Any mixed family...and by that I mean one with sons and daughters, knows one of the great mysteries of life: that boys and girls are NOT the same hearts and minds dropped into different bodies. I get to relive this adage on a day by day basis with grandchildren, but twenty five years ago, it made me more than a little apprehensive. With Lee and Ann safely out of babyhood, and being female myself, I could feel as if I had an inkling at least of how to deal with girls. Baby number three was still a mystery, but we had been unable to pick a girl's name, so I guess we were expressing preference by default. John Benton arrived; we had our opportunity to say 'vive la difference!'
What are little boys made of? Band-aids and scar tissue. Ben started young, pulling the microwave down on top of him before he was old enough to walk. Results: scars next to his eye masquerading as laugh lines. An end gate fell out of a farm truck, sending us to the emergency room in St. Joseph. Results: stitches, a wide white bandage and two plastic motorcycles. Two concussion scares, the last following a fall from the top of a park slide somewhere east of Bent's Fork in Colorado. Results: a really colorful black eye recorded for all posterity in a vacation picture. "Jumping" ("falling?") out of the loft of Grandpa's barn on Easter day. Results: two broken bones in a foot and a short term guilt trip by the parents who told him to 'be tough, you're OK.'
What do little boys do? Build: blocks, Brio trains, Lego rockets. Ride: on tractors, combines, pickups, lawn mowers. Sometimes they take a notion to drive as well: under the not so watchful eye of his sister, Ben managed to lurch our antique van over the curb and nearly into the plate glass window of a flower shop in Rock Port. He couldn't reach the clutch; he was two.
Little boys are enthusiastic. Hunting. Astronomy. Ham radio. One computer game or another. A newspaper. A future astronaut. 'A general' at age six. A fancier of Hercule Poirot, Horatio Hornblower, Nero Wolfe from time to time.
Little boys are single minded; this characteristic can make their parents tear their hair, but can also be channeled into the laudable attributes of persistence, perseverance, commitment and endurance. It can take a young man through two a days, ruck marches, and outlines hundreds of pages long.
Little boys are curious. Between the farm and the greenhouse, we've never lacked for an inventory of broke stuff....the mechanical version of a medical cadaver..to be dissected and examined. These items were never the same.........and never reassembled, but some inner urge to know, or destroy, was satisfied before the parts were pitched. To see the big picture, to bring order from chaos, to see beyond superficial to the root of a matter: this can be the productive side of the inquisitive 'why?' of the child.
Little boys can be adventurous. I subdued panic many times before Ben was too old to be my personal responsibility. He wasn't worried if I couldn't find him. He might be down at the pond or the rock. At Elephant Rocks State Park, he told us all he knew a quicker way back to the car. And I guess he did. Ben was there before Blake, Lee, Ann, me and a whole troop of Boy Scouts could find him. He was five.
Little boys grow up. They quit worrying if their sisters are "looking at me". They don't have to duck down in the car so no one can see them. They become heroes to their little nieces and nephews in the same way they idolized older aunts and uncles. They worry about their own broke stuff, set their hobbies aside for work, save adventures for the future.
Whether five or twenty five, they are still true to their team. Happy Birthday, Ben!
And, Go Cards!