Snips of Snails and Puppy-Dog Tails

 Illustration by Marc ThomasSnips of Snails and Puppy-Dog TailsHow a Girly Girl Grows Up to be Blessed with – Gulp – Boys!

By Wendy O. Dixon

Would you like to pop over for a spot of tea, my dear?” I asked my friend, Heidi.

“Why, of course, dahling,” she replied. “I’ll bring my children, Betsy and Polly, over as well. Your tea is simply divine!”

“Thank you, my dear!”

That was a typical afternoon’s conversation for me as a child. My sister, Candy, and I, along with our girlfriends, spent every possible moment celebrating the most celebratory event in the history of celebrations – our girliness. We would have the loveliest parties, dressed in our best frilly dresses, drinking the most enchanting tea in the most delicate manner – pinkies up, of course.

Barbie dolls, baby beds and tiaras. That’s what you’d find in my room if you were my childhood friend. Pink, lavender and fuchsia were my favorite colors. My princess canopy bed was decorated with the most delicate sheer white fabric that had hundreds of fluttering butterflies all over it. Stuffed bears, puppies and bunnies topped things off to complete my room décor. Everything screamed GIRL.

I do remember having one boy doll, but it was Donny (of Donny and Marie Osmond), and he was wearing pink, lavender and fuchsia – not what a typical boy type of kid would play with.

As I got older, my friends and I had sleep overs, during which we would braid each other’s hair, apply sparkly blue eye shadow liberally across our lids, put on our mothers’ high heels and giggle about how fabulous we were.

Being a girl was so much fun, and boys were so gross. They were always dirty. They spat, and they made funny noises with their armpits.

Being a girly girl, I was always picked last for softball or kickball or tee ball. (I guess the boys wanted to win or something.) They played rough and would yell at me when I couldn’t hit the ball during PE at school. I preferred clapping and singing the words to “Miss Mary Mack” with my more civilized classmates. To this day, sports are such a useless bore to me.

As a grown woman, the girly girl in me still abounds. So when my husband and I decided it was time to have children, I was thrilled with visions of tiny pink nightgowns and hair bows.

Princess costumes, stuffed kittens and baby dolls. Frilly Easter dresses and bonnets and teeny tiny purses and patent leather shoes. Ooh, having a little girl is going to be so much fun!

So imagine my surprise when the doctor proclaimed … “It’s a boy!”

And two years later … “It’s another boy!”

God really does have a sense of humor.

What was I going to do with boys? I hadn’t planned on this. There’s no way I can handle this, and surely God knows it, doesn’t He? How can I raise sons to be real men? I’ll be fussing over them all the time. I’ll be worried all the time. What if they want to play football in high school? How will I enjoy seeing them play without worrying if they’ll get sacked at any moment? Surely there must be a mistake.


Of course, with the births of both of my boys I fell in love with them immediately and realized that I could and would find a way to be the best mother of sons I could be.

They’re easy at first. They require the same kind of cuddling, feeding and care as girls. But when my older boy, John Patrick, turned a year old, I realized just how funny God can be.

First it was dirt. He liked squishing it, eating it, trying to get Mommy to eat it. Then he discovered worms in the dirt. “They’re good for fishing,” his papa tells him. So the worms must go into a special place that keeps worms happy and well fed until it’s time for fishing. Papa had an old bathtub right outside the shed. The purpose of this bathtub was to house the worms, so it was filled with dirt … and worms … and leftover breadcrumbs. Beautiful.

My second son, Ryan, is more of an indoor kid. An artist and a dreamer, he loves to draw – not flowers and butterflies, but rather intricately detailed buildings and bridges. He’s good at drawing superheroes too – Spider-Man, Luke Skywalker and Superman, as well as the bad guys, Darth Vader and the Green Goblin. “Star Wars,” “Spider-Man” and the Indiana Jones episodes are their favorite movies. We get Boys’ Life magazine in the mail.

The boys won’t even let me go peek at the pink aisle in the department store. It’s straight to the action-hero aisle. Instead of Hannah Montana dolls and Polly Pocket, we’re buying Transformers, model cars and light sabers.

My boys will put off taking a bath until I physically walk them in there and watch them turn on the water. I try to trust them to do what they’re supposed to do in there, but I always end up having to make sure their time in the tub was productive. An evening’s conversation goes something like this:

“Did you wash your hair?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“With shampoo?”

“Oops, I forgot.”

“Did you wash your body?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“With soa … ?”

“Don’t say it. I’ll get the soap.”

At least shopping for clothing is easy. My boys have simple tastes. John Patrick wears a gray or yellow T-shirt with khaki pants or shorts, always. Ryan prefers a horizontal-striped, collared shirt with the same brand of jeans, always. They’ve had the same hairstyle, ahem, haircut, since birth.

Their stylist, ahem, hair cutter lady, knows to use the No. 4 blade on the clippers, always. My friends with girls are envious that I don’t have to deal with the drama of getting them dressed in the morning.

So as the boys get older, instead of a girl’s day of spa treatments and pedicures, I suspect I’ll be playing a round of golf or fishing. But John Patrick will have to hook the worm. The boys’ dad takes them camping twice a year as part of a father-and-son trip with the Cub Scouts. I’ve managed to get out of camping so far (because I am clearly not a father, or a son). But the boys insist I don’t know what I’m missing. Really? Bears and wolves and mosquitoes? But I promised them that we can take a family trip to the woods very soon. (Notice how vague I am?)

Despite everything, this girly girl has made much progress. Since having boys, I’ve learned to make a Lego Star Wars Imperial Landing Craft with Ryan, my 8-year-old. And I realized that I love Legos! They’re the best toys ever. Why didn’t I ever have these things? Ryan has taught me that bats are the only mammals that fly. And they’re not creepy or scary.

They’re really fascinating. I don’t know if a daughter would have embraced that idea as well as a son. He’s even showing me how to do a high block and a side kick, some karate moves he learned from his sensei.

John Patrick, my 10-year-old gentleman, actually opens the door for me as we enter a building. He is kind, thoughtful and easygoing. He helps me around the house with chores, cuts the grass and brings in the groceries. He has taught me about boats, their engine sizes and horsepower (are those the same things?), and now whenever I see a boat in the water or a kid mowing the grass to help the family, I will forever think of him.

I’ve learned that boys have the same basic needs as girls – love, affection, guidance and discipline. They experience heartbreak, just as girls do. They experience joy, just as girls do.

If girls are made of sugar and spice and all things nice, then boys are made of butter and jam and all things that go BAM.

And I love butter and jam and all things that go BAM.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go to the game-room to battle the evil Darth Maul on the Xbox. If you don’t know who he is, just ask a boy.