Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I just don't get it: June 15, 2003

I like boys a lot. I married one, I've produced two, and I'm even friends with a few. But I don't understand boys. I don't understand how they think or why they do the stuff they do or why they say the things they say. Boys are weird. I will probably spend a lot of the rest of my life trying unsuccessfully to understand boys.

That's OK. I didn't really have any other plans.

A crash course in the mysterious world of boys
    I’ve never been a little boy, which sometimes makes it hard for me to get inside the mind of my 3-year-old son.

    Jack’s idea of a terrific game is to smack his buddy Norman on the head and then wait for Norman to smack him back. They both shout "Whack," and laugh uproariously at this exchange.

    During a recent drive I had both boys strapped into the back seat of the car, and they spent nearly an hour playfully smacking each other’s heads and shrieking laughter. I watched them in my little auxiliary rearview mirror, which points at the back seat.

    I fought the urge to tell them to stop hitting each other. "Be nice," I wanted to say. "Don’t hit your friend." But I kept biting my tongue, listening to that laughter. They were nearly giddy, and I was silent the whole way.

    I don’t get it, but I guess I know a good time when I see one.

    Jack turned 3 last month, passing into the exotic realm of children who are old enough for toys that contain small parts. He’s not my baby anymore. He’s almost toilet-trained and loves to announce proudly to everyone in earshot that he can go potty. People are remarkably gracious upon receiving this news.

    "Good for you," said the smiling woman at the Wal-Mart.

    I’ve learned the art of the apologetic grin and developed an imperviousness to embarrassment.

    As Jack gets older, the details of his personality are coming into focus.

    He dislikes loud noises — the vacuum is a particular nemesis — and gets intensely upset when he sees another child crying. He thrills at heavy equipment, motorcycles and fire trucks. His favorite word is "contraption."

    He is left-handed, which he got from me. He’s thoughtful and tends to be cautious, which he got from his father.

    Jack has a room stuffed with an appalling supply of toys, but prefers rocks, dirt and puddles to anything you can buy in a toy store. We had our first camping trip recently, and the opportunities for entertainment were endless.

    "Jack, let’s go fishing with Norman and his daddy," I suggested.

    "I want to throw rocks in the water," he replied.

    "How about we go watch the kayaks — you can see Daddy in his kayak," I urged.

    "I want to throw rocks in the water."

    I know when I’m beaten. We found a creek with a nearby supply of rocks, and I took a seat on the bank.

    Jack spent 90 minutes throwing rocks into the water. By the end of the afternoon, he was wading thigh-deep into the little creek to fetch the rocks he’d thrown in, and then wading back out to toss them in again. Soaking wet and muddy up to his hips, he laughed and executed a triumphant little hop every time a rock splashed down.

    When I was little girl, I was not particularly prissy. I rode horses and bikes. I climbed trees and didn’t have any interest in dolls. But I’ve never been a little boy, and I’m just not sure I understand the appeal of rocks and mud, the charm of games that involve violence or the romance of heavy equipment.     

    I’m willing to learn, though, and I hope Jack will bear with me while I try to figure all this out. So far he’s been pretty patient.

    "Jack is a big, tall crane," he says, growling like a motor and lifting piles of rocks in his little hands. "Mommy is a crane, too," he adds, dumping the rocks in my lap.

    OK, Jack, Mommy is a crane. Mommy is a happy crane. 

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