I look forward to Thursday mornings. This is the day I baby-sit my daughter’s two youngest children while she takes the three older girls to a home-schooling co-op at their church. For five hours I watch over Burt, age four and a half, and Mary, two. This is fun and interesting.
Burt is the only boy in a gaggle of girls. His primary goal in life seems to be throwing: either every object he can find or himself off the furniture and walls at the fastest speed possible. I swear he is trying for the Guinness Book of World Records. When I watch him and Mary on Thursdays, I spend a good deal of my morning dodging balls and shrieking “Be careful!”
Burt also likes to perform tricks with his body. “Gramma, watch this!” he’ll yell as he leaps from ever higher steps on the staircase going up to the bedrooms. “Gramma, want to see what I can do?” he’ll shout while he hurls himself in a ball upside down on the couch. He gives me no opportunity to say that I’d prefer not to see him landing – or even narrowly miss landing – headfirst on the floor. Yes, I love Thursday mornings, but my nerves get a workout.
Burt often prefaces his feats with a question: “Gramma, can you do this?” I’ve been wondering what his reaction would be if I did perform a flying somersault from one arm of the couch to the other. I’d like to impress him, but, as lucky as I am to have good health coverage, I’d rather gain his respect some other way.
Girls, even the more active ones, never seem to propel themselves as randomly as do boys. They are more calculated in the risks they take and seem to weigh consequences of their actions while boys head down a path of self-destruction almost from their first steps until common sense kicks in, which, unfortunately for us mothers of boys, can take a very long time. I’ve known men who never came around, and you do too. Evil Knievel comes to mind.
Our younger son fits this category, taxing my nerves endlessly over the years. Once, when he was about nine, I briefly left him at home while I made a quick trip to the store. Imagine the horror I felt when I returned to find him running across the roof of our house in an effort to get his kite aloft. When I got him down, he explained that there were just too many trees in the yard.
He was the child who dared to sled at top speed between two trees but then wasn’t able to avoid slamming into one. He was the child who secretly grabbed the fender of his sister’s car for a free ride on his skateboard, skinning his whole side. He was the one who played with mousetraps and electrical plugs. In short, he was the child who ground my nerves until they were raw.
And boys like to destroy things; not, I think, from some macabre desire to wreak havoc but rather from an innocent curiosity to see what happens when you burn or blow up things. It’s as if their world is a laboratory, and it’s true that more boys enter fields of science when choosing a career. Have you ever known a girl who blew up tin cans to see how high they’d fly? Mine never did.
It’s rarely girls who get in trouble for playing with matches. I remember one year when my older son helped his younger brother set fire to his toys to see if and how they’d melt. They even roasted several of their sisters’ Barbie dolls, and the transformation from the curvaceous Barbie to a skinny waif who looked like she should be in a burn unit was not popular with the girls. (And, lest you think me an inept mother, let me interject that they were torching these items behind the garage, unknown to me.)
I hope you don’t feel I’m being sexist. My boys have given me as much joy as my girls. And my little grandson holds his own special place in my heart. I just want to clear up that old cliché grandparents tell each other about loving to be with their grandkids but appreciating the fact that they eventually go home. It’s all about our nerves, which just do not regenerate after we raise our own kids. So yes, I look forward to Thursday mornings, but, truth be told, I also look forward to Thursday afternoons.