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Family Matters

8-and-a-Half Things You Didn't Expect About Having a Boy

Everything gets turned into a projectile, clothes are often optional, and a little boy loves his mom something fierce. Here's what we wish we'd known about having a boy

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From the instant the sonogram tech deciphered the smudgy shapes on the screen and announced, "It's a boy," I was…completely confused. Boy? What's that all about? (My first child was a girl.) But as it turns out, having a son has shown me aspects of the world, myself, and sporting goods stores I never knew existed. Of course all boys are different, and this is just one mom's take. But parenting a little boy can teach us so many wonderful things, even beyond the 50 different words for, "Quiet, please?"

1. You have feelings about clothing. You think you don't, but you do. Maybe you're the mother of four boys and you catch yourself sighing in envy at your neighbor's baby in her goofy pink headband. Or maybe you inherit a boatload of lavender winter wear for your toddler, but you feel weird stuffing your son into the snow pants (even though they are a fancy brand, nearly brand-new, and way nicer than what you would have bought). As you attempt to clothe your kid, you may discover you have more deeply-ingrained feelings than you ever imagined about how you want your kid dressed. And so does the rest of the world, you'll learn as you browse through racks and racks of t-shirts with sports and skulls on them. And I live in an area where a neighborhood listserve famously erupted into righteous rage over someone's comment that they had "found a boy's hat." (Spoiler alert: It was blue.)

2. Boys never stop. A favorite book in my house, Charise Mericle Harper's If Waffles Were Like Boys , imagines ordinary objects like waffles and shopping carts turning into boys and wreaking havoc on their various settings. I would surely think it were an exaggeration if I didn't have one of my own. Now I know the truth-indeed everything with wheels is a race car and everything that's spherical is a projectile. Tables become climbing structures. The sofa becomes a trampoline. They love trains and trucks and construction equipment and NO ONE KNOWS WHY. They want to throw balls and run and pound things with hammers and yell and these urges are coiled in all their synapses. Thankfully someone invented soccer and scooters and other ways for them to channel their energy, which reminds me…

3. There will be blood. When you have a boy you quickly learn which body parts bleed more than others, what kind of situations call for ER visits, and how many bandages you can comfortably fit in your jeans pocket.

4. There will also be pee. I'm not a super-diligent cleaner, but I was still surprised one afternoon to enter my bathroom and recognize a whiff of-what was that very familiar odor that made me think of the subway? Pee. That smell, in my own bathroom, all over the floor. All of which is to say: It gets everywhere. Including, during one or two magical diaper changes, your eye. Don't say I didn't warn you.

5. Mothers of girls don't always relate. That parent at the community center art class whose 3-year-old daughter is sitting nicely on a chair gluing together the project just how the teacher demonstrated, while your 3-year-old son is attempting to pick up his chair and wave it over his head while screaming, "ME DINO, ME EAT YOU?" Ignore her confused, kind-of-scared looks. She just really doesn't get it.

6. Sons are tiny boyfriends-but not in a weird way. Your daughter can often feel like your partner in crime, but like your best girlfriend, she will occasionally turn to you and cut you down with, "You're wearing that?" Your son, meanwhile, thinks you're the bee's knees. It's all so uncomplicated with a son-he adores you uncritically (except for maybe your baseball pitching skills). Your daughter is always sizing you up in one way or another, which makes sense-she's processing on some cellular level what it will mean to be a grown-up lady. But your son just thinks you're soft and smell nice and all he wants to do is cuddle. (For now. Enjoy it. I hear teenagers aren't that into having mommy smooch all their cheek freckles.)

7. Having a son gives you newfound sympathy for the men in your life. You watch your son navigate the social scene at the playground and you realize, wow, he just really doesn't get it. He hurt that girl's feelings and he has NO IDEA. He's not playing dumb. He really does not get it. And then your husband says something stupid and then blinks at you and says, "What? Did that upset you? Why?" And you realize: He's not playing dumb, either. They just don't get it. Any of them!

8. And yet: People think it's important for you to have one kid of each gender. Why do they care? Why is it anyone's business? Who's to say one boy and one girl is the ideal? Would these people like to hear my daughter's thesis on Why It Would Be Great Not to Have a Baby Brother? These are questions for the ages. And yet, I can't even keep track of how many people have congratulated me on producing one of each. "Oh look at you!" a stranger said to me at a grocery store once years ago, as I pushed my cart full of bunny crackers, 2-year-old daughter, and newborn son. "Good job! You're all done!" As if I had selected them myself off the shelves. Whether you have one son or two or 17, your family size and gender dynamic is exactly what it should be. (Well maybe not the 17 sons. Yeesh, think of the laundry.)

8.5. This is maybe the craziest, most surprising of all: Baseball became interesting to me. Who knew, right? But when it's your 4-year-old up there rocking his inning of tee-ball, even the most unathletic, sports-agnostic parent in the world is suddenly spellbound. I know. I didn't see that one coming either.