In many ways I am a girly-girl. I love pretty dresses and going out for afternoon tea. I could sit with a book for hours, snuggled under a blanket, without feeling the need to move. Pink is one of my favorite colors, second only to powder blue. I’m not a huge fan of getting dirty and my relationship with bugs is strained.
But my son is all boy. Yesterday I watched him sit on the ground, placing handful after handful of dirt methodically into his lap. Then he stood up, grinned, and fell over onto a plant that, somewhat inexplicably, covered him in black soot. He picked himself up and toddled off to investigate a manhole cover from which he extracted a clod of dirt and grass which he sniffed and then put into his mouth. Like I said, he’s all boy.
It was clear from the moment he was born. He burst into the world raring to go and became immediately frustrated that he didn’t yet know how to run. He asserted his independence early, fussing and kicking against me so that I would put him down and let him practice rolling over. He took in the world with serious intensity, as if analyzing the laws of nature, sitting bolt upright in my lap, his blue eyes wide. He slowed down only to eat, finally resting his little head against the crook of my elbow, his eyelids resisting the inevitable pull toward sleep.
I worried that I wouldn’t know what to do with a boy. I didn’t want to be one of those mothers constantly racing after her son with a baby wipe yelling, “Don’t touch that! It’s dirty!” But would I be able to handle his perfect little face all covered in mud?
I didn’t want to be one of those mothers holding his arm as he climbed to the top of the jungle gym, screeching, “Not so high! You’re going to fall!” But would I be able to stand down below as my fearless boy catapulted to the top of the climber with no regard whatsoever for the length of the drop?
I didn’t want to be one of those mothers ripping the pots and pans out of his hands while sternly saying, “Not so loud!” But would I be able to handle the racket?
So he grew and I worried, and I worried and he grew. And then, a funny thing happened. I realized I love the boyness of him. Of course, I love him — he’s my baby. But I actually, truly, love all the things I worried I would hate.
He revels in the sounds things make when he bangs on them. This sofa cushion sounds different from the tabletop, the tabletop sounds different from the wall. We drum on things together, his joyful enthusiasm rubbing off on me. He experiments with the sounds his voice can make, sometimes a high-pitched squeak, sometimes a primal yell. And I whoop and holler, too, as we run through the grass. He thinks the sounds of words are funny. “Tissue” is a favorite and “idea.” I discover I think they’re hilarious, too, and we say them over and over and roll on the floor giggling.
We look at bugs and birds and dogs. We examine dirt. We look into holes in the ground and peer through fences. We chase airplanes and make “whoosh whoosh” noises. He hands me wood chips and leaves and sticks for safe-keeping. I point out ants marching single-file along a tree trunk and garbage trucks roaring stinkily by.
His hugs are given with boyish abandon, his whole body flung into mine, his arms wrapped around my neck, his fingers entwined with my hair. They last only a moment but that makes them all the sweeter. He plants his kisses on my cheek with his mouth open wide, smearing spit all over my face. Then he presents his cheek for a kiss of his own. And then he is gone. Off on another adventure.
I love the boyness of him. And thank goodness I do. Because it’s who he is. No matter how I feel about it. So I hold my breath as he learns to climb. And I make sure he has a good long soak in the bath at night. And I watch his face as he dreams, wondering what mischief we’ll get up to tomorrow. My son is all boy. And that’s just fine with me.