Sunday, February 20, 2011
That's My Boy
Most mornings, Evan accompanies me to the daily assembly at his sister's school. It's usually a fun way to start the day, with music, dancing, puppets, etc. He likes to sit up front in the class line with Sydney and takes pride in being a Big Boy--hanging with the Big Kids. Sometimes he likes to stay with me and play "race car," a game he devised which involves me sitting cross-legged on the floor with him in my lap and us "racing" around invisible corners and around invisible obstacles. He knows the rules of the assembly and, most recently, the Pledge of Allegiance.
Recently, though, his behavior has taken a turn towards the Twos. We have a lot more defiance and the occasional mind-blowing, patience-mangling, confidence-wrecking meltdown. And he is such a boy, too, with the Legos and knights and footballs and ridiculous sports trivia (go ahead, ask him who won the Super Bowl this year), the nimble footing of a born athlete and, of course, the obsession with his penis (playing with it, talking about it, talking to it, etc.). I swear we haven't instilled these biases--at least not intentionally--but they are there nonetheless and I feel kind of foolish for all those psych courses where I ardently maintained that personality and temperament are both nurtured and natural. I mean, they can stop the research now because I have solid evidence that nature has everything to do with everything.
Last Friday, Evan was restless at the beginning of Morning Meeting as the teachers and staff worked to quiet down the student body. One of the kids took the stage with the flag, to lead the group in the Pledge, and silence descended. Evan took his fingers from his mouth and into that brief and total stillness shouted "POO POO DO DO POO POOOOOOOOOOOOOOO." Heads turned, but I was the only one laughing (sort of like the time the magician at the 6-year-old's birthday party announced that he was going to bake some "magic cookies." I guess I was the only one who went to college.)
I don't tow the line with stuff like this, for a few reasons, most of which have to do with my own temperament and propensity to find humor in twisted shit (I have been known to laugh at a few funerals). But it's also about--and maybe here's the nurturing part?--not wanting to squash his boyishness, that little bit of wickedness that I see, frankly, as a life force. I want my kids to be a little wicked, to get in some trouble, to find the inappropriate path and sometimes take it. Don't get me wrong, I'm also pretty old-fashioned when it comes to raising kids and I expect mine to have manners, to act kindly, to treat elders with even more respect than they show their peers. I insist on responsibility and thoughtfulness, and have no issue with imposing my own beliefs about what is required to live a productive, meaningful life. My kids know not to cross me and while some might find that a bit too authoritarian, it's my style and it seems to work for us.
Raising a boy feels different than raising a girl. While I'm certain that at some point in her toddler-hood Sydney shouted potty words in inappropriate environments, I don't think she ever deliberately waited for total silence before doing so. Evan's timing was pure comedy, and I'd be lying if I denied feeling proud of him for that. I probably shouldn't have laughed, or shouldn't have let him see me laughing, but I just couldn't help it. I was born that way.