Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Son

It's different being the father of a boy.

I have three older girls, and I love them all very much. Before I had my son, wasn't sure that I ever wanted a boy. Strangers on the street would see me, the three girls, and my pregnant wife, and say "Oh! Trying for a boy?" I would say "Yes!" but think "not necessarily..."

I was within my comfort zone with girls. I knew how to fix a Barbie, I knew how to dress a squirming little girl in a leotard, and I knew how to judge a shoe-modeling-contest (that's where they all take turns walking past me in my wife's shoes, and I tell them how great they all look and how well their shoe choices match what they're wearing).

I know, I know - very stereotypical. I can't explain it, but it's what they all like. Believe me, before I had my son, I tried desperately to get them interested in learning how to box, or play sports, or do household construction and repair projects, so it would be something we could do together. No dice. The closest I came was getting my third daughter to wrestle and pillow-fight on my wife's and my bed.

I was especially afraid of the prospect of giving a little boy a bath. When my son was born, I had already been a father of girls for 8 years. I had literally changed thousands of girl diapers, and given thousands of girl baths.

365 days per year x 1 bath every other day or two x three girls = about 400 to 500 baths per year, and my wife always prefers that I am the one to do it.

But I had only changed one or two boy diapers in all of that time, and I had never given a boy a bath. I was afraid that I would feel like some kind of pervert.

It's not that I did't want a boy, it's that I didn't want a boy. If I had a boy, that would be fantastic. If I ended up with 12 kids, all daughters - that would be fantastic, too.

Now that I have a boy, I realize how wrong I was, not because they are somehow better, but because they are so darned different. And If I had never had one, I wouldn't have ever known that.

First of all, I used to hear parents talk about child proofing their homes. I thought they were overdoing it. None of my girls ever even considered doing anything crazy, dangerous, or destructive. Sure, we put the little plastic plugs into all of the sockets, but the girls just ignored them. Eventually we found them to be a waste of time, along with all of the other standard "child proofing".

My son, the "Dangerous Lunatic", on the other hand will not hesitate to kill himself, and take you with him if he has to. We can't even keep chairs and a table in the same room unattended, because before he could walk he would use the chairs to climb up onto the table, and then jump off. And now that he can walk, it's only that much harder to deal with.

Yet he never hurts himself. My daughters have all had stiches, casts, etc. Not him, because he never falls accidentally. Before he jumps off the table, he thinks to himself "I know what would be fun - jumping off the table and into that full laundry basket." Almost every day he gets some minor injury, like a bump on the head, but never anything more than that. I'm impressed.

He is fascinated by tools, and especially by me when I am using them for something. He wants so badly to help, and I do my best to encourage him, but when I say "Come here and help Daddy, hold this with Daddy," he gets a look on his face like he isn't worthy of it, like he's honestly embarrassed at being allowed to touch a big-boy hammer with his own hands. If I can get my wife to sit with him while he holds a hammer or something, while I do something with another tool, it's like watching someone hold a sacred relic. He really can't believe that he has been entrusted, even temporarily, with something so magnificent. And he really likes it when I take him with me to the Home Depot...

He loves trash day. He hears that "Beep. Beep. Beep." that means that the trash truck is backing down our street, stops whatever he is doing, and runs over to the living room window yelling "Truck! Truck! Truck!" over an over until the truck has cleaned out the whole street.

Until he was 18 months old, in his world every animal raored and growled. If you asked him "What does the lion say?", he would reply with a roar and growl and make a claw-attack-motion with his fingers and hands. If you asked him "What does the cow say?", he would make the exact same roar and growl and claw attack. Disney Princess Figurines, too. He would, for example, pick up the Fairy Godmother figurine and threaten his sisters with it, growling and roaring and holding it out to them like he was holding a giant bug.

Speaking of bugs, if the girls ever see one, they run from the room to get Daddy to come kill it. Not the boy, though. He just starts pointing and repeating "Bug! Bug! Bug!" over and over again, until he gets close to it. The he squishes it in his fingers, and brings it over to show Mommy. Mommy sure does love that!

"Bug, Mama, Bug!"

I feel so much more responsible for him. My daughters can just be fun for me. It's not my job to teach them how to be women, so I can just relax and cuddle with them on the couch. I can play with them and enjoy them, without worrying as much about how their future reflects on me. But for my son, it's different. It's my personal responsibility to teach him how to grow up to be not just a man, but a good man. And what if it doesn't work out? What does it say about me if he grows up to be the kind of man who hits his wife, or doesn't take care of his children? What does it say about me if he grows up to be the kind of man who can't be bothered to help another human being in need? What does it say about me if he grows up to be the kind of man who is afraid to stand up for what's right?

I can't let myself get carried away with that mental garbage, though. Not only is it overwhelmingly likely that he will be just fine, but if I focus my attention on that junk not only will it make the both of us neurotic, but it will also distract us from the day to day task of learning and growing together.

I'm so glad that I have my son.

No comments: