A Mother of Boys / by Leslie

These are my boys. Milo and Quinn. Milo is almost six and Quinn is three and a half. Around our house it is all dinosaurs, monsters, dirt and wrestling. When I asked Quinn to cuddle with me in the hammock yesterday, all I felt were knees and elbows and he wiggled and giggled for at least 15 minutes before I could get him to calm down, lay still and listen to the birds with me. We had a blissful five minutes of being quiet together. It's a rare occurrence unless he is watching TV or sleeping.

I get poked, pinched, stepped on and punched all the time. It's always accidental, but still, it hurts! These boys are physical, fierce and passionate with their love. Hugs are so tight I can't breathe and kisses sometimes hurt. I've bonked heads with them too many times to count. For them the best thing in the world is to wrestle and for the most part I have left this to my husband. They wait until he gets home and they jump on him and say, "Daddy? Will you tackle/chase/tickle/scare/attack us?" I don't do that part of the parenting anymore. It gets too rough for me pretty fast. I tell them to be gentle with Mommy and they try. They kiss me softly and always say they are sorry if they hurt me.

If they are not running around or getting dirty, they are eating. Oh, how they already eat! All day they are hungry, always asking for more. Apples, toast, carrots, yogurt, water, water with ice, water with a straw, juice, pears, mangos, grapes, popcorn, chips, peanut butter and jam, pasta, sausages, chicken nuggets. Quinn's favorite refrain is "I'm still hungry." We are feeding their growing bodies and making their muscles big. We get them to show us how big they are and they flex their muscles and look proud. They are strong and fearless and they jump on things and break things. They are boys. My boys.

I do like a lot of it, I'll pick up frogs and snakes. We find alive things together, we catch them, look at them and study them. I'll dig in the dirt and draw on the sidewalk with chalk. We watch dinosaur movies together under blankets on the couch. We do science experiments. We poke sticks in mud puddles and throw rocks in the lake. I don't mind the dirt, they can squish mud between their toes and make rivers with the hose in the garden. The short hair is easy, the clothes are straight forward, the drama is relatively low.  

I asked Milo if he wanted a Barbi, and he was worried that his friends would see it and tease him. I bought them baby dolls when they were younger. Milo cradled it and burped it and Quinn twisted it's legs up and threw it on the floor. I ask them to wear pink polo shirts and kiss with soft lips. Milo will not wear a pink shirt, but he is trying to kiss me with softer lips. (Quinn has always had soft lips when he kisses.) I would paint their fingernails, if they asked. I tell them to grow their hair long and they say no. I paint and draw with them, I build puzzles and stack blocks, I help them arrange the furniture in the playhouse, I read to them endlessly. The cars, the superheros and the football they can play with their Dad.

With their Legos, they build guns while I build a house. They build big guns, super guns, mega guns. They have ninja moves and kung fu kicks. They sword fight with sticks, they throw sticks like javelins and they dig holes to the center of the earth with sticks. They love their sticks. I let them play but I cringe at the thought of an eye getting poked, of that day when I will drive to the ER again. We have already been to the ER a handful of times and it's been too many trips for me but I'm sure there will be many more to come. Even without the ER visit there are plenty of scrapes, cuts, blood, tears, bruises, rocks in skin and sand in hair. There is always someone getting hurt and I am always saying, "Don't fall/run/jump/throw/break whatever it is they are near or doing." It's exhausting, just that part.

I also ask them to smell flowers and read books and I am proud when Quinn says, "look at that beautiful hawk, Mom." I teach them to see beauty, to know gentleness and kindness. I teach them to be polite and say thank you and please. I hope they are good boys when I am not there and usually I hear that they are. I hear that they are happy, kind boys and I am the absolute proudest of what they do and how they behave when I am not around to see them.

To Milo I am just Mom, but Quinn still calls me Mama and sometimes, to my chagrin, Mother. I don't know where he picked up that one. They also call me to wipe bums and tie shoes and look at giant spiders in books, sometimes all at the same time.

They are not babies anymore, that almost genderless time, when they just did baby things and not boy things. They are older now and their male DNA has taken over and I feel a greater divide between us than there has ever been. I know it will grow greater as they get older, but I will always be there for them.

I will always hug them, bandage their cuts and scrapes, teach them how to treat women and how to embrace that softer side of themselves. I will always cook for them, drive them places and gaze into their eyes longer than they are comfortable with. I will always ask them where my babies went and they will always answer that they grew up. I will teach them to cook and to garden and how to wash their clothes. I will teach them to be good men, men that are kind and generous and that respect women, share with them and see them as equals. 

They are good brothers, the best pals. They sometimes hug each other goodbye before school, they hold hands when we go for a walk and they play well together, pretending and wrestling and collecting rocks. They have two years and four months between them and it's awesome now that they are older and can do the same things. They love all the same shows, share the same toys and wear the same clothes. Sure, they fight sometimes, but as Quinn is maturing and communicating his feelings more clearly, it is so much better. He is not pushing Milo around as much, they get along and problem solve together. 

They are learning so much at school, and are there five days a week. Both are getting minimal speech therapy to correct a few things they were having trouble with. Milo was mispronouncing his own name and getting embarrassed when people didn't understand him. Quinn had some unusual patterns and qualified for early intervention. They seem to learn better from teachers rather than me. Is this a boy thing? I can guide them, and teach by example, and give hugs and spend time, but I cannot tell them how to do things correctly. They rebel against me and want to do things their own way.

We are having so much fun as a family lately too, laughter filled go kart races with Mom/Milo against Dad/Quinn, movie nights at home where we eat popcorn and watch Labyrinth, day trips to walk around new towns and visit all the toy stores. I am looking forward to weeks spent in an RV together, tent camping, bike rides, canoe trips to islands in the middle of lakes. I feel good with these two boys, even though Milo is asking for a baby sister, even though everyone tells me to have another baby. We feel balanced, even and easy. We are not torn between different choices and preferences.

I never thought much about how different parenting can be for different genders although I always thought I would have a girl. But I like this role, mother of boys, it fits me and it feels good. I just hope that they stop bonking me in the head sometime soon.