Thursday, February 28, 2008


At some point, every parent finds themselves wearing a big honeydew grin; shaking their head; and surprised that their laughter is literally making the windows shake. Today is one of those days. I’m sitting here chuckling and wondering where they get these crazy ideas!

My son chose for himself the ugliest piece of furniture in the known universe. It was not only hideous, it was expensive. He calls it the “pill bug chair.” But, the idea of him being in his room by himself seemed priceless. In my larger schemes, if his room transformed into a lovely, happy place, he would want to sleep there. (It worked. Sort of.) I admit, the chair has provided countless hours of fun.

I’m a feminist and I agree with many researchers that boys and girls are wired differently. That doesn’t make one type of wiring better than the other - it just makes it different. My feminist world view asserts that difference is good. Difference is something we strive to achieve in our lives because it makes us richer. Well, today was surely different.

Most of my son’s friends are girls. They are brave, strong, capable, intelligent girls. But, they don’t tackle my son to hug him. Once the tackle hug is complete, they don’t roll across the floor cuffing and shaking each other (whilst giggling.) And I never have to worry about accidental sword thwacking. (The most I have to worry about is my solid support for my son’s right to wear the occasional princess dress and that the high heeled plastic shoes won’t injure his knees and ankles - thereby eliminating the option of sports. )

Today, I had four boys between the ages of 3 and 8 in my home - alone. When I agreed to look after the children of various friends - I was basing it on my previous experience with 3 girls and 1 boy. I thought I knew how the play date would go. I would get 45 minutes to do something I would serve, clean up and monitor snack for a half hour. Then, I would have another 45 minutes to something more that wanted to do. And then maybe people would want a story and some more directed play. What a lovely break, I was going to have from the regular highly child-focused days I usually have.

No such luck. There were meltdowns. There was aggression. There was inability to negotiate without a U.N. qualified diplomat. Eventually - I made an imaginary circle on the floor for each boy. They each had to sit in the circle. I used call and response to review the rules.

“Do we listen when our friend is talking?”

“Yes!” shout the boys.

Listen to our friends? I ask.

“Listen to our friends!” They yell.

“Do we hit people on the head with the bouncy ball?”

“No!” yells the chorus.

“No ball head smacking!” I sing.

“No ball head smacking!” They sing.

“Do we kick the dog?”

“No!” Scream the boys.

“No kicking the dog!” I sing.

“No kicking the dog.” They answer.

This went on for over ten minutes. After 45 minutes of play there was a list of over 15 transgressions to address and catalogue. I have to admit, it was fun. I gave secret thanks to my ancestors for developing this highly effective means of communicating a lot of information. I’d get them going on a yes pattern and then switch it up to see if they were listening. Somebody would scream, “yes,” when I said, “do we pull the dog’s tail.” Lots of giggling would ensure. Eventually - everyone was tuned in and appeared to know the rules. They were dismissed. They remembered for fifteen minutes.

They had a great time. There were temper tantrums at pickup time. There was pouting and begging for more minutes. Even though I had to manage every moment - they clearly enjoyed themselves.

But - the whole point of today's blog was to witness one of those crazy kid moments. At one point, I actually got 15 minutes to sit down; have a glass of water; and think for five minutes. The pill bug chair gave me some desperately needed peace.

Here was this strange and alien game which most - not all boys - could come up with. One person would sit in the chair. One person would spin it. And the remaining two would smack the cover with foam swords as it spun around. Then, they’d all switch places. It was the most democratic and orderly moment of the entire play date.


Big Man said...

Boys play the craziest games.

When my brother and I were younger, we used push our beds together to make a wrestling ring, or pull them apart to make a giant ravine to leap across.

Along with the other boys in the neighborhood we would ride our bikes and play a game where the sole purpose was to make another child fall and hurt themselves.

Once, my brother and I went to a family reunion and took turn jumping from the second floor balcony to the first floor.

God does protect children and fools.

(And I really like the way you use words. You have a great way with imagery.)

Big Man said...

One other thing.

I was trying to explain to my wife what I liked about your writing and stumbled upon the perfect comparision in my mind.

I listen mostly to hip hop and the way you write reminds of Ghostface Killah. His verses are a mash of vivid imagery and strong words that can seem disjointed at times because your focusing on each individual phrase.

I hope that's not insulting, because I really do like how you write. I'm going to keep reading and incorporate some of that into my stuff.

Christina Springer said...

"God does protect children and fools."

Amen to that!

No writer should ever view constructive criticism as insulting. It's generous of a person to give you tools that help you grow. So, thanks for the feedback.

But - I see your point, though. I always struggle with prose. Most of my career has focused on poetry or lyrical monologues. So, straight forward prose comes so hard!

I look forward t what you come up with1

Em said...

I had always asserted the view that boys and girls aren't so different, it is their environment that makes them that way. Treated differently from birth, quietly encouraged to support the patriarchy.

This I still think is true to a certain extent.


Then I met my partner, and his 5 year old son. His son is born within a week of my girls. (I have twins). When he is with us the whole world changes. Partly because of 3 kids vs 2. Partly because of making a family more extended is always a challenging thing. But I'm coming more and more to realise, partly because he is a boy.

Its also a combination of schooled and not schooled. He goes to school, my two don't. I had a sneak peak into school boys world a couple of weeks ago, when he was with me, watching my girls do Gymnastics, a collection of school boys watching their brothers and sisters for an hour. They congregated around DS's, they talked about the games they were playing, but all with an air of challenge, one-upmanship, with an underlying current of suppressed agression. The body language, the facial expressions everything. That day I spent about 5 seconds watching gymnastics, and an hour marvelling in how different these boys were to any interactions I'd seen before. Even amongst the HE boys I've spent time around.

anyway, not sure of this long ramble or even if it makes sense through my cold ridden and foggy head. But I'll post it anyway.

Christina Springer said...

You know Em, I thought the same thing with my daughter. I dressed her in boys clothing, bought her trucks and blocks. But, at 3 she it was princess dresses and Barbie dolls. (She didn't even watch any t.v. We lived in a tiny little progressive village.) It was weird.

Winston - on the other hand - code switches. With girls he's more communicative, expressive and quiet. With read the post. His boyness comes out.

I think schooled versus not schooled plays a big role also. His one schooled friend does make distinctions between "girl toys" and "boy toys;" is more aggressive and less into creative play. The older home educated boys I see are gentler, more intellectually engaged and inclusive.