About a Boy

I have been trying to write this post for months, but it has been left lying dormant in my drafts folder. I’ve thought about it a lot, but when it came to the writing I couldn’t get beyond the first line. At least I couldn’t until last night, when I had something of a lightbulb moment.

Here’s that troublesome first line:

“I never realised how physical it would be, having a little boy.”

I kept writing down anecdotes about why I sometimes find life with DorkySon physically challenging. He has only just turned three and is very rarely aggressive, but he is a big, strong boy. He will come barrelling into a room at full speed and crash into my legs for a cuddle. He will throw his arms around me, bounce up and down on my lap, and constantly ask for a piggyback or a horse-ride. He is my little shape shifter, constantly claiming to be a bee, or a carwash, or a fire engine.

“Gneeeeurgh,” DorkySon will say, face screwed up in concentration as he tries to squash me on the sofa. “I’m a big recycling truck!”

“But I’m not a cardboard box! I’m your Mummy,” I’ll shout. “I don’t want to be recycled!”

Right now, DorkySon is very naked. The first thing he does when we come in the door is whip off his trousers. I am putting it down to the stage of potty training we are at, where he seems to be more aware of the need to dash to the bathroom if he has a bit of fresh air around his bits. But I will admit that I am getting a bit tired of having his arse wagging in my face all the time. I am also tired of wiping wee off the carpet, cleaning snuffly little boy snotters off my clothes, and washing my hands after some rejected foodstuff has been spat forcefully into them.

I am a person who really likes my own space. I like the noise level to be fairly quiet. I like to put a book down on the table, and know that I can walk away and come back half an hour later, and my book will still be there, with the bookmark in the right place. I like to walk around barefoot without having to worry about stepping on a Lego sword or a Playmobil fire hydrant. I like being able to eat a whole sandwich by myself without having to share it. All that is quite hard to maintain with DorkySon in the house. He is sweet and adorable, but he is full-on and incredibly noisy too.

I think why I’ve been struggling with this post is that those thoughts are all very negative. It’s basically several paragraphs of me grumbling about how hard it is to live with a little boy, and in all honesty I don’t like to sound so grumpy.

But last night I had a bit of an epiphany (which now seems so obvious). I have been misplacing a lot of blame. It’s not DorkySon’s ‘boyness’ that is making me feel a bit like I’m under attack just now (albeit a very loving attack). It is not a gender thing. It’s that being a parent is a physical job no matter who your kids are – it’s grunt work – and I have to adapt to that. In some ways, I’ve already adapted a lot without even realising it.

My first sentence should have read “I never realised how physical it would be, being a parent.”

That slight shift in emphasis – moving from ‘blaming’ DorkySon for his physical nature to accepting that it’s just part of being a parent – has made me feel so much more positive.  Instead of feeling a bit small and puny as the mother of a boy who sometimes knocks me over in his enthusiastic rush for a hug, I feel strong and proud to be a mother at all.

From the very beginning, when I gave birth, to breastfeeding, to carrying my baby around, to hauling a pram up and down steps, and on and off buses… none of those are things that came very naturally to me because I’d never been a very physically strong person. I was fit enough, and in decent shape, but I’ve never got much joy out of sports or exercise.

Every day I see mothers achieving almost-impossible physical feats – in the playground or the supermarket – juggling toddlers and bags and babies and prams. I see tiny wee women carrying great big boys on their shoulders, because if your child falls asleep when you’re out, what else are you going to do? I always look at those women with a huge amount of admiration, and it’s only in writing this post that I’ve realised I do all those things myself! I must be stronger than I think.

I am hugely grateful that DorkyDad is such an involved father. He has a relationship with DorkySon that is even more physical than mine is. They seem to have this almost primal need to get down on the floor and wrestle with each other; to establish boundaries, and then to knock up against each other and test those boundaries.

DorkySon will grab DorkyDad’s ear in his fist.

“Ow!” he’ll say. “What are you doing?”

“I’m folding your ear into a paper aeroplane,” says DorkySon, grinning.

The flipside of that whole roughhousing thing is that they also have the tightest, closest cuddles, where they wrap around each other in a jangle of limbs and just glow with love. I am glad that DorkyDad is there to take some of the heat off me. I am glad that DorkySon has a brilliant male role model to look up to, who can help guide him to be strong and physically confident without that ever spilling over into aggression.

