The day I announced to our friends and family on Facebook that my husband and I were having a baby boy, one of the first congratulatory comments included a meme that said, “boy: (noun) a loud noise with dirt on it.”
We chuckled. My husband has two brothers and a sister, but I was raised with all girls. I was excited (and a little nervous) about my future as a mother in unfamiliar territory. I silently said my goodbyes to my nice furniture and white carpet, choosing to remember them now, as they are, instead of after my son is born, and they are reduced to smoldering ash.
After my son arrived, I waited. But as the months went by, my home stayed intact. As he got older and we spent more time at playgrounds, I wasn’t chasing him and thinking of the fastest route to the ER. I sat on a bench and watched as he played quietly in the mulch. Aside from a phase around 12 months when he screamed constantly from what I assumed was the sheer joy of being alive, he was a quiet kid. Happy, pleasant, and fairly chill, he was an appropriate noise with dirt around him rather than the definition I was given months earlier.
A couple years later, I was pregnant again, and we wanted to be surprised by the gender. Based on the highly scientific method of mother’s intuition, I was sure I was having another boy. Maybe this one would be crazy and rambunctious and noisy as all hell, I thought.
I got half of that right.
My daughter is wild. I don’t mean wild like the wind or something whimsical and free-spirited. I mean like a badger — the honey variety that don’t give a shit. She is feral.
She is happy and sweet and snuggles and hugs me about 10,000 times a day. But she also growls at me. She can give the kind of stink-eye that takes years of judging people to perfect.
My nice furniture? Nailed down. My white carpet? We moved, but I still keep the paint and crayons under lock and key because she has a sixth sense for knowing when a mess is possible and can create one with record speed. You know how in scary movies when the person you know is going to die looks around the room because something seems off? The camera follows their gaze as they scan the kitchen and turn away because everything is orderly. Then a second later, they look back to the kitchen, and all of the cabinets and drawers are open, and the chairs are overturned, and all this happened without a sound because some ghost tore shit up just to terrify the living crap out of them?
My daughter has done that with a 20-pack of Sharpies.
That phase I said my son went through, screaming just because he could and it was fun? That’s been my daughter’s constant state for the last 10 months. Make her happy? She screams with joy. Make her mad? She screams with rage. There are several times a day that I can’t tell if she is happy-screaming or angry-screaming. She’s just screaming, and her expression isn’t changing.
At the playground, I’m overcome with gratitude for my son who is playing quietly in the mulch. He has freed me up to chase after my daughter when she decides to launch herself off the highest point on the jungle gym. As she’s tearing through the park like a bat outta hell, the only pause in motion I can count on is the death stare she shoots at me for asking her to slow down.
Our trips to our local library are as quick as humanly possible. Some people plan out their grocery lists by section so they can get through the store fast and efficiently. I plan out the books we are going to bring home, looking up their locations on the shelves ahead of time so we can get out before we are asked to leave. I watch other mothers asking their child to use their inside voice. The most I can hope for is that my daughter won’t do a full-on ET impression, arms waving in the air while she screams and runs down an aisle.
A lesson worth learning here is probably that “boys will be boys” is not an actual thing, and girls are definitely not easier when they are little. Kids will be kids. People will be people. And each one of them is going to find their own way of figuring out the world around them. To some kids, the world is a playground. To others, the world is a cage fight. And their levels of calm vs. cray is not going to be determined by whether they pee standing up or sitting down.