I never expected my son to be so quintessentially “boy.” To be honest, I always imagined one day we’d be sitting in a coffee shop together over lattes, discussing Wuthering Heights. And he’d be wearing a scarf.
Instead, I got a whirlwind of testosterone. At two and a half, he’s all about punching, fighting, running, climbing, smashing things, and eating dirt. He does enjoy some quiet activities, like looking at books, but he’s way more likely to yell, “I punch you, Mama!” than he is to initiate a foray into Elmo’s ABCs. He knows his letters, so I don’t worry that he’ll be behind academically. I just worry that constantly pretending to wield nunchucks might adversely affect his social development.
We’ve already coached him on the appropriate situations in which to engage in battle. “Only punch Daddy,” my husband says explicitly. “Not Mama. Only Daddy, when we’re playing. No one else. Not other kids, not babies, not the dog. You got it?”
“Punch babies,” my sons says confidently.
“NO!” we both jump in. “No babies.”
My proud Scottish husband claims he’s orchestrated all this from the beginning. He says he knew we’d have a boy from the time his sperm, which he characterizes as “red-headed barbarians,” came screaming down his urethra. I think he felt somewhat alienated for the first year when my son and I bonded through breast-feeding. Now he’s loving the perpetual tussle that is fatherhood. And watching me try to navigate this unfamiliar sea of testosterone? It amuses him. I’m the cuddler, the nurturer, the teacher; it’s not natural for me to be rough-and-tumble. Several times a day, I’m asked to participate in some sort of warfare, and I can’t find it in my heart to say no.
That’s how I end up in my backyard wearing Wolverine claws and intoning in a deep dramatic voice, “I am Shredder, master ninja and leader of the feared Foot Clan! Who is this puny turtle who dareth to challenge me?”
My husband nearly spits out his drink. “Oh my god,” he says. “It sounds like Shakespeare in the Park out here.”
Before becoming a mom, I never thought I’d be able to tell the four ninja turtles apart, let alone know each of their idiosyncrasies or be able to rap the entire theme song. I never thought I’d hold a plastic Hulk up to a toilet so he could pee, let alone affirm, “You’re right; he’s not actually peeing because he doesn’t have a wiener.” But it’s delightful. And every once in a while I’ll see glimpses of sensitivity in my little warrior that make me wonder if there might be a scarf-wearing drama nerd in my future after all.
Lately, for example, he’s been completely entranced by babies, and today at the library he couldn’t stop giggling at a two-month-old. “I love you, baby,” he said to her, putting his head down next to her little legs. He reached out and touched her head gently.
Then, as I was smiling and feeling my heart get melty, he opened his hand and pawed the baby’s face like an overeager grizzly bear.
“I’m sorry,” I said to the baby’s mother. “He doesn’t know his own strength. You know. Like that guy in Of Mice and Men.”
“You have to be gentle with babies,” I reminded him when we got in the car.
He giggled again. “Punch babies?”
“No,” I started to say, “you don’t pu—,” but I couldn’t finish. I ducked in front of the passenger seat until I could stop laughing.
Abby writes humor, satire, and cultural criticism. She is in disbelief that she has yet to receive any financial compensation for being so clever and hilarious. Follow her on Facebook, on Twitter, and at her blog, Little Miss Perfect.