much as boys. I was one of those little girls, so I don't think it's just a boy thing. That being said, you know all those strangers, the ones with the opinions on your child-rearing? Yeah, them. Well, from what I've heard from friends, apparently these strangers are appalled when little girls have dirt in their hair. I'm not saying I let my boys run around like Pig Pen, but I don't sweat it when they're disheveled because I usually don't hear anything worse than, "Oh, boys."
- I don't stress as much about their chub. I've had body image issues and food issues since the time I hit early puberty. I think about my weight all the time, when I'm dieting, when I eat something decadent racked with guilt, when I lie in bed at night wondering what I'm going to fit into for this event, worrying someone is going to take my picture. It's a kind of self-hatred that I would never, ever want my kids to have. Of course, if I had a little girl, I would try to make sure it never got to that. I would help her to appreciate her body for what it is, as my parents did. But, as much as my parents tried to instill confidence in me, they couldn't change the messages I got from the outside. I imagine it's only worse for young girls today. My little guys are definitely little chubbers with juicy thighs and edible cheeks. They love food and shove big, honking fistfuls of it into their mouth. In fact, I think their favorite word, as they're sitting in their highchairs, is, "Moooooooooooore." They eat healthy, and love their vegetables, and are very active, so I hope to instill good habits. But, if they continue to be on the chubby side, I'm not going to lie, I think it'll be easier on them than it was on me.
- They really do love their Mommy. When I was pregnant, people kept telling me, "Oh boys, they really love their Mommies," which always bugged me because I would think that all children love their mothers, regardless of gender. But, I have to say, I do kind of see it now, what those people were talking about. My guys love to snuggle up with me, and fight each other for room on my lap when we're reading books. Everything I do is, apparently, hilarious, even if it's peeking at them from between the crib slats. Now, of course, I'm sure it's the same way with baby girls, but I have to say, there's something really special about the bond little boys have with their Mommies.
- I can stress less about their teen years. Yeah, teenage girls terrify me. Like, I listen to them as they sip their gingerbread lattes, talking about the Biebs and the OMGs and I kind of want to gag myself with a spoon (oh wait, are the kids not saying that these days?). They just seem so, I don't know, foreign and strange to me and unknown. Was I like that? Maybe? But back then, we didn't have Facebook and Kei$ha and dinosaurs roamed the earth. All I know is that I want no part of it! So I'll take all the couch-diving and climbing and head bumps and knee scrapes of my toddler boys now, to save myself the anxiety of having a teenage girl later. Ai yi yi.
- Little boys are damn cool. A few weekends ago, we came home to find about 10 preteen boys running around our block like crazy people. It was our neighbor's son and his friends, I think a birthday party. One kid was in a full-on ninja suit, I think another one was wearing like rubber body armour, and they all had super cool, big-ass water guns. They were hiding behind trees, and diving off of low walls, and rolling down the grassy hills and screaming. It was wild and fun and so, so, so BOY! I turned to my husband and said, "Is that what we have to look forward to?" and he looked back at me with a big grin and said, "Oooooh yeah."
- I get to teach them what it really means to be a man. My boys are very lucky that they come from a long line of males who have integrity, who do the right thing, who are reliable and steady and trustworthy. To me, those are important traits in a man. But, I also believe that men should be soft -- that it's okay to be sensitive, it's okay to express your feelings, it's okay to cry. I want my sons to feel that. I want to teach my boys how to treat women, by being a woman that they can respect. I want them to have enough confidence in themselves to not be intimidated by a woman with brains and drive and determination. I want them to know that being a man is about being good and fair and compassionate, but also just about simply being who they are. I know, I know, we have years and years until we have to teach them those lessons. For now though, I'll focus on making them good boys by teaching them to be kind, to be patient, to be loving. And letting them know that if they never grow out of their obsession with shoes, or decide that one day they want an American Girl doll, that's okay too.
What's your favorite thing about having boys?