Wednesday, June 10, 2015

If They Hadn't Been Boys

I pick up my youngest boy to go and change his diaper, and instead of willingly complying he, unsurprisingly, kicks and screams. Still clutching a blue plastic shovel, he yells,
"Dirt! Dirt! Dirrrrrrrrt!"
I sling him over my shoulder, letting him beat my back with the shovel, then wrestle him to the change table when we get upstairs. We pause for a tickle session and blowing of raspberries on his tummy, because this silly time makes him happy enough to stay relatively still for the unpleasant but necessary part.  As I clean him up and get him ready for his nap, including wiping his dust-encrusted face and fingers, I think to myself,
"Would I be doing this for the thousandth time if I had little girls, not boys?"

Maybe I would. Lots of little girls love dirt and wild tickling and wrestling, so don't go getting your feminist panties in a twist.  It's just that in my personal experience, my friends with only little girls aren't doing the things I'm doing.  They generally aren't sitting outside construction sites and correctly identifying every piece of machinery on a regular basis.  Usually they aren't constantly listening to conversations about vehicles, weapons or superheroes or Lego. They do hair and paint little toenails, and have to refuse Grandmas who want to buy yet another pink dress. They own breakable tea sets and colouring books in which some of the pages have been neatly coloured - not scribbled with a vengeance. 

Before I became a mother, I pictured myself a mother of daughters.  I pictured pink dresses and tiny ballet flats; tea parties, colouring, braiding hair and baby dolls. I like to think my girly-girl self would have loved all those things. Reality might have been different, but I'll never know.

With a new little one due in the Fall, I am often asked (or told) if I hope it's a girl. The expectation, of course, is that we hope so. Why would we try to have another boy, when we already have three? 
But to be honest, I don't care. I'd love a daughter, but I already know from loving my sons that I will not be disappointed if I never have a daughter.  

What really concerns me is the message the "hope it's a girl" comments sends my sons, who are usually standing right there. I'm not sure they're sensitive enough at ages 5, 3 and 1 to read much into it, and they even say they'd like a sister. But for my own heart and sanity here are 11 things that wouldn't be true for me if providence and genetics hadn't given me 3 little boys:

11. I would not have so many backseat drivers telling me to go faster, like driving anywhere is actually a race, then whooping with delight when I do pass someone on the road.

10. I would not have constant engines revving, gunfire and superhero themes to listen to all day long.

9. I might not understand that park play usually involves lots of noise, violence and seemingly dangerous speeds, while possibly also using the playground equipment for something other than its intended purpose.

8. I would not know many things about most construction tools and equipment. Okay, with a carpenter grandfather, father and husband, maybe I would, but I wouldn’t be reminded of the explicit details on a regular basis if not for my particular little boys: “Mom, that isn’t a track-hoe, it’s a back-hoe, it has no tracks and two shovels.”

 7. I would not know compassion and violent urges can exist at the same time:
Carter: "Aw, poor Zachy. He's just a cute baby and doesn't know... so we should wrestle him to the ground next time he has a marker!"

6. I would not be privy to constant talk and fascination with weaponry.  We don’t own real guns, we don’t hunt, and we aren’t military, and typically don’t watch television containing weapons when the boys are awake, yet they still find ways to make anything and everything into guns and swords.

5. I would not know the sweetness, stillness and relief of watching someone sleep while clutching a sword, or laying in a bed full of race cars.

4. I would not know that it is possible to love through violence. When I am tackled, it hurts, but to them, it’s a loving gesture:
Patrick: “Don’t worry Mom, he’s just head-butting me.”

 3. I would not know protective love like I know it now.  That fierce desire to protect me, their brothers, or our home and property exists in their play and their reality:
“The first thing we do, Cart, is build a fortress for Zachary, because he’s little and can’t fight like us.”

 2. I would not be explaining getting through Mass as their mission, and giving them items to seek out, and telling them that Jesus is the ultimate superhero:
Carter whispers, “Mom, I have my guns out, because I think there’s a bad guy tryin’ to steal Jesus’ beautiful house.”

 1. I would not know the courage it takes to be raising good men. My hopes and fears for them exist in a way that wouldn’t if I had only daughters, because there’s a part of me that doesn’t understand why they are the way they are.

Sometimes it’s difficult to watch their struggles, but it is amazing to watch them gather courage, learn from their mistakes, and pick themselves up again and again.

They’re beautiful and rugged and wiggly and strange, these boys of mine. 

Sometimes I think I needed to have boys: Being the main woman in their life has made me realize how important my job is, in letting them know what a woman is. Moreover, their existence has refined that woman, honed her and shaped her into something better, someone who can run faster (literally and figuratively), endure more pain, love more fiercely and persist in becoming better than she has ever been.


  1. This is so excellent, Jess. Sibling #4 is going to be a tough one to keep up with their energetic brothers!


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