Tag Archives: mothers and sons

Blue flowers

About seven or eight years springtimes ago, at a past house, I decided to plant my first garden.

I had few domestic skills in my 20s and I did little to cultivate any. But something changed after I turned 30. I asked my mother for a power drill my birthday and she got it for me in earnest. Then I decided, kind of rashly and stubbornly, that I wanted to draw butterflies to my yard with blue and purple flowers.

I ordered young butterfly bushes and globe thistle from a Pennsylvania nursery in springtime. They all arrived tender and green and weeks, if not a year, from blossoming. As I collected supplies at a garden center, I saw a raft of deep blue and periwinkle Lobelia. These were the sky-like colors I wanted in my piece of chopped-up earth, so I bought some and planted it that day. It was some of the only color in that garden until late summer.

My son wanted to get me flowers for Mother’s Day this year. When Dan took him to a nursery, Declan spotted what he wanted immediately: A hanging basket, filled mostly with purple petunias and blue Lobelia.
“I love them,” he told me when he showed them to me with a voilá wave of his arms.
So do I.

Hope your Mother’s Day was happy.

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Eye sees you

Had a fabulous time at a creativity workshop with Amy yesterday, and met her two beautiful boys along with a handful of other local bloggers (though I didn’t get much chance to visit because Dec was feeling uncharacteristically shy). We came home with a poem, a cool art smock, two bags of green slime, a garbage bag crab and a belly full of Starburst candies. He kept the third eye she had him make to help him peer into his own imagination for about an hour after we’d left. He said he could see Jupiter with it in the late daylight. He told lots of his friends about her at preschool today. About her and art and poetry. And candy.

The workshop was the focal point of a mother-son day. He and I ate lunch together and laughed at squeaky straws and talked about solar flares and prominences. After the workshop, we had some time to kill before we went to see his dad and Megan Palmer play a set at Lost Weekend Records, so we went out and visited a few satellite dishes. We drove past a big cluster on campus, then found this inactive one that we could take a closer look at. He was thrilled to touch something that communicates with space.

He was quite the photojournalist at Lost Weekend. I’ll post some of those pictures another day.

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Someone to watch over me

My son has been busting out with mad sweetness for the past 24 hours. Although he asserted his masculinity by roaring along with some despairing OSU football fans last night for the first half of the game, when we came home, he sweetly decided he should brush my hair before bedtime. Then he kissed me on the forehead and said “Good night, mommy.”

This morning, he noticed the tiniest cut on my finger.

“Is this a boo-boo, mommy?”

“Yes. Just a little one. It doesn’t hurt,” I said.

“I’ll go and get you a bandage.”

And off he went to the bathroom, foraging for the band-aids, which were stored in a high cabinet that he had no prayer of reaching on his own. I tried to tell him that I didn’t need one, but he insisted until I brought down the box, pulled one out and helped him curl it around my pinky.

“There you go. Is that better now?” He asked.

Seeing his desire to be a caretaker, to be useful and kind, my heart lurched a little.

“It’s so much better now, thank you Declan,” I said, hugging him tightly, kissing his forehead.

“You’re welcome,” he answered.

Do I really have to subject him to (or share him with) the rest of the world?

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Boys are from Ganymede

There are few creatures on earth that seem as alien to me these days as a teenage boy. I haven’t considered much about them, probably since I was a teenage girl.

Now that I am mother to a son, I pay more attention, particularly to interactions between parents and boys. A couple of months ago, I watched a mother smiling ear to ear as she pushed her shirtless seven- or eight-year-old around in a grocery cart. His hair was buzzed down to golden fuzz and his front teeth looked big and new to his face. The boy and his mother seemed to be enjoying each other’s company immensely and for no discernible reason. She nodded at me, I think because I had my own, considerably smaller boy in a shopping cart. Being mothers of boys connected us somehow.

I notice the awkwardness of skinny boys walking down the street with haircuts that are supposed to look like they aren’t haircuts hiding their eyes. I picture Declan becoming this kind of teenager, although it’s just as likely he’ll become a stocky athlete. With our long-haired ways, a buzz haircut could be his form of rebellion.

Yesterday, as I was scanning a clearance rack at Target, I saw a teenage boy lumbering from aisle to aisle with a silver mesh garbage can over his head like a space helmet. He stopped at the end of two or three aisles with his hands open expectantly, waiting for a response. He finally found his father, who paused a cell phone conversation just long enough to give him a quick, amused smile. I saw them in the store a couple more times before I checked out. The garbage can was still on the boy’s head as they perused products in the shampoo aisle.

I found myself thinking that if Declan has that kind of sense of humor about himself when he’s a teenager, we will have done alright as parents.

