In my few short years thus far as a mother, I have come to realize that there are two parenting realities, dictated by the gender of your children. They are called The Reality of Raising Boys and The Reality of Raising Girls. This discovery was a bit of a surprise for me, because before I had kids, I figured parenting a boy and a girl was pretty much the same thing.
Because before I had kids, I was a parenting expert.
It didn't matter that I only have a sister, and didn't grow up seeing boys "in action." I had plenty of ideas on how I would raise my boy, if I indeed ended up having one. No guns. No violence. He would sit attentively through an entire Kindermusik class instead of running laps around the room.
God does indeed have a sense of humor. He sent me Josh.
For the last six months, I've been up to my ears in superhero costumes, foam swords and Power Ranger games (despite the fact that he has never seen an episode of Power Rangers).
Which brings me to our playdate at the park.
The kids are happily playing with their friends, while I watch from a nearby bench with Grace (11 months) and the other mothers. Eventually, Josh finds his way back over to me for a drink. I hand him his juice box. After a long swig, he hands the box back to me, keeping the straw for himself.
I know where he's going with this. I know what he wants to do, and I know what he wants to pretend.
"No, Josh. Not on the playground. It's dangerous to run around with that," I say, hoping to diffuse the situation without a scene.
No such luck.
Josh puts his hands on his hips. I steel myself for what's about to come.
"But I need a gun!" he declares.
The other moms stop talking and shoot curious glances in my direction.
Josh continues, "How am I going to shoot people if I don't have a gun! I need a gun!"
Here would probably be an appropriate time to mention that Josh is three.
I desperately wanted to tell the other mothers, "I DID NOT teach him that." We don't have play guns at home. We don't practice shooting people. Violence is not encouraged. As luck would have it, I'm seated between the mother of a well-behaved girl and another mother who has one of the most laid back, unaggressive boys I've ever seen. I doubt either have had this particular parenting conundrum come up.
"You'll just have to find something else to play with," I say, purposely avoiding any further discussion about shooting people and hoping he'll drop it.
"But that won't work," he whines. I realize he's going to keep pressing me for a solution. "I need a gun!"
By now, everyone's stopped glancing and is just watching, waiting to see what I'll do. I'm at a loss. I don't know what to do with this. I have no idea how to channel the testosterone. Jillian never wanted to play with guns and shoot people on the playground. I rack my brain.
And do you want to know what I manage to come up with? Take a moment to brace yourself for the parental "wisdom" I put into action.
"Well, just use your fingers," I say feebly, with my pointer sticking out the the thumb pointing up.
Josh thinks about this potential solution and shapes his small fingers into a pretend gun. He happily runs off with pointed fingers, shouting, "Bam! Bam! Bam!"
Yeah. Thanks. I'll accept my Mother of the Year crown now.