I grew up in a house filled with sisters, ruled by a hard-working, virtuous mother. I have a wonderful brother and father, too, whose male energy was systematically drained every day by our henpecking.
All of my best buds were women, and those buds are still my best to this day. And maybe it’s because strong and funny women were familiar and abundant in my life that I never sought out male friendships. Don’t get me wrong, I was friendly with my male classmates, but it was always a casual kind of thing. Not the fierce, BFFs-or-death understanding I had with my ladies.
Hanging out one-on-one with guys always made me feel awkward and weird. I was afraid that either they had a crush on me (not likely) or that I had a crush on them (more likely). Friendship seemed fraught from the beginning. And, to be honest, the male clans were as impenetrable as the female ones I was a part of. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t know how to break in.
The closest I got was at 4-H camp one summer, when I ended up standing next to a super cool older boy named Tripp. Tripp was staring across the pool at a girl. Before I could say anything, he elbowed me in the ribs, and said, “Dude, Stacie is so hot.” I slunk away in my mullet and jams, mortified. This incident led me to two conclusions: One, I looked like Corey Haim. And two, I had nothing to talk about with these things called boys.
It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I began to let go of the idea that most men were from a distant planet dominated by sports, farts and pointing out hot girls. Though the majority of my close friends continue to be women, I’ve added quite a few awesome males to the mix—including my greatest male friend, my husband.
With Matt, I’ve realized that the language of women and the language of men is not so dissimilar. I don’t know why it took me so long to understand this.
We talk about mundane life stuff, or get deep, or joke around and sometimes the jokes lead to wrestling, and as he’s putting me in a headlock I get a pang of fear that Matt has also mistaken me for a boy. But overall, friendship with Matt has been amazing. So when I found out that we would be having all boys, I didn’t panic. I was super excited about growing my cool dude collection.
Now, the tables have turned and I live in a house dominated by strong-willed and funny men. People ask me all the time if we’re going to try for a girl, and I want to punch them in the head a little. It’s strange that anyone would look at my family and think I was unfulfilled. I certainly don’t feel that way.
I am rich in sisters and nieces and moms and aunts and girlfriends and their daughters. Having sons has been the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me.
Every day, I’m learning more and more about these weird little people. I watch like a giddy anthropologist as they blast invisible lasers out of their palms and throw their sturdy bodies off furniture and talk to us excitedly about cookies and shoes.
I watch them carry their stuffed animals around like children, cooing at them in a high-pitched voice, cause that’s how we talk to them (when we’re not yelling).
I watch them mesmerized by Beyonce and Anna and Elsa one minute, and mesmerized by their own nipples the next.
And what I see is that boyishness and girlishness are like a Venn diagram. There are differences, but there’s overlap, too. Some people might be over on Mars, some people might be on Venus, but most of us are here on Earth, looking for a friend we can blast with imaginary lasers and bop around with to Beyonce. Regardless of what kind of nipples they have.
I’m kind of just rambling about nipples now, but what I’m trying to say is that I’m really loving this front-row seat to boyhood. It’s giving me the thinks and the feels.
These boys. They break your heart. I am constantly grabbing at them, trying to stop their relentless motion for a few seconds so I can breathe in the smell of their hair or kiss their spaghetti faces. They are so fast and so beautiful, these boys.
I’m not saying that every minute in their company feels like surfing a sunbeam. It does not. Many minutes feel like someone ripping out the hair on the back of your neck, because someone is doing precisely that. And as much as I love getting to witness the inner workings of boys, sometimes the male energy gets to be a lot and I have to take a minute to go outside and kick the bamboo shoots growing in the back yard (because they look like penises).
But in general, I really dig these kids at this age. Every minute our sons march deeper into the brambles of their childhood as Matt and I try to keep up. One day soon they will be awkward, pimpled things with ungainly limbs and unpredictable erections. And that will make me love them even more fiercely because they will be truly pathetic and gross. And after that, they’ll be men, and I’ll be dead.
But right now they are tiny tigers and crafty foxes and dancing barbarians and crying superheroes and shy little fiddler crabs who scuttle behind their mom and dad when someone new comes over.
When I pick them up from daycare and they run away from me into oncoming traffic, I look at their small shoulders and slight necks and the backs of their ears that are glowing red with the sun and they look so fragile and so brave.
I hope they grow up to be good men like their father. I hope the world doesn’t put too much on their small shoulders. I hope they are kind to girls with mullets. And I really hope they stop running into traffic.