Boys: Y are they like this?
The males of our species have always been something of a mystery to me.
Why do they care so much about football? How come they don’t twist themselves into a pretzel wondering what other people think or whether their pants are the enemy? And why do their bedrooms always smell like the inside of a tent?
When I was growing up with my two brothers, I didn’t make time to ask these important questions. I was too busy deciding which of their friends I’d most like to date. (Here’s to you, Nick, Chris and Doug. Thanks for the memories.)
I eventually figured out the mysteries of men enough to marry one. He has the gender-appropriate fixation with football, but he also likes to shop for shoes. So there is a part of me that wonders if I am perhaps not getting the full testosterone experience. But only a little part – who in her right mind would let go of a man who appreciates shoes?
Not me, that’s for sure. And I am very grateful he was in touch enough with his inner girl to provide me with daughter-creating sperm.
Although I tried to prepare myself for a future with sons, and even expected to see very small penises on the ultrasound, I really, truly, madly, deeply wanted to be a mother of girls. I got my wish, and we’ve filled the bedrooms of our house with pink sheets and white teddy bears.
This, of course, means I’ll never understand what is perhaps the deepest mystery surrounding men: the love between mother and son. It might be the only kind of love I’ve never felt. I’ve loved sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, parents, grandparents, in-laws, pets and children (and not necessarily in that order).
But sons? Never.
This is maybe why I am so captivated by It’s a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons, edited by my friend Andi Buchanan.
Although it doesn’t adequately explain the tent smell, it does show what my friend Patti means when she says that boys are awesome. Reading the book is like spying sitting invisibly at someone's dinner table. It’s intimate, revealing, and has shown me -- at last -- that boys are every bit as rich on the inside as the girls I know so well.
For example: Jodi Picoult’s essay, “Scaredy-Cat,” depicts a boy with fears. Insightfully, Picoult realizes this is because he is powerfully imaginative. Strength and weakness are one for her son, and I know she showed me a deeper way of appreciating the depth that can be found in a boy.
In a different vein, Gayle Brandeis and Ona Gritz both write wonderfully about the male affinity for violent play, and how mothers can love something they can’t necessarily understand.
But perhaps my favorite essay is by Jennifer Margulis, who tells a story of redemption with her essay, “My Three Sons.” While I don’t want to give away the circumstances, I think it’s enough to say that the birth of her son – a boy – helped heal a deep wound in her life.
And as an ardent feminist and proud mother of girls, I was moved to be reminded that boys can be our redemption, too. As mothers, we don’t have to carry the future of the world in our hands alone.
There are boys to give us hope, boys who might someday marry our daughters, have children with them, and maybe even take them shopping for shoes.
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To learn more about Andi Buchanan, visit her Web site, her blog, and another one of her projects, Literary Mama.
Also, an essay I wrote will appear in a companion collection called It's a Girl, due out in spring 2006.