You've Got Males

A mother comes to grips with her two young boys'’ love of noise, catastrophe and action.


When I gave birth to one boy and then, 20 months later, to a second, I knew I was destined to live a male-centered life. I knew the toilet seat would always be up, the TV would always be turned to ESPN, and everything from sticks to cookies would become pretend guns (I don't allow toy guns in the house). But I had no idea what life as the mother of boys would really be like.

When I drop a dish and it shatters into a hundred pieces, they run over, eyes shining hopefully, to check out the commotion. Seeing that it's just a dinner plate, they sulk away, disappointed that I didn't drop something more spectacular, like a 27-inch TV. When my father-in-law called to tell us that one of the warehouses in his lumberyard collapsed from the weight of tons of snow, smashing a half-dozen trucks parked inside, the boys' first reaction was, "Oh, cool!" Even when my now-8-year-old Steven was 18 months old, a workman accidentally buzzed a circular saw through the wall of our family room. BAM! I jumped, but not Steven—his face erupted into a big smile, and when the noise stopped he yelled, "More!"

In our male-dominated house, my husband is the ambassador between Mars and Venus. Dave knows the world of boys firsthand, and he translates it to me. "It's a boy thing," he says when they "forget" to wear underpants. "It's a boy thing," he tells me when I discover that Steven has stuffed his dirty laundry under his bed for a week.

Even though I don't always understand male behavior, for the sake of my boys I want to honor it. I don't want Steven and Scott to feel bad about themselves because their mom is surprised—sometimes even horrified—when they do what comes naturally.

It's understandable for their testosterone-flushed hearts to pound at the thought of a warehouse—or even a space shuttle—exploding. What matters is not that they have these feelings, but how they respond to them. So when their first reaction is, "Wow, what a neat explosion!" it's my job as a mother (and a woman) to teach them that their next thought should be concern for the people involved.

That said, I can't help but roll my eyes every January when Dave and the boys carry our stale, dried-up gingerbread Christmas house into the backyard, where they place it on the ground and exuberantly smash it to bits with baseball bats.

"I just don't get it," I tell Dave every year. "Of course you don't," he says. "It's a boy thing."