Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

There, I Said It
by Melissa Ridge Carter  

I was fully prepared to avoid gender stereotypes. My firstborn child, a girl, played with her cars and trains as much as her dolls. However, I no longer care what my early childhood education classes tried to instill in me fifteen years ago. Political correctness aside, I'm short (not vertically-challenged, my husband prefers to be called black (not African American) and my house is just plain messy (not organizationally impaired). So let's just say it.  

Boys are different.

My three-year-old has had the same exposure to dolls and dishes as my now eight-year-old daughter and, sure, he'll be happy to gently burp the baby doll. Right before he rips off her head.  And he loves to set up elaborate tea parties and serve guests little sandwiches and crab cakes before his favorite truck enthusiastically destroys the entire event.

In his eyes, we don't have furniture-we have springboards. Our laundry baskets are now turtle shells. My candles have become a treasured addition to his wooden block set and last week he turned my coffee table over to make monkey bars. Summersaults are an inappropriate activity for the living room -- too easy. Want a challenge? Try the stairs! For him, sleeping is a major inconvenience and the best time to explore the kitchen pantry is in the dusky light of a new day, when everyone else is still catatonic.

He approaches housework with the same unrestrained enthusiasm and energy with which he plays. He doesn't have access to our standard cleaning supplies, so he has to be a little creative. He has taught me that canola oil gives the bathroom floor a wonderful shine but does nothing for the mirror or toilet seat. Also, Crisco does not clean wallpaper.

Nothing is done in moderation; hugs sometimes knock me over. Breakfast starts around 7:00 am and generally lasts until noon. Then we have lunch.

I've watched other little boys and I've seen my own dazed expression mirrored in the eyes of other mothers.

Boys are different.

I used to baby-sit a little boy who seemed to have a bizarre fascination with his penis. He would sit on his bed and talk to it for long stretches of time. From the occasional breaks in conversation, I can only assume that his penis was, in fact, responding, but I tried not to listen too carefully. A few days ago I heard my son mumbling and asked who he was talking to. And, as I feared, the answer was, "my penis."

Just before he turned two, he asked if I had a penis and, when I answered no, he was dismayed: "Oh. Mommy! I'm sorry!" His empathy was touching, if still a little strange. At least these new candid observations have led to some long, straightforward discussions about body parts and their functions that I'm hoping will one day lead to more significant conversations, and with more ease, than I felt with my own parents.

My one-year-old doesn't show quite the same level of enthusiasm for...well, everything. But, it will come. He has the same impish grin when he ducks a kiss. He avoids sleep as much as possible, frequently chattering into the early morning hours. And, just recently, he discovered his penis. Ah, boys.

Our house is now filled with a different kind of energy. And yes, I'm exhausted. And yes, I wish my three-year-old hadn't flushed that tube of toothpaste down the toilet because he didn't like the taste. But, through my weary tears, I'm laughing harder than I've ever laughed in my life.
Melissa Ridge Carter is a freelance writer living in Virginia. She's gearing up to homeschool her three kids this year for the first time and is excited (and anxious...) about this new journey.