Warning: This post may contain traces of oversharing, nudity and sappiness.
I wasn’t prepared at all when it hit me. Like a tiny punch somewhere between the heart and the stomach. A poster advertising a travel agency. Picturing a little girl and her mum seen from behind. In bathing suits – enjoying a holiday on the beach. What caused the tiny punch, I think, was that some of the girl’s hair was pulled back into thin braids, tied together at the nape of her neck, almost forming a heart. When I was a little girl, my hair used to be braided like that. The poster made me realise something very obvious. Something I have known for years but which honestly hasn’t bothered me at all: I don’t have a daughter. I’m not going to braid my little girl’s hair. I’m not going to buy her pretty dresses and see her turn around a million times to make the skirt twirl. I’m not going to paint her nails and let her borrow my make-up for playing dress-up. (Mind you, Linus has shown a keen interest in my nail polish lately.) In other words: There will be no mini-me. I’m alone with all the boys.
This is where I could nervously assure you all of how much I love my sons and how I wouldn’t trade them for anything etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. For those of you who know me, I don’t think that is necessary. For those of you who don’t: rest assured.
After all, being the mother of two boys is so rewarding. Like one Saturday afternoon, when I was on the sofa, dosing off and nursing a 4-hour cold (yeah, that was really weird – very efficient, though). Linus was playing on the floor, or so I thought, when I heard his tiny, cute voice sing-song: “Muuummmyyy, ooopen your eeeyes”. I lovingly opened my eyes and stared straight into his 3 year-old penis, which he had proudly fished out of his pants; thrilled about the novelty of the easy, post diaper-wearing access to his new best friend.
Generally, I must say that I am naïvely surprised at how much of little boys’ lives revolve around their willies. Dances are choreographed for maximum wiggle effect, songs are composed in their honour, is it still there-checks carried out with very brief intervals and how much longer can it get if I pull it-tests dutifully performed daily. Add to this all the conversation revolving around it. At this point it is still sort of fun and cute. But I must admit that I hope this obsession will cease within the next five to 10 years. I know. Who am I kidding? At least by then, perhaps the obsession will be slightly less public.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like my little boys are completely narrow-minded in their obsession. They also enjoy talking about, showing off and wiggling their bums. And looking at bums. Especially ladies’ bums. And boobs. So how could I not show Bjørn the Baby Got Back video? Yes, in some countries they would probably take away your kids if you did that, but this is Scandinavia. Different rules apply. OK, I have to admit that I didn’t do a preview before showing it to him. And I hadn’t watched it in the last 10-15 years and didn’t quite remember it like that. Thankfully he didn’t quite grasp the full extent of its crudeness. But he was mesmerised.
Although I can appreciate the vision of a beautiful lady’s full and rounded derrière as much as the next girl and almost as much as a 6 year-old boy, we don’t share tastes in all areas. I am generally not a big fan of burping. Well, tough times ahead, little lady, being all alone in the house with three males. Because there will be burping. And it will be fun! All I can really say is: “Way to practice the alphabet, sweetie.” A while back, Linus even tried to tempt me into smelling his burp in exchange for having him burp straight into my mouth afterwards. I politely declined. Months later when he literally farted into my mouth (by accident? not too sure), I didn’t get a chance to pass on the offer as no offer was made nor any warning given. Probably the most fun, revolting moment of my life. Bjørn was present, and at some point, shortly after the incident, I was afraid that he would end up proving to us that it is possible, after all, to die from laughing. Yes, we are a family of sophisticated individuals.
Perhaps nature knew very well what it was doing when it gifted me with two boys and no girls. At least I will always be grateful for having a relatively princess free home with dinosaurs and rocket ships taking up the space that might have otherwise been occupied by Barbies, plastic tiaras and endless quantities of blinding pink. I find it surprisingly easy to be enthusiastic about a T-Rex, a tall crane or a race car decorated with flames. So much so that, ever since Bjørn came into my life, I find myself constantly paying attention to stuff that is officially labelled “cool” in the boy book. When the boys are not around I have to swallow back a loud “wooooooooooow, look at that!!!” if I pass a particularly awesome bulldozer or a very long freight train. I am still upset now, months later, that they weren’t with me when I happened to see an über cool, huge boat especially designed to install sea windmills. The picture below doesn’t even begin to do it justice. I had to jump off my bike to gawk at it and I am not sure that I completely managed to keep down the woooooow on that particular occasion. And at the time I couldn’t even see that the boat had legs. LEGS, I tell you!On a BOAT!
