From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

The Son Also Rises

One of my friends is expecting. Technically, it’s his wife who is expecting, but he is the one who is full of expectations.

You see, after two lovely girls, they are now expecting a boy. And yours truly—as the proud owner and operator of a four-year-old boy—is seen as a source of information on how having a boy in the house differs from having a girl. It’s nice to be considered an expert on anything, but I’m afraid the information I have for him based on my own experience can’t really be considered encouraging.

In our house, having a boy means a constant whirl of activity. I have watched in amazement when girls come to visit and they sit quietly for two hours absorbed in a coloring book. When it comes to creative projects and crafts, my son’s motto is “art in thirty seconds or less.” Girls rarely require you to holler about drawing on the furniture, gluing their eyelids together, or painting the dog. With girls, frequently the finished artistic product actually looks like something. My son is still in his abstract period, but unlike many modern artists, he doesn’t take offense when it takes twenty guesses to figure out what he’s drawn.

Parents of girls tell me their daughters have a few favorite toys that are loved and cherished and provide hours of entertainment. They even get handed down as family heirlooms. Little boys—and a lot of grown men—have attention spans that would leave room in a gnat’s appointment book. My advice to the proud father-to-be is not to waste money on expensive educational toys that will be looked at once and then tossed aside with no more thought given to them than to a Libertarian candidate. When it comes to boys, the secret of toys is volume, volume, volume.

And speaking of volume, there is the noise. A house with a boy in it is a noisy house. Just eating a bowl of cereal can generate enough racket to get noise complaints from a nearby airport. I’ve given up trying to watch the news with the sound on. If I want to follow a TV show, I’m going to have to take up lipreading.

And no toy will ever be used in the hands of a boy for the purpose for which it was designed. Practically anything can be turned into a rocket launcher, jet fighter, or fortress, unless, of course, they already happen to be a rocket launcher, jet fighter, or fortress, in which case they will be used as something else.

Boys can be affectionate, in their own way. But be warned—boys’ hugs hurt. For most little boys, unless you can hear several major bones crack, it doesn’t count as a hug. Don’t even get me started on good-bye kiss-related injuries.

Unlike little girls, bath time for boys holds the same excitement as a National Geographic special on predators of the Amazon. I have rarely had to let the water out of the tub when my son’s bath is finished. Somehow there’s never enough water left to worry about. Our bathroom floor, however, is growing moss.

Of course, “experts” will tell you that normal little boys actually suffer from any number of behavioral issues, when what they really mean is the problem is that boys are not girls—something my friend will find out soon enough.

Stephen Lautens

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