I watch you jump from hay bale to hay bale outside our local Farmers’ Market. You leap with a roar as the straw catches you time and again. You’re wild and fearless, and I love that about you.
I try to act relaxed, as though your hay bale jumping doesn’t terrify me. As I practice being hands-off I notice a woman looking on. She has a glint in her eye and a gentle knowing smile.
Her face says she’s been here before; perhaps has kids of her own; likely grown and gone. She makes her way over to me and says, “He’s all boy isn’t he?” I smile politely and say, “Yup!” even though I find the comment unsettling.
My body language asks her to go away, but she doesn’t listen.
“Snips, and snails, and puppy dogs’ tails; that’s what little boys are made of.”
With that she saunters off to peruse the vendors’ wares.
I know her comment is ad hoc. I sense she finds nostalgia of days-gone-by in my son’s boyish charm. But as she saunters away, I find myself feeling irked.
Because yes, sweet son, you are all boy. But being all boy means different things to different boys. And because you’re barely two and a half, I will try to articulate what it means to be all boy according to you.
Being all boy means digging in the dirt. You need to do this daily or you get angry. I’m sure when the snow comes it’ll act as a temporary substitute. Then when spring arrives you’ll embrace your beloved dirt once more.
Being all boy means trucks and tractors and if you can swing it, there’s Play-Doh involved. You’ll dig and scoop that dough for hours; nothing will stop you.
Except your baby…
Your baby is a soft little teddy in a little blue jumper. Every so often you need to stop whatever it is you’re doing because your baby needs you. You feed her a bottle and wrap her in a paper towel (her blankie) and then you can return to your previous task.
Being all boy means collecting rocks and foliage. I find sticks and gravel in all your pockets. Once I found a chunk of pavement stored in your hoodie. When I confronted you, you said, “Oh thank you, Mommy. I need that.” And I believe you. You DO need that chunk of pavement for some project you’re working on.
Being all boy means insisting on rubbing my back. You rub in uncoordinated, unmeasured time for approximately three seconds before you declare, “There, Mommy all better!”
And then you ask to play with my hair. You spend significantly longer running your fingers through my tangles. You squeeze my bun and tousle the loose ends. Sometimes you push it all back and scold me because it’s so messy. Occasionally you insist I need to use the hair buzzer just like Daddy so my tangles will go away.
Being all boy means farts are funny. Real ones, fake ones, computer generated ones, it doesn’t matter; they’re all funny. The louder they sound, the harder you laugh. And when you’re the one to skunk up the room, you always remember to say, “’Excuse me!”
Because in your world being all boy means having manners.
Sometimes you run around with my jeans on your head. You jump off the couch squealing, “Look Mommy! I’m a princess!” as you toss your denim hair from side to side. When you’re a princess, your favourite colour is purple. The rest of the time you’re adamant it’s blue.
Around here, being all boy means feeling loved enough to explore yourself…the parts of you that fit in with the everyday gender norms and the parts that might not.
In a way, the Farmers’ Market woman was right. You are made of snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails. But mostly snips. Because snips are cuts of everything…including the things made of sugar and spice and everything nice.