It was at the moment that my sons were assigning our official titles that I realized that I live in G.R.O.S.S. Their father was “The Supreme Dictator of the Universe.” Isaiah at 9 deemed himself “El Tigre Numero Uno.” (The fact that he is not actually a tiger has nothing to do with it, I’m told.) Simon wanted to be “Imperial Gladiator and Prime Minister Tward.” Asher dithered over several possible choices, each more grandiose than the other. And your blogiste? Well, as Isaiah put it “Someone has to be the Bossy Evil Space Crab, and you are the bossiest Mommy.”
Those of you who fondly remember Calvin and Hobbes (and they are not a memory in my house, but the universal joy of all boys old enough to read) will remember Calvin’s club, G.R.O.S.S (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS). While my boys are growing up in a more gender-enlightened era than the one Calvin’s life was modelled on, and they’d never actually think of a club to exclude the female sex (much more likely to ally with their best female friends on a club to exclude their brothers), there’s no denying that SOMETHING seems to be keeping the testosterone level at my house pretty high. It being the holiday season, we’ve had several calls for foster placements (none of which have actually come into care at our place for various reasons), and the homefinder always begins with “And yes, it is ANOTHER boy (or boys).” I suddenly realized that we haven’t actually had a little girl in our home for almost a year (since the beginning of January.)
With Phil-the-housemate, there are seven guys and me at the moment in my home, and who knows how many tomorrow. I am starting to have faith, however, that the carefully collected girl’s clothes stored in boxes and dressers (after we had a run on girls last year, including a placement of four girls and a boy and one of two girls and two boys) may never actually get used. My current theory is that while there is no conscious attempt to rid the house of females, functionally, my home is like antimatter to girls…except me, the Bossy Evil Space Crab (I think they meant an actual crab, rather than just “crabby” since they mentioned poisoned pincers, but who knows…)
While gender essentialism is a dangerous thing, living in the house of testosterone does seem to have elements attributable to aggregate maleness. From the husband who tells me earnestly “I didn’t do it on purpose, I just wasn’t listening to you” as though that would get him OUT of trouble… to the two matching holes in the sheetrock left by Asher’s attempt to do a backwards somersault into a headstand, it is a little like being an alien in foreign world. It isn’t that girls don’t kick holes in sheetrock or fail to pay attention, but somehow the effects add up. Like the time I walked in seconds before my spouse and three sons were about to use a sledgehammer to crack open geodes…on the dining room table. Or the fact that my husband taught my then-four year old about thrash metal and Weird Al Yankovic, leading to a small child who randomly screamed “Dare to Be Stupid!” every 8 seconds for about a year. There’s a lack of awareness of potential consequences that seem both obvious and obviously undesirable to me.
I admit, I’ve been hoping for a daughter or two out of this fostering thing. I’ve got the clothes, got the dolls that could be used for something other than being beheaded by lightsabers, and I wouldn’t mind some variety. I am also secretly nervous about girls. You see, the bossy evil space crab is actually a pretty good Mom to boys. I don’t get that excited about sheet rock holes or the wielding of sledgehammers as long as it isn’t on the table (“Sledgie” is actually one of my favorite farm tools). I like little boys (and the big ones in my life too) and I don’t mind the volume or the dirt (although I could do without the perennial yellow ring around the toilet). I’m not much of a girly girl, and I don’t know how to do nails and am dubious about hair. Now there are a plenty of girls out there who aren’t into those things either, but what if I get one who is?
Well, I’ll learn. My 6’2, motorcycle riding electrician brother-in-law paints little tiny flowers on the nails of his three daughters. If Uncle Billy can do it, I probably can to. But I don’t really expect to have to, because I live in G.R.O.S.S. and all the little girls have sensibly gone somewhere else ;-), probably during the middle of the 82nd verse of the club song (which Simon would be happy to compose for you now.)
The decision that I’d never have a girl was probably made by the universe as a whole right at the moment that then four-year old Asher was peeing on the seat of the toilet, having failed to lift it before beginning his project. When I interjected an outraged “ASHER, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!” my son turned 180 degrees to look at me while still peeing, leaving a stream on the wall, the floor and finally, my foot. He looked up at me in total and utter bewilderment at what caused Mom to raise her voice and go insane when he was only innocently using the bathroom and thinking about dinosaurs.
I stared down at him for a moment, thinking “Did that just happen? Of course it did.” and then laughed and said “Never mind.” Why bother explaining to someone who just doesn’t see the problem? At that moment I became the true mother of sons – the one who knows that no matter how many times she says “No peeing on the seat” or “No jumping off the bunkbed” they are always going to be jumping off the bunkbed and peeing on the seat (they are actually pretty much over that last one, but with Z only 5 months I’ve got a long, long way to go).
I am still the Bossy Evil Space Crab. I feel it is my job to articulate norms that exist outside the world of testosterone. Thus I still must say “That’s dangerous.” (Because it is) “That’s going to make a huge mess.” (Because it is) and “That’s really stupid.” (Because it is). But I really no longer expect the mere statements to have any effect on the end result. Sometimes the space crab has to enforce (Because it is REALLY dangerous, filthy or moronic), but mostly it is about letting them know that the norms exist, that some day, if they share a house with female housemates or partners, they may encounter the alien species of different standards, and should be prepared, maybe even a little adaptive. Now, however, they have the force of numbers and no need to worry about me.
I still think I’m hoping the phone rings and there’s a girl or two. On the other hand, I’m kinda good at this boy thing, and well, they haven’t managed to get rid of me, Slimy or not…yet.