Saturday, October 27, 2012
Mother of a Boy
You ever read those italicized notes at the end of an article that describe the writer? There will be some brief mention about what that person does for a living (along with the writing because so few of us can actually live off that) and a little tidbit about her family life: Judy is the mother of an active boy. Every time I read "active boy" I wonder why not just say what it really is: Judy is the mother of a boy. It's superfluous to add "active" really. There is no such thing, therefore no clarifier is needed. Just saying a woman rears a boy should instantly draw feelings of empathy from the reader.
When I learn that an expecting mother is having a boy, I reach out to her in mercy and compassion. "Hold on to your hat," I say. Forget any nice-looking furniture you have, any freshly painted wall, any nice-smelling bathroom. Get ready for all the science projects he'll bring home, like the pet worm my son and his friend tried to sneak in the house last week. Get ready for the fact that while you are trying to cook dinner, he is flushing three toothbrushes down your toilet (yes), hosing his sister against her will outside, or, having found a blue ink pad in your art supplies, he is using it to stamp geometric patterns on your flagstone path in the yard, your minivan, and the neighbors’ brick edging that trims the path to their home. And by the way, it took me days to figure out that it was permanent ink— I had my son scrub it off with a toothbrush and detergent. I should have made him use one of the toothbrushes I had snaked out of the toilet from the first incident I mentioned.
Yes, to say that one is the mother of a boy is description enough. One day at church, there was a woman sobbing outside the doors to the building. She was being comforted by a friend. Concerned, I walked over and asked if they needed help. “It’s ok,” said one woman as she held an arm around the crying one, “She is just raising boys.” No kidding.
We have countless stories about the wild boys among our family and friends. My grandmother tied her second-born to a tree so she could complete chores in peace. An Indiana friend of mine once came home to her son swinging on a rope like Tarzan from the second floor interior balcony of her home. The other stories I have, especially a host of them about my son’s birth father, aren’t even fit for print. While some of these boys I knew grew up okay, others didn’t. My grandmother on her deathbed still obsessively worried about at least one of her sons. I supposed that happens. The people I worry the most about though are the mothers. We are exhausted from cleaning up the damage.
A friend of mine, whose little boy has similar difficulties to my Tiny Man's, described his recent suspension from school. She asked me how she was supposed to keep going—how much could she really take. The next day I walked up to her office and told her Tiny had just been suspended from after-school care. We laughed. It’s the best we can do. Mothers take all our children’s faults and eccentricities to heart. We grew these creatures. They came from us. They are extensions of ourselves. When we see them do things we wouldn’t do (because we were girls), we become unglued. And we need other mothers to sympathize with us because they understand. When I tell men what my son does, most of them say something like, “I did the same stuff.” My husband appears to be an anomaly in this department, the worst story about him being that he jumped off the top of the refrigerator once in a while, usually with his Dad waiting to catch him and encouraging it. At least Tiny is incredibly sweet and affectionate; it’s what has kept him alive this long. By the way, among the things I did to ground my son for his having misbehaved enough to be suspended, I put him in time-out in his room from after school let out until supper time. He could play alone with his own toys—no friends, no TV, no Wii, no dog, no free-ranging it outside. He made do. I caught him emptying buckets of water out his bedroom window to amuse himself. There is no rest for the weary mother of the boy.
While all mothers deserve medals for the hell their boys put them through, there are those of us who deserve special awards for raising a hyperactive boy. In a recent ADHD article I read, the doctor described raising a child with this disorder as raising a child times five. So, if you are going to call a spade a spade, here it is. This is what my byline should read: The author is an editor, a blogger, and an artist. In addition to bringing home the bacon and trying to maintain snippets of a creative life, she is married to a handsome, brilliant academic and skydiver who she fears could die any day, leaving her solely responsible for her son with ADHD and his sister, who is often grossly disappointed with her brother’s misconduct.