Boy on zipline

The Joy of Raising Boys

BY JENNIFER VANDER KLIPP

Boys are just different. I’m reminded of this frequently in a house dominated by boys. I grew up with brothers, but over the years the boys have done things that just make me shake my head. So far, that hasn’t stopped in their teen years.

Different isn’t bad. We need the balance of how girls look at the world versus how boys do. But, being a girl, boys sometimes mystify me. Looking back, here are a few examples of things that I found, well, unexpected.

Boys have a protective instinct

For some reason, Christmas brings out the battle spirit. Maybe it’s the miniature figurines on the tree and in the décor that reminds my son of a small village that needs to be protected from attack. I don’t know. But the juxtaposition has had me chuckling a few years.

One year, either Bionicles or Transformers or maybe both (I never could keep all of those warring toys straight), were possibly fighting in, or attacking, or defending my Christmas village. The image of these sweet, snow-capped Victorian ceramic houses being surrounded by creatures out of the space age struck me as something only a boy would do.

When he was four, my son found a different use for the Christmas tree. It was the perfect cover for covert operations. When I caught him low-crawling under it he said, “I gotta shoot the bad guys,” while using the camel from the nativity scene as a weapon.

“There’s no bad guys in the Christmas tree,” I tell him. “They’re not allowed. It’s against the rules.”

He seemed to buy this, and he and his deadly camel headed upstairs to the playroom. A few minutes later, he came back downstairs and two of the wise men were engaged in mortal combat.

I’m glad this was the PlayMobile nativity instead of the porcelain one on the mantel. And somehow, I’m thinking the Advent readings we’d been doing weren’t quite hitting home.

Boys have a unique perspective on what can be considered a gift

One day when I picked up the kids from daycare, I told them their Christmas present was in the back. I was joking; I had just gotten the snow tires put on the truck. My son looked around. “Where?”

“The tires.”

“Cool. We get four tire swings?”

If you can climb on it, over it, or under it, it’s something you can play with and therefore is a gift. What a great way to look at the world.

Boys have a sense of adventure

My kids are not morning people. So when they are home on school breaks I try to get most of my writing done in the morning before they’re fully awake. Sometimes, for my son with Asperger’s, this isn’t until he’s been out of bed for three hours.

One morning when he was still quite young—I was almost finished with my word count for the day—when he came to me. “Mom. I’m hungry.”

“Finish your breakfast on the table.”

He came back two minutes later, jam smeared on his cute little cheeks. “I want a snack.”

“Give me fifteen minutes. I’m almost done.” I was in the middle of a scene. The words were flowing. I didn’t want to be interrupted.

He ran off. With my mom ears, I heard him climb on the kitchen counter. “Get down,” I called.

“I’m making a sammich.”

Great. I imagined the mess. “Get down. I’ll be there in a minute.”

I heard the sound of the toaster lever plunging, followed shortly after by the scent of smoke. I leaped out of my chair and around the corner. Smoke billowed out of the kitchen. My son climbed off the counter, rubbing his eyes. “I was making a sammich.”

Smoke poured out of the toaster but no flames. I unplugged it and carried it out back, tossing it on the patio. Some days I wish the adventure of raising boys didn’t involve my kitchen. Or smoke.

Another time, we were driving to church at night while it was snowing. I don’t like to drive in the snow at night because no matter what direction the snow is actually blowing, it looks like it’s coming right at you while you’re driving. I find this mesmerizing and distracting.

My son said it looked like we were driving through hyperspace. Which is pretty close to what it does looks like.

When we walked through the parking lot and the light caught the flakes, my daughter said it looked like stars were falling.

Walking through falling stars, driving through hyperspace . . . there are worse ways to spend your time.

Hug your boys (even if they protest). Remember the good times. And celebrate the differences. Even if they do make you shake your head.