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Looming Boyhood

One Thursday, about a month ago, I happened to catch a glimpse of Simon on the couch at his grandparents’ house while he was watching “Racecars” on their TV at the end of a very busy spring day. He was leaning back, eyes fixed on the screen, a slight slouch to his posture, with one leg bent at the knee, his right foreleg crossed over his left knee at a ninety-degree angle.

Something about that posture struck me as being very boyish. Not “boyish” in contrast to “girlish”, but boyish in contract to toddler-ish. In the intervening weeks, the signs have multiplied. He’s losing his toddler belly, which wasn’t that big to begin with, he’s talking in increasingly complex full sentences, and he’s increasingly insisting that he do things on his own. (Drinking from a water fountain, getting into his own car seat, washing his hands, takingoff clothes, watering plants, pushing a stroller or wheel barrow, climbing steps, etc.)

Also, for the first time last week, when he rattled off his list of school friends, a boy made the top three. Previously, only the girls made his list; and the insertion of Baron among the Lolas, Gretas, Sophias, and Larkins was noticeable. His teachers tell me that with two weeks left in school, Simon and Baron have at last realized that they comprise two-thirds the male enrollment in the room, pair-bonded, and become the Butch and Sundance of  the Itsy Bitsy set.

The vast majority of these developments are welcome. Simon decided to assert himself just as I realized that I needed to encourage more autonomy. When today he insisted on swinging as high and as fast as possible—if the chains weren’t buckling, it wasn’t high enough—I had to smile at his newfound courage. When he later decided that he not only had to swing high, but also twist as he went, I was game for that too, even though it  meant that I had to navigate a dangerous combination of swing, chain, and wildly flailing feet as I pushed him. It was all I could do to keep him moving and not lose an eye!

On the other hand, some developments present challenges. Simon never saw a rock he didn’t want to throw (that, to be fair, showed up at around 10 months), and yesterday I caught him stomping on ants outside. He’s normally sweet with animals, and we had a long, long talk about letting the ants go about their business and bring food back to their families. I can also see where Simon’s desire to run free may cause problems in school settings that favor queuing up down the line (pun intended). I think his teachers have been “working” on Simon’s tendency to run off all year, and I think they cringe when they see me allow him to run up and down the ramp countless times when I pick him up.

The primary consequence of Simon’s emergent boyhood to me is that I’m about to be much less of an expert on his life. I grew up surrounded by boys, and I’ve always been very comfortable around and among them. But I’ve never been one myself, so I have limited abilities to help Simon find his way. Then again, I think this is also a terrific opportunity to learn more about cars and dinosaurs then I did when I was a child myself, and maybe I’ll even learn how to throw a ball without looking ridiculous.

The way I see it, boyhood is on the horizon whether I’m ready for it or not. So I’ve decided that rather than watch from the sidelines, I’m going to pick up a guide, follow Simon’s lead, and enter boyhood right beside him. Except for the part where we stomp on ants…..

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