mama mondays: my life with boys

The other morning on the way to school, Nick, 5, says to his brother in response to a comment he’s just made:

"This time I actually agwee wif you. My bref does stink.”

(Giggles erupt from the backseat…)

“What?! I’m sewious!" he says. "Smell it! It’s disgusting!"


I’ve known for a long time that male and female brains operate differently. But, having grown up without brothers, I didn’t have much of a chance to see this play out in everyday life during my formative years. Now, as a mother of three boys (and two girls), I’ve been duly educated.

“It’s not a ‘this’ it’s a ‘that.’ ”

It’s not a matter of intelligence but approach; the way in which the male processes what he sees, compared to how a typical female would process the same.

Even at the tender age of two, our firstborn was sizing up objects around him and finding uses for them that transcended their intended purpose. I still can’t help but turn a little red as I recall an episode from that time frame when he sneaked one of the cloth pads I was using in my nursing bra to prevent leakage from his baby sister’s feedings. When I wasn’t looking, he put the pad on his head, turning it into a cap. Though I can’t find the picture that was taken in the aftermath of this dual-use discovery, I can tell you he looked like a miniature pope, dressed as he was in his white “feet” pajamas, with that little “beanie” cap atop his blond hair and a gleam in his eyes as he bobbed around the house with his new head attire.

To further demonstrate, one might guess this object to be a lid to a large basket:

And they’d be right. But a 4-year-old boy would see something different. This isn’t a basket lid, after all, but a shield used to stave off angry, fire-breathing dragons. And although he’d come to understand that repeatedly swiping the basket lid would drive his mother crazy, her frustration would have little effect against the powers contained within that shield, the forces of evil that could be overcome with it extended mightily from his defense-ready body.

There are more – so many more – examples of objects that have been “transformed” from a this to a that through the years in our household alone, exclusively by the male species, of course.

Forget about being politically correct if you have boys in the house. In fact, I’d say the more attention you put into keeping them from turning just about anything into a weapon, the more likely they will be to fashion one from just about anything. Lego’s or old printer ink cartridges will quickly become machine guns; Popsicle sticks and cardboard rolls from wrapping paper will be turned into swords and machetes.

On the slightly-more-innocent side, a plastic Easter egg becomes a handy place to hold coins and other small treasures found aboard a pirate ship. A few more eggs taken from the same pile can easily be turned into alien ears, eyes and mouth, should the need for this type of thing arise, and you can be sure it will:

Got some safety pins and a towel? The boys in your life will transform ordinary pajamas into a Superman outfit with a little help from an adult. And yes, even the most ordinary bathroom towel or dish cloth can contain the same powers as an authentic, powered-up cape. When summoned to save the city, the wearers of said towels become true superheroes with these extraordinary pieces of "cloth."

I’ve learned to stock up on tape around our home (though I can rarely keep up with it). While a girl child will use tape mainly for its intended, utilitarian function, a boy child is more likely to see tape as a means to an end. A good roll of the sticky stuff can help fashion a booby trap, or, with the right placement, create a handy weapon from a couple straws or plastic utensils.

Think those are ordinary socks? Look again. They’re goofy, droopy rabbit ears. And that diaper? Forget it. That’s so last year. Now, it’s a stylin’ hat. And that ice-cream-bucket lid? It’s a perfectly usable Frisbee, didn’t you know?

Of course, boys can be just as enamored as girls with romantic sorts of things like umbrellas. The only thing is, more often than not, the pretty parasol quickly becomes a puffy sort of light saber designed to eliminate all traces of the Dark Side.

Boys and their toys

And here’s another curious thing about the male gender that seems universal: they really do seem to not just like but need their “things.” All of my sons have gone through phases in their youngest years when they could not bear to leave the house without having their special items in hand. Our firstborn seemed to sport “endless pockets,” through which he would produce an object of his affection to show to us. That would be followed by another, and another, and another. We still don’t know how all of those things fit in those tiny pants of his. He either had jeans with deceptively giant pockets, or was an emerging Harry Potter, capable of producing a Pokeman card, an agate, a nail stuck to a magnet, a bouncy ball, some coins, a miniature plastic dinosaur, a Hot Wheels car, a…well, you get the picture.

Even after outgrowing their collections, I’ve watched my boys come across their treasure boxes of “special stuff” and sift through them as girls might their baby pictures, their eyes coming alive in recognition of the items they used to drag around like a puppy protecting a chew toy.

But don’t just take my word for it. Today, I’m doing a tandem post with my writing-mama pal Mary, who is a MOB (mother of only boys). She likely couldn’t tell you the difference between a Brat doll and a Polly Pocket, but she knows well her K’nex and Tech Deck dudes. I haven’t read her post yet, since we were writing ours at the same time, but I can only imagine the treasures she’ll share from her testosterone-filled life.

Please head over to Mary’s blog, Play off the Page once you’re through here. But before you go, I hope you’ll  check out this video of our youngest, who, thanks to his new Star Wars umbrella, found a way (after a false male-type start) to tap into his gentler side. I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking he needs a stage. (I apologize for the sideways view. Head tilting may be required.)

[NOTE: Due to limited options, Area Voices readers, please pop over to my mirror blog at Blogger to watch the video.]

Q 4 U: What objects have the boys in your life “re-invented?”