By Laura Simon
When I was pregnant with both my boys, everyone from my first cousin to the stranger in the grocery store had something to say about life with boys. “Better buy some earplugs. You’ll need them.” And, “Don’t bother buying anything nice for the next 18 years. They’ll ruin it.” Of course, there was also my favorite. “Boys are so affectionate, and they always love their mamas.”
In many cases, those unsolicited predictions have proven to be true. If my boys aren’t making enough noise to wake the neighbors three houses down, I worry. And I can’t begin to count the number of material possessions that have turned up shattered, crunched, squashed, smooshed, or just plain missing in the last eight years. They offer insurance for floods and fires; why doesn’t anyone sell insurance for boys? And yes, my boys are so very affectionate, and they really do love on me. Especially after an ab workout, when they squeeze me around the waist and burrow their faces into my screaming abdominal muscles. Hey, sometimes love hurts.
So when I was pregnant with my daughter, I have to admit that I believed the things people said to me. “Oh, a little girl will be so EASY after those boys.” “Girls are so much quieter.” “Girls can sit and color for hours.” And of course, “At least one of your kids won’t pee all over the floor.”
My daughter is definitely not like her brothers. She rocked and cuddled baby dolls while she was not yet a year old. At that age, I’m not sure my boys knew babies existed. If they did, they certainly didn’t care about them. And I can assure you that not once did either boy throw a sobbing fit in the shoe aisle at Target because Mommy refused to buy them a pair of riding boots. And while they’ve made me late many times with missing toys and shoes, they never made me do their hair and dress a baby doll on the way out the door.
But still, EASY???? On what planet? While I was busy planning for tumultuous teen years, my not-quite-one-year-old was quietly figuring out how to climb. She was a late walker…so late that we bought her a walk-behind stroller. You know, one of those toys that’s really just grandma’s walker, retrofitted to hold a baby doll. One day, in the time it took me to take ten steps to the kitchen and back, she climbed up onto the baby doll’s toy tray, grabbed onto the handle, and stood up. On the stroller. She looked a little like Rose in the front of the Titanic, with her arms stretched out in triumph. I nearly fainted. At no point did I ever anticipate a walking toy being used in that manner. Her brothers certainly never did anything like that.
My daughter is the most fearless of all three kids. At a year, she climbed the climbing wall on our playset, and in three years of life, she has managed to fall head-first off three different slides. That’s not counting the number of near misses, which is probably somewhere in the hundreds. She climbs on the arms of furniture and rolls off, wanders into touch football games, and generally hurtles through life without any fear. She’s definitely not okay being the docile girl, sitting on the sideline. I can actually feel my hair turning grey.
And no, she isn’t quiet. She’s the loudest of the three kids. What’s hers is hers, and what’s yours is hers. Especially if what isn’t hers belongs to a brother. If they happen to not want her to have it, she starts in with an industrial-grade screech that would make a teakettle whimper. We just got new neighbors, and I kind of want to stop by and tell them that she’s really OK…she just cries. And lot. Mostly because I have the audacity to tell her she can’t do things like eat the cheese cracker she dropped in the toilet. Clearly I’m the one being ridiculous.
And yes, she colors. But not for hours. And that’s a good thing, because you wouldn’t believe the damage the child can do in a matter of seconds. Yesterday, she snatched a dry-erase marker from her brother’s school supplies and painted undereye lines so she would look like a football player. Side note: dry erase comes off faces really easily. But hide the sharpies.
Oh, and that peeing on the floor thing? Girlfriend did hold true to the stereotype and potty -trained almost a year before either boy. Nighttime and all…before age three. Bless her heart, it is amazing. But did you know little girls can actually pee in an arc, up and out of the toilet? If you’re a boy mom, and you’ve scrubbed the ring around your toilet while secretly envying all your friends with girls, take heart. My daughter has peed on my pants, my shirt, my shoes, and all over the bathroom floor…all while sitting on the toilet. I think that must be the best-kept secret of girl moms, because when I panicked and started asking questions, the other moms came out of the woodwork. “Oh yeah, my daughter does that, too.”
All that to say, I’ve decided you just can’t know what to expect from a child until you actively know and parent that child. And I think that goes for all the big scary things people tell you about parenting. I’m pretty sure that not all kids are monsters as teenagers. I know from experience that not all boys like to wrestle. And some girls prefer to have tea parties for toy trains. Fortunately, I didn’t invest much thought into my expectations, and I haven’t been crippled by disappointment that they didn’t turn out to be true. Still, I’ve decided to take what strangers tell me with a grain of salt from now on. I mean, what do they really know about the children I’m raising? That’s right. Nothing.
What about you? Tell us how have your kids defied expectations.