Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Musings From the Mother of Boys (and a Book Review)

When I was growing up, my mother had this marvelous tradition of taking each of her four children school shopping individually. We'd spend the day with her and she'd take us to lunch. I cannot tell you how much I looked forward to this. I decided, with my oldest about to enter kindergarten this year, that I would begin this tradition myself. With a nursing baby, I knew we couldn't take a whole day, but I could do a couple of hours after Plantboy gets home from work and take Scallywag to dinner. I have been looking forward to this all week.

Well, the best laid plans often fall apart, and last night I found myself at Fred Meyer with my whole family doing some school shopping. Scallywag whines about trying on shoes, so I say "That's okay, we'll find shoes later." We head over the clothing section; I have a fairly good idea about what we want, but I would at least like Scallywag to choose colors, styles, etc. And despite being almost six a lot of his 4T clothes still fit so I'm trying to get an idea of sizing, etc. I'm also trying to hurry because the Poopy Pirate and Scallywag are sitting in the race car cart hitting each other and Captain Tootypants is spitting up all over Plantboy. I wave two shirts in front of Scallywag's face because his attention has totally wandered and say, "I want to buy you one of these but you need to choose the color."

He looks at me with this strange expression I can't read, kind of laughs and says,

"I just don't care, Mom."

And in that moment it absolutely hits me. I am a mother of boys. (I know, I know, you are thinking "Duh!" but bear with me.) We left the clothing section immediately, finished getting the other things we came to purchase and shuffled the boys in the car. The whole time time I was completely distracted. I suddenly felt like I wanted to cry.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love each of my little boys for very different reasons. I love their unique personalities and the breath of life they give my daily activities. I love their moods and their cuddles. I love their energy and their intensity.

But I doubt very much that I'll ever scrapbook with one of them. Hah! Many of you out there will say, "That is no big loss!" But what I'm trying to say with that trivial statement is that there are things that are a part of me that I may never get to pass on. Some things are just inherently girly. I love to read. Most of the books I read would hold NO interest for boys. I've collected hundreds of books over the years knowing that one day I'd share these tender gifts with a daughter the way my mother shared them with me. My boys will never want to know who Anne, Heidi, Meg, Aerin and Elizabeth are. I will also write books they will have no interest in reading. I like to buy and put together clothes and shoes. I like to arrange flowers. I love chick flicks.

My husband was attempting to understand my mood last night. I think he caught a little bit of a vision when I said, "What if you were had a whole household of people who had no interest in helping you with your yardwork, camping with you or learning about your projects? What if there were important parts of your personality that you had no chance of sharing with the people you loved most because they just weren't interested?" Plantboy had a hard time even imagining a houseful of women.

I think of the relationship I now enjoy with my mom and it pains me to think that I will not have a similar relationship one day. Ha! You say! You are a Mormon girl with just THREE kids, there are plenty more coming down the pipe!

Hmm . . . . having a baby just under three months doesn't really put me in a good mode for making that decision. And there is plenty of time for such a decision. But if I cannot get to a point where I'd be just as happy with four boys, and boy number four would never feel mom's disappointment that he is not a girl, then it is probably the wrong reason to have another baby.

Okay, enough wallowing. On to the book review. I've just finished Jane Eyre and I think it is brilliant. In our society of decaying morals, however, I think you are going to find fewer and fewer young people who can relate to its message. It is unfortunate. My greatest impression from the book this time was the reason Jane leaves Rochester in the first place. Although it is partly for the sake of her soul, she believes it is really for the sake of HIS soul. She sees herself as the greatest object of his temptation and fears to be the source of his damnation. Despite her own heartbreak she flees Thornfield with just 20 shillings to her name so that she will not succumb to his entreaties and drag him down to Hell with her.

Jane also has the sense to see that by allowing him to keep her as a mistress, he would eventually feel the same contempt for her that he felt for those other women. In turn, Jane would have resented Edward for turning her back, not on society which she had not use for, but on God whom she believed in wholeheartedly. Ultimately, the way we feel about others is a reflection of how we view ourselves.

In modern days, the situation is so easily rectified--Rochester should divorce wife #1. If he feels guilty about it then he can just pay for her support and move on with his life. A novel with such a theme of guilt and societal mores could never take place in our time. The great message is that despite trial and difficulty, they are together in the end because Jane stuck to her guns.