If I try and fight the physical nature of having DorkySon, I am going to end up losing. So I have no choice but to embrace it. I will try to ignore his little white butt cheeks when they come into my line of vision. I will not complain about mopping up pee and pomegranate juice anymore. I will say yes to the piggy backs and the horse rides and, if I must, I will even succumb to being recycled.

That’s what it means to be a parent.

There will be plenty of time to sit and be quiet later.

33 responses

  1. I love reading posts like this as I sense (and recognise) that great relief when a piece you’re trying to write falls into place. I can relate to lots of what you say here and agree that most of us probably don’t accept how good a job we’re doing yet look at every other mum with admiration, excluding ourselves.

  2. Love this! As the very girly mother of a soon to be 1 year old, I have actually struggled with the question of will I be up to the task (physically) of raising a boy as I have never been very physical or active. Like you, I am not in bad shape, but I’ve never liked playing sports and working out isn’t a huge priority either. Thankfully daddies can fill that need quite nicely!
    And yes, moms are stronger than they think!

  3. Great writing. A great read. And most of all, a wonderful realization of how as parents, we are growing up along with our kids. Thank you, thank you for sharing.

  4. Yeah, it takes energy. I am now an awesome Power Ranger, and regularly bruised from the violent hugs my youngest boy gives (man, even his kisses hurt!)

  5. Thanks for this, really enjoyed reading it 🙂

    Even at three weeks old I’m astonished by how strong our son is, so I can’t yet imagine what it’ll be like to do battle with a toddler!

  6. we don’t realise the muscles we develop through raising children, and i’d say particularly ‘sturdy boys’! mine is 5 and still tries to literally climb me like a climbing frame! and those run-at-you hugs, i’m always convinced one or both of us will end up in A&E!

  7. i’m not a particularly strong as in athletic person unless it involves raising my hand to my mouth with a chocolate biscuit or two. the rough and toughness of having a boy is absolutely ace though and i think as a girl it’s the closest we will ever get to understand what it must be like to be a boy. as when they are that young they have no boundaries so don’t understand girls do one thing and boys another and for that i am forever grateful to my son.

  8. I’d never thought of it like that. But, come to think of it, I’m at least a stone lighter now than I was before I became a mum. And I don’t diet. So it must be because I spend so much of the time running up and down stairs, crawling round the house on all fours playing chase and carrying my non-toddling 22 month old. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Re. the trousers thing. Don’t bet on it ending when the potty training is well and truly sorted. I know a 3.5 year old who HATES wearing trousers and regularly pops in from next door with no pants on!

    • Argh! I will prepare for another couple of years of nakedness then! Do you constantly get holes in your jeans from crawling around on the floor too, or is that just me?! x

  9. Thank you for sharing such an open and heart felt post. I think we can all relate to this in one way or another.

  10. I can so so so relate to this post! We have an energetic boy too – he loves to jump on me, he loves to jump from the armchair to the sofa, he loves to rough and tumble on floor and he loves me to carry him around on my back/shoulders and pretend to be a horse. I have never been a strong person either (nor taken any joy in exercise, ever) but I am definitely much stronger than I ever was. I do not even think twice about it now – if he is tired and insists on me carrying him, the scooter, the bag and Igglepiggle around the entire park then I just get on with it. It is exhausting and physically testing but I didn’t expect it not to be so just roll with it for now. When he is a teenager, I expect he’ll lock himself in his bedroom and I won’t see or hear from him for days!

  11. What a lovely post. Felt a bit emotional at the end. On work days I have to load up The Duchess, The Big Brown One, and carry her bag, my bag, and my laptop bag. I often feel overwhelmed by that short walk to and from the car. I often catch people staring. I think I shall now wear it as a proud badge of being a strong momma.

  12. I was actually laughing out loud at this! I read bits out to my husband and he smiled at the thought of him and our 13month old getting to that stage. Great post x

  13. What a great and honest post. I love the way you’ve rephrased your original sentence, and I could do to use it too – although in think I’d add ‘and mentally demanding’ too.. But that’s another story! Our lives are completely invaded by these wonderful little people and we’re bound to want a bit less of the chaos and noise sometimes.

    • What a lovely comment, thanks for reading. Totally agree about being mentally demanding too – would love to read it if you ever write about that! Xx

  14. My son is 17 months and I find it very physically challenging. He just wants to run all day long and throw himself off stuff! He’s like a little tornado and some days I’m absolutely shattered. I’m very glad I didn’t realise before having him else I might have kept putting off having one.

  15. Pingback: Goodbye 2012 | dorkymum

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