What I could do with a bit less of, however, is the shooting. I’ve never been a big fan of guns. Not real guns and not toy guns. So in the beginning of my parenting career, I was quite determined that there would be no room for toy weapons in our home. And Anders agreed. However, it turns out that, if you’re a boy, anything can be a gun. I had already predicted that sticks or coat hangers would make great rifles. But when I learned one morning that a piece of carefully bitten-into-shape toast could double as a pistol, I knew we were defeated. As I write this, Bjørn enters the room, waving a piece of Linus’ toy vacuum cleaner around as a sword. Point proved, I guess. So at this point in time, we also host a limited number of guns, swords, knives and daggers in our home. And if you ask Linus, all weapons shoot lava, laser or fire. Not bad for a piece of toast, if you ask me.
On the positive side: Whenever you drop your phone charger behind the bed, you always have a long sword handy to fish it out with.
One of my weaker points as a parent of boys is my lacking ability to stay focussed when presented with seemingly endless, detailed run-throughs of computer games played. Or with the various powers, pre- and post upgrade, of all Skylanders. Bjørn recently started playing chess – actual chess, with real pieces. Not (exclusively) a computer game version. This obviously brings me great joy (and a very small, nagging fear that he will join the chess club in a few years, stay a virgin until his late forties and never leave home) but I can’t stop getting annoyed every time he or one of his friends say that they “killed” the other player’s queen. Boys! Chess is not some shooting game. A little respect, please.
I have come to terms with the fact that boys are often (not always, I know) noisier, wilder and dirtier than girls. However, I love how little boys can smell of dirt and fresh air at the same time when they come in from the garden. And I love how their take on things is different than girls’. We recently watched the old Karate Kid film together for the first time. When I saw it as a kid back in the 80’s, I loved it because of the beautiful Ralph Macchio and I wanted to pretend to be Elisabeth Shue. This was basically accomplished by throwing a tennis sweater over my shoulders and staring dreamily into space. My boys, however, immediately wanted to be Karate Kid after seeing it, and spent hours jumping on/from chairs, bugging me to tie scarves around their heads and attempting roundhouse kicks with little success. Seems to me like a healthier response to a Hollywood production.
That being said, it should be noted, that apart from dinosaurs, Star Wars Lego, guns, swords, pirate hats, cars and Skylanders, the spoiled brothers’ rooms also contain a plastic vacuum cleaner, baby dolls, a doll’s house, a stove with pots, pans, plates, cups etc. and a lot of wooden “food”. Needless to say, the wooden bread knife is mainly used as an assault weapon, but they have both played very happily with all the above things. And still do. When we bought Bjørn a baby doll when he was around 18 months old, some people thought it was odd. I think that was odd.
I don’t think we can get around the fact that to some extent boys and girls are different. I don’t think it’s a problem. I don’t believe in the Swedish model of coming up with a gender neutral term for the kids instead of saying he or she. I don’t see the point. As long as we allow them the opportunity to figure out what they want without limiting their options based on their gender. I thought it was cute when I picked up Bjørn from the nursery years ago and he and his friends were now and again playing with matchbox cars while dressed in flammable, acrylic Cindarella dresses. And I think it is cute when I pick up Linus from Kindergarten and he is disguised as Spiderman. And I do believe that my boys will spend more time play fighting and less time playing with pearls than the average girl. But I really don’t care if that turns out to be true or not, as long as they are happy and healthy.
At this point I truly enjoy being a witness to the lives of these funny, beautiful, obnoxious, spoiled, loving, curious, hot-tempered, clever little boys and the feeling of missing a daughter has disappeared again. If it comes back, I’ll just decide that Linus is a girl and let his hair grow, start putting him in dresses and call him Linnea. He might not mind, as long as I let him wear my nail polish. The fire engine red one.
Post scriptum: The other day, Bjørn brought home a boy and two girls from his class. One of the girls introduced herself to me by explaining at length how she was born with a defect that made her able to burp on command, continuously, without breaks. Forget all the stereotypical BS I wrote above. I obviously know nothing about little girls.