I live in a house overflowing with Lego and Nerf. Star Wars plays a central and recurring theme. In a corner of one room there is a box used solely to store toy weapons. There are Thor action figures and Wimpy Kid books strewn about and more types of construction vehicle than I knew existed ten years ago. Though it is not all inter-galactic planetary talk and Minecraft speak, conversation on that side of the house usually centers around coveted Lego sets, which Marvel superhero is more epic, who is on which Minecraft server and where the hair to Han Solo mini figure was last seen. There are boxes of sticks, bags of rocks, shark teeth, matchbox cars and slingshots. There are, in case you haven’t figured it out, boys.
This past weekend our very boyish house, our Isle of Man-child, was infiltrated. On Friday afternoon she crossed the threshold in a pink, straw hat; a purse full of mysterious girl things slung over her shoulder. For two days, a swath of giggle and pink cut through my home. Paintbrushes were used as makeup brushes, high-pitched laughter was heard and Darth Vader’s cape was used as a dress.
There was a girl in our midst.
Though they tend to gravitate toward other boys, my sons have always had female friends. For the most part, they have always gotten along well with members of the fairer sex. Despite his current obsession with guns, my older son especially has always been able to pinch hit when it comes time to playtime. (There was that memorable evening at a friend’s house in Cyprus when he emerged in a Snow White gown, his female compatriot in knickers and a pair of toy heels. The four adults opened a second bottle of wine.) My boys have always been comfortable around girls, but this was something else entirely.
By Friday evening, like a Medieval damsel dropping tokens, she had my sons competing for her attention. Much to my astonishment, they were falling over themselves trying to earn it. I would have been only slightly shocked if one of them knocked her on the head with the toy club from the weapons box and dragged her by her hair back to the bunk bed cave. At one point I went in there to find my sons laying on their backs using a metal bar hung with art supplies as a bar bell. They were performing feats of strength. For a girl!
The rest of the weekend followed a similar pattern. They allowed their faces to be ‘made up’. They brought out the rainbow looms. My younger son nearly fell over himself in an attempt to find the Magic Tree House book that she claimed she was dying to read. At one point walking home someone mentioned something cute. My six-year-old, sotto voce, pronounced our guest to be ‘cute’. I think I tripped on my jaw. Our girly guest merely giggled.
It’s a funny old thing, biology. I like to think that I’ve never taught my kids to treat boys and girls differently, though of course I am a mere human, a mere mother. They pick up on subliminal messages, they are influenced by the media, by their peers, by society at large. My ‘Don’t hit people!’ speech has never been reserved solely for girls, but my boys seem to work on some instinctive, biological level in which they hold themselves back when dealing with female peers. This apparently now involves letting themselves be dolled up and seeing which one can do the most sit ups. While they have always been competitive, sometimes to distraction, the desire to impress…a girl….this is new to me.
Without realizing it, I’ve become accustomed to living on the Isle of Boy. My vocabulary is peppered with boy-isms. I tend to befriend the mothers of other boys. While moms of girls coo and gush over tutus and tiaras, I am busy making sure the sticks my boys are using as sniper rifles aren’t too sharp. More than that though, I am used to being the only gal in my guys’ lives. I am used to my sons competing for my attention.
Our little weekend with a girl in the mix made me realize that soon enough they’ll both be vying for someone else’s attention. The crazy things they do, the feats of strength, the chest thumping and declarations of awesomeness will be for someone else other than me. Sure, it was nice having a little trail of pink, a little trail of swish and giggle in the house for a few days, but I’m not ready to let them go.
Not just yet.