Life with a Wild Thing
Despite denying time and again that one of my reasons for wanting three children was not because I wanted a little boy, the truth was—I wanted a little boy.
I wanted a little guy to snuggle up with me as I inhaled the heavenly aroma of a sweaty, mud-caked head resting against my shoulder. I dreamed of the day when my son would look into the camera after being asked by a reporter, “Anything you’d like to say?” and respond with, “I just want to thank my mom for everything. Love you, Mom!” as he blew me a kiss from his peace-sign forming fingers.
Okay, so that last bit was pretty self-centered of me, but at least I’m honest, and come on now, you think that sounds pretty cool, too.
Fortunately, luck was on my side. In February 2005, we became the proud parents of Oz Jacob Stewart. His proved to be the most difficult pregnancy and dangerous delivery of all my three children, but I was absolutely in love with my little guy from the first time I saw him, no matter how much pain he had caused me just moments before. Once we got home from the hospital, I was a little surprised by how many of my friends and family welcomed our new addition with the added warning, “Oh, ho! A little boy? You’re in for it now, Mom!”
When I had only my two little girls—both of whom I love with equal fervor, I should add—I used to be one of those moms who exclaimed with conviction that there was no real difference between boys and girls, and that personalities and how they were raised led to the wild nature of some of the little guys I had met. Besides, who hasn’t met the wild little girl or the mild mannered little boy? Just evidence that stereotypes are not all they are cracked up to be.
With my girls, I felt like I totally had this parenting gig down pat. The girls would sit quietly and play tea party; on the playground, they shied away from anything that was too tall or seemed too scary. Parking lots were never a problem—they always walked close and held my hand. To me, these were all signs of good parenting, right?
Now that I am the mom of a little boy, I realize there is a reason for that old song exclaiming the Sugar and Spice of little girls and the Puppy Dog Tails of little boys.
Spending time with my girls is always a sort of comfortable routine of playing baby dolls and dress-up, but having a little boy around the house takes me to uncharted territory—toy cars, dinosaurs, and pirate gear galore. With the girls there is usually a sense of predictability and calmness. With Ozzie, I am often left short of breath, sweaty and dirt-streaked, wondering how in the world I got like that.
The irony to me is that raising a little boy has made me a more fearless parent than I ever was with my two little girls, because no amount of parenting know-how could ever have prepared me for life with a little boy.
A day in the life of Ozzie starts no later than 6 a.m. as he literally jumps up and down, up and down in his crib with a huge grin on his face, ready to greet the day. Since learning to walk at nine months, he has never walked again. Everywhere he goes he runs, usually full speed, unless he’s going “slow” at which point he will do a sort of quick chopper step on his tiptoes from one place to another.
Of course, that’s assuming he’s making an effort to travel by floor, because typically he prefers to travel by leaps—leaping from one piece of furniture to the other, leaping off the swing high in the air, leaping on top of our poor little-boy-abused dog who continues to be Ozzie’s friend if only for the promise of a fistful of goldfish crackers a few times a day. My daredevil always accompanies his flights with a primitive Tarzan-esque growl, or a giddy screech of delight. At first, his leaps had me literally breaking out in hives, my blood pressure constantly running high. But after just a couple of years, I merely hold my breath, waiting for safe landings and his happy grin of success.
Ozzie meets danger head-on from the moment he awakens each day to the last minute before bed. I used to chase after him, heart in my throat, trying desperately to stop him from taking such crazy risks. Now I try to watch from a reasonable distance, ready to rescue him if he needs it—or cheer him for his success when he triumphs over some new challenge.
Back when I thought I had this whole parenting gig under control, I used to get panicked about the littlest things. The girls were never allowed to so much as touch their cheek with a dirty hand much less eat without a full surgical prep caliber scrub. Ozzie has broken me down to the point where now he frequently dines right off the ground with little more than an “Ew! That’s yucky, Ozzie,” from me. He plays junior scientist with dirt, bugs, geckos, and even poop, and I’ve finally realized that I don’t actually have to dress him in a hazmat suit every time he leaves the house—or comes back into it.
Becoming the parent of one child was life-altering. Becoming the parent of Ozzie has been personally transforming. No longer am I the germaphobic June Cleaver that I used to be; now I am the sidekick, cutman, ground control, pit crew, and personal EMT for a daring, tot-sized adventurer. Ozzie is bravely facing the world every day with wonder, excitement, and curiosity. He is teaching me that it’s okay to get dirty, to make mistakes, and take risks; it’s okay to try to climb a little higher each day and to run a little farther and faster, too.
I don’t always learn my Ozzie lessons easily or even happily, but I am constantly reminded how right I was to be excited about having a little boy in the house. Sometimes I get pretty frustrated with his little boy-ness; sometimes I think I can’t handle one more karate chop or sneak attack on his older sister and her accompanying wails of pain. But each night as I carry him upstairs, shifting the tiny, sweat- and dirt-streaked head on my shoulder so that I can smell that wonderful little boy scent of him, I thank God for sending him to us, and pray for the energy to keep up with him tomorrow.