It takes a woman of a certain disposition to mother boys (that is supposed to be plural, I am sure one gorgeous specimen is generally a breeze). This might come naturally to some but if it doesn’t you will soon learn to adopt it – or suffer I fear. If you were a Daddy’s Girl growing up or are the lucky sort of female on whom men bestow compliments and favours (and I am neither), your journey might be even more tricky as boys do not treat their mothers with the reverence and adoration I was led to believe. Despite what I was assured by a great number of older ladies when the boys were small, I am not treated like a queen, in fact, many is the time I have had cause to exclaim with gusto, ‘this isn’t a bloody cafe’ and even ‘what did your last slave die of?’ The latter was actually a conversation stopper as the boys vacillated between wondering guiltily whose demise they had in advertantly caused and pondering whether they were, in fact, allowed a slave (resulting in my initial point being lost entirely).
Even for those of us with brothers – who fought madly with brothers no less and would proudly claim our lack of princess-y qualities – the sheer physicality of boys, especially when they are in plural, is astounding. Mine at least seem quite incapable of watching TV, playing Lego, playing in the garden without poking and prodding and just physically winding each other up. The testosterone seems to be more concentrated as the number of brothers increases too; does anyone else find they get more and more boy-like? Edward might as well have entered the world saying “put your dooks up” or in Scrappy-doo speak “lemme at ‘em”, the ‘em’ being his big brothers.
A new friend of mine from the US recently shared with me, as we watched our boys rolling about on the ground after football training, that she had been told this is how boys fill their love buckets. My sons have numerous buckets and they are all bloody overflowing.
There is nothing subtle about my children (though in my experience there is nothing subtle about most men so I don’t know why I’m surprised by this). What you see is what you get, which lots of people tell me makes them more straightforward than girls but also means that every emotion is writ large; things are either awesome or the absolute end of the world. ‘I hate you’ is unfortunately heard often, directed at a brother for pinching a toy or a parent for suggesting teeth brushing. I have, thankfully, developed great fortitude in this area and manage, mostly, not to take it personally. It does also mean I am treated to sudden explosive (and often physical, I have been knocked to the ground by a joyful hug) outpourings of love which I wish I could bottle since the feeling it creates beats any other high.
The knock-on effect of this un-subtle way of being in the world is the offence or worry caused to others. I have had a lovely old dear in our local supermarket (which a friends mum has nicknamed God’s waiting room on account of the demographic of the customers) say to me “I was really worried about that little boy”, as I browsed a pop-up clothes stall while Edward stroked the handrail on the escalator (shocking, I know). I’m not even sure she knew he was mine, I think she just needed to share her concern with the closest person. I’m sure she was quite horrified by my casual, ‘oh, I’m sure he’s fine’ in response, expecting I suppose to galvinise me into action being a younger and possibly responsible person. I probably disappointed her in that, but I’ve developed what I like to think of a knack for knowing when to intervene with my boys, which perhaps doesn’t always come across so well.
Yesterday they did me proud though as we spent the entire day hanging around Willoughby shuttling from swimming to park to swimming to indoor play centre to train station to collect Andrew and then back to swimming again (yes, the boys were very weary). They barely fought (I had planned like a demon and had many distractions and much food) or complained as we pinged in and out of the car. They probably did have rather more sugar than usual (travel sweet game anyone?) but when, being the last to leave Wizzy World they took it upon themselves to tidy the whole of the baby area, I thought I would burst with pride (whether filling the house up with balls and jamming as many soft blocks as possible to the climbing structure is the usual method employed by staff I wouldn’t know). What I would like to know is why, having demonstrated their outstanding skill in housework, I am still their slave.