One last thing as everyone is reviewing Eclipse these days . . . Mr. Rochester is a much more interesting Edward than vampire-boy. He is so HUMAN. He is moody, but still strong. His beauty is only in the eye of his beholder. He is not young, nor does he even have the appearance of youth; in fact he his quite old (Jane puts him near 35--scandalous!). And while he has money, he has no exciting powers. His intellect is all his own, gathered over the course of a normal lifetime.

One thing both Edwards have going for them is the Darcy Effect. Many of you have heard my favorite literature theory, so you can stop right now. ;) The Darcy effect is simply this--what is most appealing to a woman about any man is that he is willing to change for her. Money, looks, power, material possessions, habits, interests are all very nice, but what a woman really wants is a man who looks at her and says, "You make me want to be a better man." She wants to know that there is some inherent part of her personality that gives her influence over him. His desire to change for her gives her more validation than a chest full of jewels and pages filled with sonnets.

"I've been a selfish being all my life . . . such I might still have been, but for you, dearest, lovliest Elizabeth."

"I've been a soulless blood-sucking vampire my whole life . . . such I might still have been, but for you, dearest, whiniest Bella."

"I've been a sinful, God rejecting grouch all my life . . . such I might still have been but for you dearest, plainest Jane."

The Darcy Effect.


emma jo said...

I know that frustrating feeling, the shopping part...just keep in mind that you could have three girls who are REALLY opinionated about what they wear. And just think, all those boys should qualify you for regular "girls night out".
and I actually looked for Jane Eyre at the library this week and they don't have it! I'll have to find it elsewhere because now I really want to read it.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I know I wouldn't trade my houseful of boys for a houseful of girls. I'm sure there are times you'd like a little masculinity to balance things out. Perhaps it is the great challenge of life to find joy in the way our lives ARE instead of being forever discontent for the way things ARE NOT. Oh, and don't miss Jane Eyre. Get on the waiting list if you need to!

KarateMommy said...

I love your reviews. You so eloquently put everything in writing. What a talent. About the shopping thing - I'm so sorry. I guess you're Mom, sister, and friends will have to suffice. Also, one of your boys might like to pick thier clothes atleast (maybe not make it to scrapbooking) :). But with the brains I'm sure they've inherited, one might become CEO of a scrapbooking company!! :)

Kimberly Bluestocking: said...

I thought the gender of my first child wouldn't matter much to me, but to my surprise I felt a great sense of relief when I learned my baby would be a girl. I was terribly intimidated by the prospect of parenthood, and it made me a little less anxious to know that I would begin with a child I could kind of relate to. I can see how living in a house full of boys, though fun, could also be a bit lonely sometimes.

Shifting gears, I think you have a major point about The Darcy Effect. I once heard that what any woman wants most is to know that her sweetheart thinks she's beautiful. I won't deny that's important to me, but it matters much more to know my husband respects me, and that I inspire him to be better. He does the same for me, which is one of the things I love most about him.

Frankly, I think that last part is another aspect of the Darcy Effect. Elizabeth wouldn't have loved Darcy so much if he hadn't inspired her, too.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

Amen, KB. I had a YW leader once say that we could make list after list of what the "perfect" partner would be, but until we were willing to work to become that person, we'd never find a match.

Girly Momma said...

so i've never read jane eyre, but maybe one day. there are just so many things to read! i did read wuthering heights recently, inspired by the mention on it in eclipse, and did sort of enjoy it- despite it's depressing overriding theme. anyways, and about the boys- i love having a house of girls, but recently i have started to want some little boys, too. this started right before i had jada. i think every girl needs some boys around the house to balance things out and to teach them truly how gross boys can be:) before they get married. anyways, maybe #4 for us will be a boy, but i'd be okay with a girl, too. after all, it's all i know.

amyjane said...

Oh, the boy thing.... A few months ago, we all ended up at a combined YM/YW activity. We were cleaning up a local park, followed by food and games. Patrick had pretty much hung out with me all evening but then a huge boy game of Ultimate Frisbee started up. He perked up, escaped my lap, and headed out to the field. Some sweet boy handed him and extra frisbee to carry around and he spent the next hou toddling up and down the field, following his daddy and the other boys, so sure that he was playing the game with them. It was adorable but a little heartbreaking. In that moment I realized that boys LEAVE YOU. In some undefined way, boys leave their mommies more that daughters ever do. I had to blink back the tears as his life flashed before my eyes and I suddenly realized why mothers in law have such a nasty reputation--how dare some girl come in and steal my baby boy! :) Anyway, sorry for the post in your comment section, but I feel ya.

