February 03, 2006

Boys

"GrrrrrrrbababadadaDAH!" Party Girl growled to our waiter across the table.

"GrrrrrDAH!" He growled back.

Party Girl was enjoying one of the first restaurant visits she's had since she could sit in a high chair on her own. She flirted shamelessly, growled and laughed at nearby patrons, and grumbled "Uh-oh" in her deepest voice as she dropped spoon after spoon on the floor.

Then an older gentleman approached and called her on her rowdiness.

"Hello there baby," he said, looking her right in her bright little face.

Her blue eyes widened, and she quickly turned her head, an ostrich in the sand. Not being able to see him would make him go away.

I reached out to touch her, to let her know I was there, and it was ok, and she laid her head on my hand, looking up at him bashfully. This is not a bashful baby, but perhaps it's beginning to dawn on her that the world extends outside our happy home.

As we got our coats on, our waiter addressed Sass.

"Hey girl, you got 5 for me?" holding out his palm.

She ignored him. As she does most people with whom she is not familiar.

"Hey girl," he drawled, "You don't have to be dat way."

My eyebrows went up.

"It's ok to be cautious, but you don't have to be shy." He was smirking.

I pulled her closer to me. I'm pretty sure she was still ignoring him, as was I. Asshole. "Shy" is an important word to Sass. She is "shy" around certain people, and sometimes needs to talk about it. We've put a lot of hours in letting her know that shy is ok, shy is good, and if you feel shy, you be shy, girl. I'm shy, her dad is shy. We were a 100% shy household, until Party Girl arrived.

"GrrrrrbabaHIHIHIbuhbuh," Party Girl shouted.

"You should be more like your sister," he chided. Dick.

I knew his type. I could read him a mile away. He's that guy that looks cute from across the crowded bar, but when you get close to him, his attractive exterior loses its luster, and you see the real man underneath. In college these guys were a dime a dozen. My own boyfriend tried to turn into one for a while, and suddenly we were strangers. He went Polo, I went flannel shirts and cut-offs. He went dancing at the club, I went to the smoky bar with the best bands. I lived with my brother and his best friend in a beaten down duplex, he lived at the frat house. We were Milwaukee's Best, they were Michelob. He left me for a sorority girl, saying we were "traveling in different social circles." Not that it didn't stop him from leaving drunken notes on my car in the middle of the night. He loved me, he said, he missed me. We'd been high school sweethearts, and life at college wasn't the same without me. But when you only love someone in the middle of the night, eventually they stop taking your phone calls, which is what I did. Ultimately he came around, because he really wasn't a bad guy, he was just trying it on for size, I think. He married his sorority girl and I imagine they live happily ever after, though I don't really know.

But this guy. He's bugging my kid. I really don't think she noticed, but as we were driving away, I was furious with myself for not standing up for her. She's three. He was teasing her, unpleasantly, and a little aggressively, and there's no reason for that. It won't happen again.

They scare me, these future boys my girls will know. I'm tempted to lock them up until they are old enough to not get hurt, but really, when is that?

That same boyfriend broke my heart the first time when I was 18 (I'm a slow learner). I crawled into bed with my Mom that night and sobbed for hours. I slept with her for a week. It was true, real heartache. Over a boy. But at 18, all you know is what's in front of you, and your future just seems too far away.

I know that there are lessons learned in that kind of heartbreak, and that real growth comes from it. I know that, and yet, the thought of letting my sweet, tiny girls out there, even when dating and college are so far off in the future, fills me with trepidition. That they might come across a guy like that waiter tonight, without me near to pull them close, and to raise myself tall to protect them, and to stand up for them--because I swear next time I will, I will--it makes my mother's heart raw with worry.

By the time I met M, my heart was so battered by love that I didn't even recognize the real thing when I saw it. And talked with it, and spent the evening entire evening dancing with it to a cheesy 80s has-been band. We met at a concert, and we hit it off. As we were leaving, he went to the restroom, and I turned to my friend Amy,

"Ok then, let's go," I said.

She looked at me like I was crazy. "What?? Leave now? I thought you really liked this guy."

