Dec. 1, 2014

The Thing about Boys...

Raising five children alone is daunting at best.  There are innumerable challenges, each one individually worthy of discussion, but perhaps the biggest challenge in my parenting journey has little to do with the number of children for whom I am solely responsible and much more to do with the level of testosterone assigned to the little people that I love.  I grew up in an estrogen fueled home.  The oldest girl in a set of three my childhood was full of pink taffeta and glitter.   Outside of my middle sister, who would with great glee cartwheel through our family room with the sole intention of disquieting whatever peaceful scene she would encounter knocking my baby sister and I down and then exiting the room with a giggle and a rousing chorus of “I love Rock n Roll”, my exposure to the mythical creature called the boy was minimal.  When I was expecting my first child I remember the shift in the room and the catch in my breath when the ultrasound tech announced with glee that the little one tucked safely under my heart was equipped with plumbing altogether different than I had imagined.  Preparing for a boy involved changing my perspective.  For the first time ever I was forced to see the value of the spectrum of the color blue, but nothing prepared me for the moment that boyhood entered my reality.  Over the course of four years I would welcome five children and only one would be remotely interested in pink taffeta and glitter.  There were things that I had been told about the male species, things I knew to expect but as in most of the important lessons of life I did not fully grasp these things until they became my reality.  I quickly came to understand that diaper changing involved the quick actions of a skilled ninja in an effort to thwart the inevitable shower upon removing a soiled diaper.  I also came to realize that boys come equipped with an undefinable need for motion.  From almost their first breath my boys seemed to have a drive for movement.  I watched in fascination as their brand new hands would open and close as if to welcome the chaos and action to come.  I observed their need to roll over, to crawl to walk and to run unfold at a dizzying pace while their sister seemed more content to observe the world around her before feeling the need to explore it with any physicality.  As they grew I noticed a marked absence of physical boundaries. I would often stand confounded sighing in both wonder and perplexity as they played like puppies in a pile, limbs entangled struggling for dominance and control but connecting in a way that I couldn’t quite understand.  These were the characteristics of boys that I had read about in my Child Development textbooks but the words once meant for study had with lighting speed taken the form of the four little beings with tousled blond hair, sticky rosebud lips and pockets full of earth covered treasures that suddenly ruled my home and my heart.  I can tell you with great certainty that although I was prepared for the typical developmental milestones of the male species that lived unbridled in my home, I was blindsided by the beauty of boys not at all chronicled in the scientific observations of boyhood.  You see, while their brand new hands opened and closed with welcome expectation, their searching bright blue eyes would look to me a soon as the first breath of air inflated their little pink lungs, seeking the comfort and assurance of the one under whose heart they were formed.  As their need for motion began to develop it became crystal clear to me that no matter what direction they headed in as their movement went from crawling to sprinting, no matter where their undefined lust for exploration and freedom took them, I was always home.  I watched as they would run ahead of me in wonder as the world unfolded before them taking note that at some point in the chase those little blond heads would whip around in the quest for assurance and perhaps acceptance that only I, their mother could offer.  The precious moments of boyhood bounded into my reality and gave me a glimpse at something that even I an impassioned lover and consumer of words cannot define, for woven deep in the midst of the sheer physicality of raising boys are moments that take my breath away.  The treasured touch of little boy hands on my face during the sweet stillness of the midnight hours of infancy, the unmistakable gentleness in the whispered “I love you” after a bounding leap from a swing into my waiting arms, and the word “mommy” from the lips of a boy in the throes of adolescence for my ears alone are the milestones that make the journey worth it, for between the innocence of infancy and the staggering responsibility of manhood is the magical creature that is a boy.