I see little boys everywhere.
Happy little boys who look like mine. Little boys who wear the same clothes day in and day out like a uniform.
Little boys who hug and say sweet, if not slightly inane, compliments because it's Sunday, and everyone needs something to get them steeled and ready for Monday's grind.
My little boy is like those little boys.
A splash of mud here, a magic marker slash there. Sometimes quiet. Sometimes loud. Sometimes rough and tumble, sometimes timid and shy.
He smiles. Talks to strangers. Tells them about his dog.
And how she died when she got too old.
They smile. Uncomfortably.
They try to change the subject.
He talks about the new dog. Who looks like the old dog. And you know what happened to her ...
Of course, when this one dies he wants to replace her with a Chihuahua.
I smile. Uncomfortably.
He's such a sweet kid.
He knows there are rules now. He makes his own from time to time. He tries to follow them all, but he also wants to see how far they will bend.
That seems natural.
He has moods, now, too. Anger slips into them on occasion. Sometimes arbitrarily.
I think that's natural, too. I just wonder. … Was he always this angry?
Or do I see him differently because he's a boy and I've never been a boy?
Or maybe it's because he's in school and the pressure to be liked by his teacher is overwhelming.
I know he saves his anger for me. A safe person. A person who loves him. No matter what mood he's in between dinner, homework and bed time.
Yet. … Every outburst. Every cross eye. Every ounce of resistance ...?
Do I have to worry?
Little boys who don't growl at their sisters, or argue with their best friends over imaginary rules they have no intention of heeding.
Do these saintly little cherubs tell their mothers they hate them?
Or chew their toast into the shapes of guns?
Do they paint the kitchen with yogurt splatters?
Or jab their best friend with a pencil in retribution for trying to sneak a peek at “a secret notebook” ... A volume that is almost certainly imaginary?
“What happened to the first rule? 'Don't hurt anyone inside or out?',” I demand.
“That's not the first rule. That's the fourth rule,” he argues.
“Well, in this house it's Rule No. One.”
Do their mother's ever worry about getting a call from a teacher … or the police?
I shouldn't have read “We Need To Talk About Kevin.”
I shouldn't listen to the news, and its talk of increasingly disenfranchised boys.
Boys who don't go to college.
Who can't find jobs.
Who aren't getting married.
Who live with their mothers.
Forever. Or until they live inside barbed wire fences.
“My brother stabbed me in the back with a screwdriver when we were kids,” said a woman, trying to reassure me that her brother, now a respectable citizen, didn't mature into a sociopath. “He still feels terrible about giving me a scar.”
I feel better.
It has a familiar ring to it.
Or maybe something that is more of a “clunk.”
Like the sound of a wooden push toy hitting the head of a little girl who tried to take it away from me.
Afterward I felt terrible, too.