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March 25, 2013
We the Parents
The Joys of Boys
by Melissa Howell

It was such a lovely spring afternoon. I sat on the couch, just weeks away from having my fourth baby; my three children were playing happily outside, running and enjoying the recent return of the sun's warm kisses. A gentle breeze fluttered in through the windows from time to time. It was the kind of afternoon you want to freeze and enjoy slowly, for its sheer perfection and rejuvenation.

I had received a lovely new handbag for Mother's Day, and I was reveling in the peace and quiet of the afternoon, using the treasured time to slowly and precisely transfer my belongings from the old bag to the new one.

Suddenly, the peace of the afternoon was shattered when my oldest son, who was six at the time, came running in through the patio door and stood in front of me, his smile as vast and his blue eyes as bright as the Colorado sky under which he was playing.

"Mom!" he proudly and enthusiastically exclaimed, "I caught a prairie dog!"

He stood before me, the level of pride in his accomplishment plastered all over his boyish face. One of his hands grasped the wooden handle of a butterfly net, the other held the mesh net closed over what should have been a brightly colored butterfly, yet was in fact a real, living and breathing prairie dog.

I instantaneously and frantically switched into freaked-out hysterical mom mode. I started screaming, shouting out such phrases as, "the plague!" and "we could die!" and other things about the dirt- and disease-riddled rodents. It's a wonder I didn't go into labor that very moment and drop my baby right there.

Somewhat baffled, yet sufficiently freaked out by my response, he ran back outside and set free the disgusting rodent-like creature. The butterfly/rodent net went instantly into the garbage, and his hands went instantly into warm, soapy water. Many times.

Another lovely warm, sunny day found me in the kitchen, when this same son came up to me, held something out, and said, "Mom! Look what I found in the basement!"

Knowing he had found it in the basement, my frame of mind told me it was a missing toy that had been rediscovered; with a quick glace it appeared to be one of his plastic snakes from a reptile toy set.

Until it stuck out its serpentine tongue right in my face.

I don't really even have snake issues. But having a live one stuck in my face that had been captured in the basement sent me into palpitations.

I realize that not all boys are so drawn to creepy crawly creatures. But some are. My oldest son, in particular. The list of creatures he hasn't captured likely is shorter than the list of ones he successfully has captured; but the captured list includes snails, snakes, yellow jackets, wolf spiders, toads, grubs, worms, ladybugs, butterflies, of course prairie dogs, and more.

A popular nursery rhyme that has been around for a couple of centuries begs the question:

"What are little boys made of?"

The catchy little answer goes like this:

"Slugs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails."

I can testify as to the truthfulness of this response.

And it's not just critter calamities that raises my trepidation along with the thermometer.

This same son is also rather good at finding other forms of warm-weather mischief.

One warm, sunny day found us enjoying a backyard water party, kiddie pool and sprinkler fun all around. Suddenly my son called out for help, clearly distressed about something. I looked over at him, and was astounded and confused to find that he was only a head, with a bucket for a body. Huh?

I went closer, and discovered that he had folded his entire body into the bucket, tucked up so tightly into a ball that he was completely unable to dislodge himself. I tried pulling him out, which only caused him to begin to unfold and become even more tightly wedged. After quite some time of trying different maneuvers, I finally realized the situation was beyond my ability to handle.

The only thing that saved me from having to call the fire department - which really would have made his day because he has been enamored with fire trucks and firefighters for most of his young life - was that my husband had recently left for work and was fairly close to home.

"Hi, honey. Can you come home for a bit? Our son is stuck in a bucket."


"He's whaaaaaaaaat?"

"He's stuck in a bucket. I have tried and tried to get him out, but nothing is working. Can you please come help me?"

I have since tried to picture what went through my husband's head when we hung up and he turned his car back around. But really, the expression on his face pretty much told me everything.

He assessed the situation for a moment. He tried pulling him out. Nothing. He picked up the bucket and actually tried dumping our son out into the kiddie pool, like he was throwing out some old water. Nothing. Well, nothing except me collapsing on the floor in laughter at the expression of pure fear and distress on our son's face, and then me running for the camera. Because what a blog post this would make!

Finally my husband decided one of us needed to help hold our son tucked into the ball, while the other could slide him out of the bucket. It worked!

And so when the calendar declares it to be spring and warmer weather looms not far away, I wonder if I'm the only mother of little boys who really doesn't mind the snow hanging on a little longer.

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