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Good time to be a boy

I barely blinked before buying The Dangerous Book for Boys by Conn & Hal Igguiden when it popped up on my recommended list at Amazon earlier this year. I hid it in a shirt drawer for at least two weeks, alongside a copy of Where’s My Jetpack? by Daniel H. Wilson. Then I proudly unveiled the tome, packed with boyhood rites, obsessions and tales, to my husband on Fathers’ Day. (It’s retro, red cloth-bound cover and 19th-century gilded font were brilliant marketing devices.)

According to last week’s Time Magazine, plenty of people joined me in buying that book, which remains a best-seller. David Von Drehle’s cover article “The Myth About Boys” makes the argument that this rekindling of the traditionally magical parts of boyhood – from tying slip knots to knowing the story of the Alamo – means that now is a very good time to be a boy. Apparently, there are (pretty pricey) summer camps devoted to creating outdoor spaces that are essentially safe, but allow lots of room for boys to play, explore and feel some sense of danger. And that’s actual danger, not Nintendo danger.

It seems as though Drehle first dismisses some of the ideas in books like Raising Cain and Real Boys – books that profoundly question, if not indict, the ways our culture raises boys – as alarmist. But he later comes to embrace some part of those notions too, because the cultural dialogue about boyhood and masculinity ultimately benefits boys. This is a conclusion that I can agree with – I am glad to have so many ideas and opinions out there to consider.

I still resist it when anyone tries to define Declan’s actions or personality as somehow definitively or traditionally “boyish.”

I’ve seen toddlers of both genders push boundaries, dig in the dirt and splash through mud puddles. Maybe it’s because we’ve been lucky enough to keep him at home (away from the competition of daycare) for these first two years – not to mention the fact that he’s an only child – but so far, his nature seems very gentle. He fearlessly approaches kids of all ages out in public, especially girls, looking them in the face and saying things like “you have blue eyes.” (Eye color has been his favorite thing to observe about people lately.) But he also cracks up and slaps his knees when he sees older boys doing playground slapstick. He obsesses about outer space and loves to throw a ball, but he’s also an awesome dancer, puzzle-doer and snuggler who often declares himself “scared of bugs” and is thrilled if he gets to teach a grown-up something new.

I worry about the expectations future teachers, friends, family and acquaintances might give him about being male, particularly if they happen to quash any part of his ravenous curiosity or chastise his sensitivity by dismissing it as feminine. Sheltering him from people and experiences wouldn’t be particularly helpful, but I hope I can help him develop the strength to face all of it with the kind of assured innocence he possesses today.

Life soundtrack: The Shirelles, The Scepter Records Story, Vol 1, “Boys”
The Shirelles - The Scepter Records Story, Vol. 1 - Boys

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He wants pink

Every parenting newsletter I get tells me that it will help build my son’s confidence if I let him start making little choices. I usually give him two options: Broccoli or edamame? Goodnight Moon or My Many Colored Days? The playground or the library? Edwards or Obama?

Lately, the color of bath water is one of his favorite daily decisions. He went through a brief and surprising anti-bath period a few weeks back, so I got those red, yellow and blue bath tablets in hopes that the excitement of orange water would bring him back to what had been one of his favorite rituals. It’s worked almost too well. He wants a bath in the morning after he had one just before bed and he hates to get out. I’ve taken to draining the water while he’s still in the tub, so he can flop down his belly, watch the water swirl down the drain and say “bye bye green bath.”

Pink is a favorite. Purple too.

I don’t have any hang-ups about boys and pink, although I have caught myself accommodating other people’s hang-ups on occasion. As a baby, unless he was wearing some kind of sports-related outfit (which was rare – I don’t like inflicting an athletic destiny on him any more than I would want to inflict a pageant destiny on a daughter), Declan was often mistaken for a girl. I always stumbled over whether or not to correct people, and felt dopey when I did. Honestly, he wasn’t even aware that he was an individual yet, he was a sweet ball of rosy cheeks and big eyes, why project an identity crisis onto him? Still, it usually prompted dramatic apologies, as though they had emotionally scarred my son by implying he looked like he could be the same, apparently inferior, gender that I am.

He once joyfully picked up a pink ball at Target and started carrying it with him, and a strange grown man lauded the sporty interest but questioned the color choice. When we told him we didn’t see the problem, he suggested “well that’s fine for now.” Implication: An affinity for pink will destroy him once he is old enough for preschool. My husband gets indignant: “It will always be fine!” he told the pink-phobe.

When I ask Declan what color shirt he wants to wear today, the answer is often pink. I’ve scoured the piles and piles of hand-me-downs we have for a shirt that had the slightest trace of pink on it – maybe a sunset or a flamingo. No luck. I’ve scanned the racks at Target, Old Navy and Kohl’s for a plain pink t-shirt, a pink oxford, maybe a golf shirt with a pink stripe… there is nothing. Meanwhile, in the girls’ section, where the racks look like a massive strawberry confection exploded, everything has a hoochie-mama vibe — spandex fabrics, low necklines, capped sleeves, cheap ribbons and sparkles. Does anyone make gender-neutral clothing for little ones?

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