Christie said...

Funny you should write about having all boys. My friend's sister had all boys. And she's really into scrapbooking. Her solution? Invite my friend's daughter (her neice) to come to a 2-day, 9 A.M. to 2 A.M. scrapbooking outing in Salt Lake City. Since my friend isn't much into crafts and fancy scrapbooking and her daughter is, a little Aunt and neice time is perfect! You just need to think outside the boy box.

And on another note, I wish my boy didn't care about clothes. He's always been picky about them. I haven't shopped for clothes without him being there since he started kindergarten. (That was the year he had a favorite red shirt. I told him he could wear it to school as long as it was clean. He'd only wear it to school, come home and change out of it and re-wear it for most of a week. Ugh!) Hence the importance of making sure that he has more than one favorite shirt to wear.

Science Teacher Mommy said...

GM--Jane Eyre leaves Wuthering Heights in the dust. It is so much less dark. I read Wuthering Heights while nursing baby #2 and almost didn't make it through.

I think the scrapbooking thing was more of a symbol than anything else. Same as shopping. It is likely that one of the three will care about clothes and they actuallly both enjoy looking at scrapbooks (they are so dang cute, why note?), but amyjane hit the nail on the head. About the leaving thing. Very succinctly put. And while I will undoubtedly enjoy many female relationships through my life, nobody can deny that there is something extremely special about a mother-daughter relationship.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I knew that I couldn't pass down secrets and insights into using feminine wiles to my girls, because I'm just not all that feminine. I secretly thought I'd only have boys because that's what I know. I still titter with laughter at pull-my-finger maneuvers. Yeah, still. You live, you learn, and you adapt. I learned how to French Braid, and how to stop little girl underwear from sticking out of dance leotards. I learned not to gag when my girls gush over Zac Efron, and listen to Hannah Montana CD's. I also learned that my boys get over their fights and issues whereas the girls will bring it up in future arguments infinitum ad nauseum!

Enjoy your little bundles of boy blessings!

Homeschooling=No Back To School Shopping For Us!

Science Teacher Mommy said...

I agree that there are certain advantages to no daughters. The best? No Bratz dollz or explanations about why they would never darken my door!

Lizardbreath McGee said...

Warning to unwary readers! Jane Eyre spoilers ahead!

Hurrah for Jane Eyre! It's been on my top 10 list for some time. As I recall, my older sister first introduced me to the story while we were sitting with a group of friends at night in a car in our driveway. I can still remember the way I shivered over the mad wife while the yellow glow from the headlights reflected off our garage door.

But then I came to love it for the reasons you describe here: Jane's love for Rochester is so great that she's willing to leave him for his own good, without the expectation of ever seeing him again. And I think that her willingness to do the morally right thing makes their reunion in the end that much sweeter.

Amy T. said...

Here's my comment a year and a half later.
I have mostly boys, but I have been blessed by one daughter. We would, of course, someday like another one to keep balance in our family. I know we don't control it, and my belief is that sometimes HF knows we wouldn't keep going if we got the girl/boy we want and we would miss the sweet wonderful one(s) that come in the meantime.
There's something autobiographical about having one of your gender, though that has been such a gift to me. I grew up as the only girl, and had serious gender and personal issues related to my family experiences. My little girl is amazingly beautiful, smart, funny, and independent. It's probably the most healing thing ever for me to watch her grow and become and it gives me such fulfillment and compassion for myself and peace with who I am. My boys belong to me in a way she never will. They love me and feel they own me, but she and I coexist as two sister entities. It was always that way from the day of her birth. I've had all my babies at home in the water, and it's a special way to do it, but her birth was the most magical. For some reason I needed to do it on my own (with my husband and my best friend/aunt who's had hers at home, too). The midwife came after to clean up and check us out. Her labor was so different from the boys and as I caught her in the water after she came out, she looked me in the eyes from underwater and when I pulled her out, I had to kiss her. Her reflexes made her kiss me back before she took her first breath after a minute or two. Anyway, it's a cool thing that I wish for others to have that connection with a daughter.
I like Jane Eyre also, but it's my mom's fav, not mine. I have a hard time relating to Jane as a character. Pride & Prej. is definately #1 for me. I'd like to talk about your Darcy effect another time. Thanks for letting me poke around, though. It's very refreshing for me to find this new venue.