The baby shop is just about closed (it’s pretty much official), so it looks like God has given me two beautiful boys. I’m definitely not complaining. Of course, I cried like a wee baby when I gave away the girl clothes I’d been given from my sister-in-law while I was pregnant. It’s hard to think I probably won’t experience having a daughter. Then again, I was a nightmare teenager, myself, so I’ve always wondered whether I dodged a bullet.
It seems to be the general consensus that boys are much more of a pain in the ass during the early years, while girls sit there sipping their tea and eating their crumpets with Mr. Peabody the Bear and their American Girls. I just want a civilized tea party, dammit! Then the tables turn, though, and the boys love on their mommies while the girls are a wicked whirlwind of a thousand moods.
In the past year, though, my thoughts have begun to shift, and with them a whole new set of worries. I’m a worrier by nature. It’s a hereditary thing. One day, I didn’t answer my phone all day so my mother drove over to my house (about 25-30 miles away) to make sure we hadn’t been a victim of a home invasion. Needless to say, I’m screwed in the anxiety department.
With all the violence — most of it committed by men (no offense, oh ye of the penises) — and the bloom going off the rose of fallen role models like Lance Armstrong and Oscar Pistorius, it’s a sad state of affairs for my boys. Who do they look up to? Politicians? It’s slim pickins these days and, instead of focusing all my worries on the shittiness of potty training (pun intended) and childhood illnesses like RSV, I’ve begun to be concerned for my guys down the road. How do I raise a gentleman? A gentle soul? A masculine but sensitive man with good morals and an open heart? All of a sudden it doesn’t seem so easy to raise boys.
I realized how jaded I’d become this past week when my nephew visited. First — a little backstory on him. He was the first grandchild — the golden boy of our family, and he’s lived up to in every way. He’s always had my heart and — to be honest — I had no idea my heart could swell so much in the role of aunt. I babysat him when he was little, and he used to ask me to read him the sports section when he would do his “number twos” on the potty. The kid has lived and breathed sports since he was born.
So when he was visiting last week and was really itching to play basketball, we were crushed when my parents’ neighborhood court was occupied. A bunch of college aged guys were playing a pickup game, and you could see the disappointment in my nephew’s eyes. We tried to soften the blow with promises of tomorrow’s game, etc., but he was definitely deflated. We were about to turn around and go home when my mom (who is NOT shy) asked to be let out of the car. Knowing what she was up to, my brother tried to lock her in, but this woman cannot be contained. She got out and did what she all knew she would do — she asked when they would be done, as we all crouched lower in the car.
What happened next was just so freaking cool. These guys, who go to a nearby community college, asked my 11-YEAR-OLD nephew to play with them. There was nary a flinch in the split second they each welcomed him on to the court. And I held my breath. I had no idea how good my nephew was at basketball, and I worried that this might be a disaster in the making. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did my super stud nephew hold his own against these guys who were many years his senior, but they acted like it was no big thang. No skin off their noses. Just any old day on the basketball court. And I got tears in my eyes.
These are the unsung heroes. These are the guys I want my boys to look up to. These are the role models. And this is what I learned on an average day on a basketball court in Any Town, USA. And it gave me hope.