Raising the boy

We are mere days away from Tad’s second birthday, and he has made a HUGE discovery about himself in the last couple of months.

He knows he is a boy.

Well, no kidding, you may say. Of course he’s a boy! He loves dirt, sticks, rocks, buckets and anything with wheels. These all proclaim boyness.

That’s not what I am referring to.

In his wonderful book, Bringing Up Boys, Dr. James Dobson points out that toddler boys begin to break from their mothers in order to bond more closely to their fathers – in other words, they identify themselves as male and set out to pattern the behavior of their dads. There is an innate desire to “be like Dad.”

Tad has made that connection in a big way. While Mommy still holds a prime spot in his heart and is his comforter-in-chief, he claims his Daddy in a way that his sister doesn’t. When we were visiting the Captain and family in Missouri, one of the things that struck me the most was how much Tad missed the Webmaster. And knowing that Daddy wasn’t there, he immediately gravitated toward his uncle, much to his cousin Belle’s annoyance. Even the Captain’s friend, a complete stranger to Tad, who came for dinner with his wife one evening while we were there, was instantly accepted because he was another guy to hang out with.

Here at home, Tad’s two biggest male role models are his Daddy and his Gichan. From very early on, Tad has had a special connection with my father. For some reason, both of my kids identified their Gichan very early in life – he was the first person Ane tracked going across a room as an infant. I’m not sure if it’s because he looks so different from what they’re used to (my father being a 6 foot tall Japanese man, and the rest of us being only half Japanese or not Japanese at all), or by voice or what, but as babies, both Ane and Tad could pick out their Gichan in a crowd in a heartbeat.

When we go over to their house, Tad blows right past Grandma and goes straight for Gichan. When Daddy comes home from work, Tad stops what he’s doing and runs straight for him. He needs to be with other men after being with his mother and sister all day. He makes this very clear in his own way – he needs to be with his own kind. He revels in the time that he gets with his father and grandfather. And when his Papa is here, that’s who he sits with – the Webmaster’s father was the first person Tad walked to.

Tad relishes his maleness. He loves his cars and trucks. He’s turning sticks into guns, and the only time he’s ever seen anything like a gun on TV is a blaster in Star Wars. Ane prefers a lightsaber, herself, and turns her sticks into those, but Tad likes the Han Solo approach, apparently. He’s rough and tumble, gets dirty the second he steps outdoors, and, well, I have to bat his hands away when I’m changing his diaper, because he knows what’s being wrapped up down there, and he’d like to have at it, please!

And yet, he still refused to go to sleep yesterday at naptime because his bunny was in the wash. I got bunny out of the dryer, smelling a million years better, and tried to sneak it into his crib (he had been looking for it under his blankets when I’d put him down for his nap, but I didn’t try and explain what I’d done to him). I gingerly stepped into his room… to find him standing in the middle of his crib, waiting patiently for his bunny to be brought to him.

So, he’s not totally grown up yet, and he hasn’t started pushing me away yet, either. He still needs his Mommy. I’m the only one who can tuck him in properly and get a “nigh-nigh” out of him. But the day is coming, and I need to prepare myself.

I need to let him be a boy, so that he can be a man someday.

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