Today is good, I slept 8 hours last night, the house is almost tidy again, and I can think straight. I even exercised.
I came inside this afternoon from cleaning out the vacuum filter, again, and privately coveting a Dyson, to loud happy sounds bursting from the bedroom. The Baby was in her swing, the Girl sat behind her pushing her, and the Boy was acting out a drama for her benefit between two toy horses. She stared at him without blinking, eyes wide and adoring, and added to his silliness her own chorus of vocalizations. It's a picture perfect scene, especially since I can ignore the messy bedroom behind it. As soon as I rounded the corner to look they all froze, staring at me self-consciously, paralysed grins just fading from their exuberant faces. Perhaps it's not okay to be having this much fun, are we doing something wrong? The Boy feels just a touch self-conscious about his little play. And then I smile warmly at all of them and walk away, letting them know that I'm glad they're having fun. Apparently I'm seen as a party pooper around here.
My children went outside to play while I vacuumed, the Boy wearing the red pirate shirt I made him last year and carrying his swords, and the girl in her princess dress. I kept one eye out the window while I worked, noticing the other two boys who came to join the fun, hollering at them all to get out of the landscaping and stay on the grass, noticing the ongoing duel that the boys had engaged in with the swords. At one point I looked up and noticed 4 little heads staring through my front door. A second or two later as I vacuumed the threshold, I realized they were trying to get my attention so I turned off the vacuum and listened.
The boy with the serious blue Caucasian eyes and Hispanic skin and hair told me that the Boy hit him with his sword. Really, you say you were fighting with swords and one of them actually hit you. Forgive my lack of shock and or empathy. The Boy quickly informed me that they had been playing rough.
Turning back to the boy with the startling blue eyes I told him that the rule at our house is that if you play rough you don't get to complain about it when you get hurt. If you don't want to get hurt, don't play rough. He looked a little surprised at my casual reply so I told him that I doubted the Boy, who is younger than this boy, wanted to hurt him, and confirmed it with my son who was ready with an apology.
The oldest of the boys gave it one last try. "But he had some blood on him," he informed me.
So I of course asked to see the offending injury and carefully examined the tiny scratch in the fleshy area between his thumb and index finger. It probably did hurt a little though any blood had long ago dried off.
"Would you like band-aid?" I asked.
At this point he looked like he was starting to feel a little bit silly about the slightly sissylike tattle-taling he had endeavoured; up rose his latent machismo and he declined. Why if you don't need a band-aid do you feel that you have to even tell me about it?
Five seconds later they were beating on each other with swords again. While the girl sat on the grass watching them, looking for all the world like a medieval tableau.
It's a tricky thing raising boys to be men, especially for women of our culture and generation. We don't know how easy it is to emasculate until it is too late, at least my acerbic tongue and I don't. It's so easy to shame, to shrink, to undermine with stray words, by being overly protective and solicitious, and by making their normal behavior out to be bad. I wondered what this boy's mother was like as I watched his little shoulders square the longer we talked and his posture improve, just because I treated him as I do my own boy child, and expected that he could be strong if he chose. I look to my husband for guidance in how to do this, obviously. He teaches the Boy to develop his strength, not repress it, to learn it's limits and possibilities, to learn what it is for. He teaches our son that he has been made strong to help others, especially those weaker than himself. He teaches him that he may never hurt someone out of anger or cruelty, he teaches him to respect women and legitimate authority, and he teaches it without forcing him to stop being a boy or forcing him too early to be a man. He teaches the Girl to be strong as well, a princess dress is a fine thing to wrestle in, the same rule applies to her. I'm glad that my children have a dad who helps them to be bigger and stronger, and in moments like this one I'm glad I'm married to a man who can help me figure out how to effectively deal with boys.