Check the Toilet Seat First (And Other Things Boy Moms Know)

As published in The Week on May 4, 2015

When people introduce me in either social or professional situations, there are two facts that they usually mention: that I am a writer, and that I am the mother of three boys. Hearing these facts about my life never gets old, as I can’t think of anything I’d rather be than a writer and a mother of these three boys. But it always strikes me as funny that they mention the boys specifically. I imagine that if I had two boys and a girl, I’d simply be referred to as a writer and a mother of three. Full stop. There’s something about having three of a kind that seems noteworthy, both for what it is and what it lacks.

When I’m introduced to another mother of only boys, there are a few seconds of expectation on the part of the introducer. Like maybe we are going to have a secret handshake. Or maybe we are going to say, “Hey are there black handprint marks all over your walls? Me too!” Instead, we nod our heads and exchange a little smile, knowing we are kindred. Having boys leads to a set of personality traits, namely that you’re not fussy and that you roll with the (actual) punches. If you have a bunch of boys, you’ve probably seen a femur up close and you can get blood out of anything.

A boy shaped hole in the drywall

You might as well introduce me with, “She’s a writer and is laid back about property damage.” People would understand. Property damage is to boy moms what frequent costume changes are to girl moms. A golf club through the drywall, a child through the drywall, and a basketball game ending triumphantly with glass showering down from the ceiling lights. That’s just what being a boy mom is. It’s knowing the number of the window repair company by heart, and not having to tell them your address when you call.

Boy moms buy eggs four-dozen at a time. We’re why they package 32 English muffins together at Costco. An English muffin with peanut butter on it will sate our starving boys for up to 25 minutes, enough time to boil up some macaroni and cheese or order a pizza. We are slightly afraid of our growing and starving brood, because their collective hunger comes at us with such force and frequency. I’ve been known to throw down a plate of bacon and run out of the room like a lion trainer fleeing the cage.

We have time for all this food shopping and prep because we do not shop for clothes. We do not meander through the mall, browsing the new spring fashions. We buy socks like we buy eggs, dozens at a time. When we need to buy clothes for our children, our shopping list reads “everything, the next size up.” And that usually works out fine. We shop for ourselves, of course, though we don’t really need to. Not one person in my house knows what kind of jeans I should be wearing this season. For this, I am particularly grateful.

The other, unspoken thing that bonds us is what we don’t have: a daughter. Sometimes the fact that I don’t have a daughter surprises me so much that I check myself like I’m patting my pockets for my keys. She’s got to be around here somewhere, I have so much to tell her! All these hard-earned girl lessons just roll around my head, waiting for eager ears. She’d probably just roll her eyes anyway. Really, Mom? What do you know about boys? Ha! The irony!

Without a daughter, I wonder about the future of my stuff. Every year on Thanksgiving I try to get one of my sons excited about my mom’s gravy boat. Every year someone asks if it wouldn’t just be easier to serve the gravy out of the roasting pan on the stove. Easier? It would have been easier to just order a pizza, but that’s not the point. It is my greatest hope that someday they’ll sit down to dinner with their own families (just having repaired their own drywall), see that gravy boat, and get the point.

We won’t go prom dress shopping. We won’t pick the wedding venue. We won’t be in the delivery room. We won’t ever, ever sit on a toilet before thoroughly inspecting it first. But we will strive to raise kind, conscious, able young men. All of this is acknowledged when boy moms meet and exchange a little nod and a smile. The nod is for the food prep and the property damage; but the smile is for all the rest – the sweetness of a little boy, and the way he grabs your heart with his dirty hands and never lets go.