I have to be honest: during the brief yet blissful interim after getting married and before my husband and I decided we wanted to actively start trying for a baby and join the ranks of the ever elusive parenthood, I, like many women, loved fantasizing about what our children would look like. Would she have my eyes and my husband’s hair? Or maybe my olive skin and his freckles… My daily conjuring of daydreaming images always looked the same; a beautiful baby girl whose rosy cheeks and tiny blond tendrils would light up the entire room as she smiled. She’d wear bows in her tousled hair and be dressed in the cutest floral rompers and ballet pink moccasins, all the while quietly bouncing along like a little floral fairy, her doll trailing behind. We’d play Barbies, and dig in the sandbox and read books together while she sat in my lap and helped turn the pages. These images seemed to closely mirror those experiences from my own childhood and were reminiscent of the relationship I had with my own mother growing up. After all, that’s all I knew. I came from an overly female-dominated family where boys were somewhat absent. I knew girl stuff. Pretty pink, lacy, smelly-good, girl stuff. Then the day came that we found out we were having a boy.
It was like a cruel joke put on by the universe. After 27 years of speaking all things girl, I suddenly was forced to learn a foreign language. How could I possibly decorate a nursery when all I’d Pinterested for the last 2 years were pictures of light pink french provincial dressers and antique crystal-cut chandeliers? And how could I be expected to name said baby when my short yet coveted list of baby names solely included those of delicate and feminine throwback names that paid homage to the beautiful women of yesteryears? ‘This was simply not going to work’ I thought to myself, my utter disbelief being too grave to conceal from my husband, whom celebrated ecstatically, by the way, the day we found out the gender. I was left in absolute shock.
Fast-forward five and a half years later, and I am currently the happy mom of two little dudes — complete with blond tendrils framing their darling faces. Their rosy cheeks giving way to sets of dimples that, you guessed it, light up a room. They love deeply with their whole heart and each showcase diverse, yet strong personalities. They live with great conviction, one balancing out the other. Together, they enrich my life in ways I never thought imaginable and I’m honored to be the one who they call ‘mom.’ While there are definitely no bows to add to their sun-kissed locks, or afternoons spent dressing up barbies, and no ballet-anything — surprisingly — this still doesn't remain the most poignant detail that differentiates reality from my earlier childless musings. The single biggest difference between the two? The fact that life is anything but quiet.
Calm moments don’t have a residence in our world. So much so, that even those seemingly quiet activities don’t stand a chance at a peaceful presence. Take, for example, Play-Doh. A rather innocuous game that, for all intents and purposes, should elicit a relaxed state of playing. Nope. Not a chance. It evolves into a wild raucous of one-upping, Play-Doh-eating, multi-colored weaponry by which each child ends up somehow injured. Or how about Legos. Another game by which no sound or physical contact is necessary, yet like the old saying goes, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and boy (no pun, intended), do these kiddos have will.
I always find it especially eye-opening just how different boys are from girls after an afternoon playdate spent with one of my girlfriends who have girls. The stark, innate difference in their behaviors in truly astounding. Girls look objectively at objects, analyzing how they can be of fun to them. Boys look to see how they can be dismantled and disseminated. Girls like to line toys up and bring like objects together. Boys, too, like to group items, particularly in an effort to ram things into one another, creating a chain reaction of destruction. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely not that one is bad, and the other is good — it’s just that boys thrive on a completely different subset of internal motivators, most of which are derived from sound decibel and parts smashing.
When I think about my daily life with boys, there are a few inherent truisms that come to mind. I’ve never once started a sentence with, "So the boys were quietly ________." Nor have I ever thought to myself, "Wow, that was a quiet afternoon!" Or better yet, I’ve become so used to repeating myself at least three times about most everything because as much as they like to talk, listening seems to completely elude them. But you see, as a mom of two boys, quiet is not what you wish for, because when boys are quiet, it means that sh%$ it about to go down. When they’re quiet, it’s because they’re surreptitiously eating an ice cream sandwich at 7:30 in the morning outside in the backyard behind a tree. It’s because they’ve decided to go into the garage and rummage through the garden tools, swinging iron rakes dangerously in the air, 2 centimeters from each other’s heads within the 3 minutes it took you to take a shower. Or, it could absolutely be part and parcel to the fact that they’ve decided to make a tasting menu of all the ChapSticks from our bathroom cabinet in an effort to determine which is more delectable. Quiet quite simply means disaster in a household of boys.
Life with two boys, ages 2.5 years old and 5.5 years old, most definitely isn’t easy. This time in our lives somewhat resembles that of anxiously watching a smoldering, volatile volcano; we know at any minute, things are more than likely about to erupt. Down time is few and far between, and their energy and intensity is always kicked into high gear. Most days come to a close with my ears ringing and my body longing for some much-needed rest and relaxation, yet, what I lack in quiet moments, I more than make up for with the biggest, loudest love that a mom could ever ask for. They love me to the moon and back, and on most days, it sounds like they’re en route.
Originally published in the book "The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life with Boys."