A Few Words of Warning About Boys

My niece just had a baby boy. She already has a two-year-old daughter and is a wonderful mother – calm and engaged, ready with an arsenal of organic produce at every meal. It’s been a joy to watch, as I only know what it is to have a daughter as an observer. I’ve been a daughter (complicated, wonderful), and my friends have daughters (complicated, wonderful). But now she’s having a son, and that is a thing that I know. The basics are mostly the same – feed them, love them, try to teach them how to tie their shoes and then give up and buy Velcro. On the off chance she gets one that’s wired like my sons, there are a few practical tips that I’d like to whisper in her ear. She kind of has her hands full right now, so I just hope this document makes its way to her.

First, there’s nothing wrong with him. I know, it seems strange that he can’t sit still for five minutes. Even watching TV, he’s jumping up and down on the couch and bouncing a ball against the wall. When you find that your daughter is painting watercolors and your son is vrooming a large truck into the drywall, try not to compare. She’ll be done when the picture is complete; he’ll be done when there’s a truck-sized hole in the wall.

In related advice, have a window guy. Your son will break a few windows in his life, to the tune of maybe $100 per year. You can either say “don’t throw that in the house” 600 times a day, or you could just suck it up and pay the money when needed. I was about two boys into this game when I gave up and added the window guy as a line item in my annual budget. (Separately, you can totally afford this because he probably won’t need so many pairs of shoes or highlights).

You’re going to want to be on the defense about food. (See, that’s a sports expression). To determine quantity, take the largest amount of food you could possibly eat and triple it. There will be a point when he hits his first growth spurt when he’s nearly violent with hunger, and you’ll have to pick him up from school with a sandwich in the car. To be on the safe side, throw some bacon* in that sandwich.

*You can solve almost any problem with bacon.

Have a lawyer. We don’t need to get into it right now, but boys do unthinkable things when they are either behind the wheel of a car or around a lot of other boys. This is a scientific fact. The baddest of bad ideas shapeshifts into inspiration when more than three boys are gathered. A bad idea becomes a quest. What you might see as a harmless object, your son and his friends will see as something that must be set on fire. Manhood and bragging rights are stronger than any rational sense you have instilled in him.

There will be other women. Love them. Offer them jewelry. All the jewelry! At least this is my plan, to lure them to my house for dinner and to soften the blow for when they find out all the stuff I forgot to teach my sons how to do.

Lastly, he’s tough, but not as tough as he wants you to believe he is. He might growl like a bear and hurl his body against the blacktop. He might break an arm and fashion a sling out of his hoodie so he can keep playing. Don’t buy into it. Approach him tenderly, because you are his soft place to land.