Many women dream of the day they can dress up their daughters, paint their nails and have lifelong girlfriend to call their own. Raising a boy however, is a whole different, occasionally icky, game. Asmaa Abdallah wonders if they ever grow out of it.
My son, my beautiful son, who was just an innocent little baby yesterday, has figured out that if he sticks his finger up his nose, it will come out with a dark squishy substance. And like all boys his age, he finds this interesting. In fact, he finds it entertaining and outright hilarious. What he finds even more hilarious is my reaction when it seemed as if he was about to throw the dark squishy substance in my direction, after proceeding to mold it in his chunky little fingers as if it were not a disgusting dark substance at all, but rather a sweet-smelling, pastel coloured piece of Play-Doh. And like any toddler, upon realising he has an audience, particularly a frightened one, he proceeds to repeat all of the above in an overly theatrical manner, inducing further hysteria – and nausea – on my part.
Although I knew I was feeding into his own dark squishy substance hysteria, I was still too appalled, mortified and petrified to hide my reaction. Was this really my son? Is this what we have come to? Picking his nose? After all the books and articles I read about discipline and positive parenting? After all the months of listening to classical music while I was pregnant? After sending him to a French speaking daycare? After making sure he can ask for water in three different languages? And planning a summer of piano lessons? Is this what we have come to?
The fact that I grew up with no brothers did not help. No matter how much I tried to adjust my expectations upon finding out the gender of the baby, I still did not know what to expect. I tried to replace cute images of pink nail polish, tiny floral dresses, berets and braids with cute images of…. what? What was the cute thing associated with boys? Picking their noses, spitting and laughing when they fart and burp? How does that fit in with the rest of his character? I thought I was raising a true gentleman. One who would respect women and champion their rights. Not throw buggers at them and laugh like Dr. Evil when they run off in shock and dismay, on the verge of tears.
In my mind I was already echoing my mother’s famous words during my adolescence: “But what did I ever do to deserve a child like this?” when my older and wiser sister whose own son has left his toddlerhood behind long ago said, “He will outgrow it. It’s a phase and he will definitely outgrow it.” Yes, I knew it was always about phases with these kids, thank God for that. But my sister didn’t mention just how long this phase would last. One year? Two years? 15? 30? 30 years can also be a phase, right?
Because it occurred to me that the behaviour of many other adult males I have recently come across has been no less disgusting or inappropriate than the booger throwing incident. Like the new colleague who texts inappropriate jokes after speaking to you for a few hours and fails to apologise even after you’ve clearly expressed taking offense. Or the cute guy you were beginning to like but who insists on inviting you to his house or inviting himself to yours for the very first date regardless of how many times you ‘subtly’ suggest going out in public. Then there is also the professional contact who creepily invites you to dinner under very ambiguous terms. Or the guy who expresses undying devotion then turns around and starts flirting with the next girl and then pretends that it never happened although you just witnessed it with your very own eyes. And of course there is the guy who is too clueless to realise that if there is only one chair at the table where you will both sit, he should be the one to go find the extra chair and carry it back, not you. Or this same last guy who makes no effort at all, not even a pretentious one, to pick up the cheque when it arrives, and then smugly adds that “it’s a small thing anyway,” which makes it perfectly acceptable for you to pay, but that’s actually your fault for staying after he made you carry your own chair.
No, they were not picking their noses or burping and farting, but their behaviour towards women was just as disgusting and inappropriate. Had they just failed to outgrow ‘the phase’? Was this a shortcoming on the part of their mothers? Or were those innocuous women as equally appalled by their sons’ behaviour as I am today?
The sad thing is that, after all these years, I still never know how to respond to such inappropriateness and ungentlemanly behaviour. I just walk away in silence, whereas in my mind I am giving them a nice slap on the face, or throwing hot coffee at them. Perhaps next time I should bring along my son and just let him throw boogers at them.