I don’t know what it’s like to live with girls. Well, I take that back. I remember living with three girls in college, and I remember my mom joking with me about how the powers that be must have been preparing me for a life with a messy husband.
Little did I know that the powers that be were actually preparing me for life with six boys and a husband. Silly me. I didn’t dream big enough.
Now. I know that girls can be just as messy as boys, but I also know that I am a neat and tidy person, for the most part. I imagine that, if I had a daughter, she would share my propensity toward neat and tidy—no way would I end up with THAT many messy kids.
All that aside, there are some other things I’ve noticed about my boys: they can be selfish little twerps. I know, I know, most young kids are. And I know we can teach them to be selfless and clean and tidy—and it’s our duty, really, because it’s clearly not the way they’re born.
But there are also some things I imagine will never change in a household of smelly, wild boys.
Like the things they say—or don’t say.
Here are some things you’ll never hear in a household of boys:
1. “It’s OK. You take the last taco, brother.”
Feeding time at my house is quite an event. The most accurate description I can pull out of my writer brain is “Feeding frenzy.” With so many starving boys who haven’t eaten in the last hour (when they consumed, impressively, a whole pound of carrots in one sitting) vying for space and a serving spoon, there’s likely not to be anything left by the time I get around to the table—except for the asparagus no one likes because once the oldest got it stuck in his throat, and when he pulled it out, the string just kept coming, like a comic representation of a magician pulling a scarf from his throat.
Taco night is, by far, the worst.
Because the boys are still young (the oldest is only 8), they need help making the tacos (we’d likely run out of meat by the fourth taco—because they’ll fill the shell to the top in an effort to shovel as much food into as little space as possible). But the problem is, by the time we’ve made the taco for Boy Number 5, because Boy Number 6 doesn’t eat adult food yet, Boy Number One is already done with his taco and is (politely) asking for another. We usually make him wait until Husband and I have eaten our first taco, too, hoping that this rule will make him chew instead of inhale. Of course that never works.
But worst of all is when there’s only one taco left. The boys all look at each other, daring a brother to reach for the shell so they can smack his arm right off his torso.
I will never, ever hear those gracious words, “No, you take the last taco.”
Instead, we will slice it up into tiny little pieces and listen to the words that always follow this solution: “Aw, no fair! He got a bigger piece than me.”
2. “Well, I didn’t win. At least I had fun.”
I have never heard a boy say this. I don’t think any parent has ever heard a little boy says this, because when you’re a little boy, you only want to win. It’s not because your parents teach you that winning is everything (we sure didn’t). It’s jut that this is part of who you are. Second place is for people who shouldn’t be playing anyway.
About once a week, for Family Time, we’ll break out the board games to play. I don’t know why we do. We always go in thinking that this time will be fun, because they’re a week older and they’ve got one more loss under their belt, and surely they’ll realize that even though they lost last week they’re still alive. The world didn’t end, and, bonus, they’re still happy, for the most part. And yet, inevitably, as one player’s token nears the finish line before the others, my blood pressure begins to rise, along with a wedge of anxiety in my throat, because I know someone’s about to melt down.
“Aw!” the loser says. “I wanted to win.” And then he starts crying about how he never, ever, ever wins and he’s just going to quit.
“It’s not about winning,” I’ll say. “It’s about having fun.” He just looks at me like I’m an extraterrestrial with a rutabaga growing out of the top of my head—part amazement, part confusion, part disgust.
I’m still waiting for those words, but I fear they’ll never come.
3. “It’s completely fair that he gets to stay up later than I do.”
This one works with many different phrases. “It’s completely fair that he got the bigger strawberry.” “It’s completely fair that he had five friends come to his birthday party and I only had four.” “It’s completely fair that he gets to wear a black shirt.”
There is nothing fair in the life of a boy.
I’ve tried explaining the difference between just and fair, but this is a lesson lost on my boys right now. They’re still young. They see in mostly black and white, which means it’s not fair that one brother gets the longer straw. It’s not fair that one brother gets the superhero cup. It’s not fair that one brother is using more air or weighs more or grew more inches in the last year.
It’s hard for kids to see fair as it should be seen.
“It’s not fair,” the 6-year-old said yesterday morning.
“What’s not fair?” I said.
“He gets a bowl of oatmeal,” he said.
“You also got a bowl of oatmeal,” I said.
He cocked his head. “Oh. Oh yeah,” he said.
I shook my head and waited for the next declaration of “it’s not fair” to come. And it did, three minutes later, when the 8-year-old showed up at the table wearing a pair of sweat pants and the 5-year-old thought it wasn’t fair that his brother had clean sweat pants while he did not.
4. “Don’t worry, Mama. Of course I know better than to try that.”
I wish I could say I’ve heard these words or that I would hear these words in the future. But in a household of boys, I don’t think this is possible. I’m speaking purely from experience.
I didn’t hear these words from the 8-year-old, who attempted to walk up the stairs in roller blades while I hobbled up in my broken-foot boot. I didn’t hear them from the 6-year-old, who tried a headstand three stairs up and slid the rest of the way down on his face. Not from the 5-year-old, who wanted to see what his pee would like like if he peed off the top of the minivan out front. Not from one 3-year-old, who wanted to see what would happen if he tried to put two CDs into the CD player and push play. Not from the other 3-year-old, who thought he’d unstop the toilet paper mess in his favorite toilet with his brother’s plastic yoda puppet (Fix it, I will).
Boys don’t have these critical thinking skills down, and I hear it’s a long time before they master them.
But you know what I do hear in a household of boys?
“I really, really, really love you, Mama.”
And that’s more than enough.
This is an excerpt from This Life With Boys, the third book in the Crash Test Parents series. To get access to some all-new, never-before-published humor essays in two hilarious Crash Test Parents guides, visit the Crash Test Parents Reader Library page.