"I do. But he's not coming back," I said, gathering up my things.

"He went to the bathroom, B, he's coming back."

"No. It was fun, but he's not interested. Can we please go now?"

She made me wait, and thank God for that. If I knew my girls were going to only meet men like their dad, I could relax.

I want to make a deal right now with all the mothers of young boys out there. I promise I'll raise my girls right. I'll teach them manners, responsibility, respect. I'll teach them the joy of loving and nurturing each other. I'll teach them to be independent, to be strong, to know themselves and to use their voice. I'll encourage their laughter and help them learn to communicate their feelings. I'll do everything I can to help them grow to be everything they want to be.

All I ask in return is that you teach your boys to be gentle with their hearts, and to treat them with respect.

Let's shake on it.

8 Comments:

Blogger Margaret said...

Well, let's think about this. Peanut is 8 -- 5 years older than Sass. It's a perfect age difference for him to be her "big brother" type. He already loves your girls... remember how hard he tried to make Sass laugh, and how gentle he was with Party Girl?

So I promise you this, Peanut will be there for your girls in those circumstances where parents would be uncool. He won't let anybody give them crap.

February 03, 2006 10:45 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

p.s. The flannel shirts, smoky bars, listening to Knee Deep Shag route was SO-O-O-O the better path.

I've named my ex-bfs. (Mr. Inertia and Stalker McCrazy) It's therapeutic, fun, and a little bitchy. So I'm now christening your ex "Baron Cheater Von Permed-Hair." What do you think?

February 03, 2006 10:55 PM  
Blogger Her Grace said...

Hopefully Peanut and the girls love each other as much as their moms do!

Baron Cheater Von Permed-Hair. I fell off my chair. You know, he was the second guy with a perm I dated. What was with perms and guys in the late 80s, early 90s? To his credit, by the time we hit college, he'd cut the curls. I think it was his mom's influence!

February 03, 2006 11:05 PM  
Blogger Her Grace said...

Oh, and Stalker McCrazy? Should be Stalker McC-R-A-Z-Y. Remember when he came to pick us up at your house and didn't tell us he was there, and we worried the rest of the night that he might have heard us laughing about him? Creepy. Thank you for not marrying him.

February 03, 2006 11:07 PM  
Blogger Sinklier Family said...

Bethany,

I'm shaking with you...

As a mommy of 2 awesome boys (and a new baby girl) I'm raising my boys to be kind considerate and talk about their feelings, and to respect and think about how others feel. Their daddy sets a good example too. I hope the world doesn't beat it out of them : (

I never thought I would have a daughter so one of my secret goals in doing this was to assure they would find acceptable significant others for me to adopt.

I so relate to your post! IT's so hard to imagine watching my babies grow up and have their hearts broken by some superficial (sp?) girl they love because they are the "nice boys" that make "good friends" but I know that it will help them in the long run and they will be better men for it

: )

Thanks for the great post!

Elizabeth

PS I'm also teaching them to put the toilet seat down :

February 03, 2006 11:43 PM  
Blogger Her Grace said...

The toilet seat. How could I forget?

Nice boys don't finish last, they really don't. It just takes sometimes takes girls a while to realize they are in the race.

Thanks for the comment!

February 04, 2006 12:52 PM  
Blogger The Catapillar said...

You've got a deal...

... and I have already started. My boy (12) is reminded on a regular basis that a girls/womans heart is a true gift and If given he should be respectful and considerate with it. He is wonderful and I know he will be a good man. I'll be keeping my end of the bargin you can rest assured.

February 05, 2006 4:47 AM  
Blogger Moxie said...

I'll shake. But I'm also lucky that it's so not my sole responsibility. My boys' dad is a Gentleman with a capital G. And not a smooth-talker (anything but!), but the kind of person who puts himself in the other person's place.

Within 2 weeks of starting to date him I had this epiphany--"You mean if a guy wants to call you he'll actually call when he says he will?" Completely revised my assessment of my previous dating life.

My FIl is a true gentleman and a good guy, too. I think the Good Guys become Good Dads who teach their sons to be Good Guys, too.

February 06, 2006 3:31 PM  

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