Saturday, October 25, 2014


There was a time when I really did know a lot about little children. I was a certified special ed teacher. I graduated with a minor in early childhood education. I even graduated with honors, thank you very much. I really knew a lot.

And then I actually had children.

I have long felt the need to apologize for my (fortunately unspoken) judgmental thoughts of the fellow teacher with three small boys who struggled daily just to get to work on time. I do remember thinking if she’d only start earlier, she wouldn’t have so much trouble. Ok, fine…..cue the laughter. I’ve laughed about that so many times since then. Every time I had one of those mornings, which was basically every day, I thought of her. And I still feel the need to apologize even though she didn’t know what I was thinking. I knew it. That was enough.

And then, after we had Leah, I firmly believed if I gave her a truck, she would play with trucks. I was convinced girls were girlie girls because they were raised that way. So I tried to be objective in what I exposed my daughter to, trucks and dirt, no bows and frilly things (well, not too much), and I treated her in a way I thought was neutral, and we were on our way.

And then we had Lindsay.

I was so pleased when we had a second girl for many reasons, but a big reason was because we wouldn’t need to buy new clothes. All the clothes we had saved from when Leah was a baby could be re-used for this second little one. Hah! Au contraire! Second child had a mind of her own. We’re talking before she could walk and talk! She liked pretty, and dressy, and make-up, and wigs, and changing clothes ten times a day, and God help us all if her socks didn’t line up right. Socks. I am not kidding.

But I still really believed that children would be normal, regular people if that’s what we expected of them. Girls wouldn’t be girlie, and boys wouldn’t be “boys.”

And then I met Matthew.

And all my thoughts about the two genders not being all that different went right out the window. So I now realize that all the brilliance I thought I had all those years ago didn’t exist at all. It turns out I knew very little.

Let me clarify that. I knew little about girls, but I knew even less about boys. Boys are different. Everything I ever believed has been proven wrong by the little boy who stole my heart more than three years ago.

And there’s so much I don’t understand!

Why would you build a tower for the sole purpose of knocking it down? Lego towers. Sand castles. Beautiful accomplishments. Why? Recently, I was discussing this with some of the guys I used to work with, and they acted like I was the only one who didn’t know this concept. One said, “Well, yeah! The bigger the tower, the harder it crashes! That’s why you build it!”

And I just shook my head in wonder while they all laughed.

And why is beating on someone else (in fun, of course)…….well, fun? Leah, mother of Matthew, has much wisdom on the subject of boys now. She learned fast because she had to, and sadly, I was not able to help much.

Here’s a tidbit:
“The bigger the crash, the louder the laughter.” She used to text about how she would cringe after hearing a huge thud, only to hear it followed immediately by peals of laughter. Now she just says, “Oh, the boys are playing,” and by boys, of course, she means Matt and his daddy.

And everything is louder, messier, dirtier, rougher, stinkier. All of those “ers” that I always thought were stereotypes……..are not stereotypes at all!

Of course, I get that not every girl is the same, and not every boy is like all the others, but I can only speak from my experience, and well, my experience has been eye opening.

And here’s the thing. My girls were not prim and proper little darlings who sat quietly sipping their tea. When they weren’t doing chin-ups in one of our doorways, they were running down the hallway practicing their vaults on our couch arm (side note: not a good strategy for the life of the couch). They both played softball and believed sweat and dirt and scars were essential parts of the game. They both have appreciated the fine art of belching and farting and actually come from a long line of champions in that arena (on both sides).

So Leah is a really good mom for boys because she’s pretty tough and often just rolls her eyes at the antics and seems to be immune to most of the “ers.” And she’s funny, and she’s kind, and she’s smart, so she’s an incredible role model also. Matt has been taught manners and how to be kind and how to think through problems, and she is his safe place to fall. Having that safe place to fall allows him to not be afraid of the world, which, in my opinion, is one of the most important gifts a parent can give a child. I have to pay credit to his father, Scott, also. This is not just the Leah show…..not at all. But this post is a lot about Leah because Scott already knew what it was like to be a boy. Leah had to learn……and learn fast.

And while I’m mentioning people who have been influences in Matt’s life, I have to mention his babysitter, Ms. Soup. (Some people call her Sue.) She has three boys, who are all older than Matt. They’re all teenagers, or just about. So basically, Matt has three big brothers who play with him, throw him around, laugh with him and are kind to him. And speaking of not being intimidated, that would be Ms. Soup. She’s raised three of these darlings, and she’s really, really good at it.

Ok, let’s talk about the common thing that belongs to most of the people Matt idolizes. I don’t want to get graphic, but they all have a certain body part. When Leah’s family and I visited my partner in crime, Tonya, and her husband and two stepsons, Matt developed a huge man crush. Tonya’s husband, Mr. Peege (another story for another post), was like the pied piper. Matt thought he was the coolest thing ever. EVER. And his boys were right up there also. So one day quite a while after our trip, I was telling Leah something about Tonya; and Matt, who appeared to be engrossed in something on his iPad, suddenly looked up and said, “Tonya?? Tonya who lives at Mr. Peege’s house with the two boys??” I started to say to him that Tonya actually owned the house also, and Leah stopped me. “Mom, don’t bother. She doesn’t have a penis.”

The Great Robby
And then there’s Uncle Robby, Lindsay’s partner in life. Robby (fanfare, marching band, it’s ROBBYYYY!!!). No lie. When Lindsay walks in to greet her favorite little guy, the first thing he says after he hugs her, is “Did you bring Uncle Robby?” So Lindsay has learned about who matters the most also. Robby is THE MAN. Actually, the best thing for all of us is having Robby there because Matt could care less if any of us exist. When Leah, Matt and I went to Baltimore to visit Lindsay, the girls and I actually got to visit because Matt just wanted to hang with Robby. I kind of felt like I should pay Robby for entertaining Matt all weekend. He IS pretty awesome. Leah has even told him that if he and Lindsay break up, they’re going to have to negotiate some visitation rights for Matt. She’s serious.

Matt flying into his daddy's arms
So I guess this also tells you how Matt’s daddy and the two grandpas rank. Yes, those of us without the body part just have to accept it. It’s always a joy for Leah when she puts Matt in time out for whatever well-deserved reason it is at the time, and he cries for his daddy. Those are some of her favorite moments. And the thing is, it’s not like Scott would tolerate whatever inappropriate behavior it happens to be at the moment. But the kid cries for his daddy anyway, which makes for very special times for his mama.

Papa Jay
Papa Dave
And Papa Dave and Papa Jay can do no wrong. When Matt knows he’s going to see one of them, he literally cannot sit still because he is so excited. I know that if Dave and I happen to be with Matt at the same time, I’m just going to have to wait for my time, because Papas always come first. It is what it is. His Gammy and I have learned to accept it.

So, to sum up, this is what I know. Girls – I’d say I’m pretty knowledgeable now. Boys – not so much. But I do know this. All kids need loving and snuggling, and that’s what I do really well.

Recently, Scott had to do a lot of traveling for work, so Dave and I did some tag-teaming to help a very pregnant Leah (oh yes, did I mention another boy will be arriving shortly?). During one trip, Dave took the first couple of days, and then I went up to relieve him. When I got there, Matt and Dave were away, which was ok, because I knew I’d have Matt all to myself the next day. At most I expected a wave and a “Hi, Gaya” while Dave was there anyway. So hours later, when they got back to the house, suddenly I heard the “pitter patter” of a little boy running into the house, and as I stood up, Matt yelled “GAYAAAAAA!” and threw himself into my arms. He then gave me the quick recap of his day with Papa and threw himself into my arms again. And off he ran to finish his time with Papa.

And life was good. We all have our place in his life, and I am very happy with mine.

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