Roughhousing 2

Over the last few days I have come to a greater appreciation of my husband.  He is an amazing father, husband and friend, but being away from him as we navigate these strange days and weeks between houses and states has allowed me to see a bit more clearly the gaps in my abilities as a parent.

We balance each other well in many ways due simply to our personalities, but we also balance each other fundamentally as man and woman.  To put it frankly, we are all suffering living without our roughhouse-loving dad. The roughhousing he does with the kids when he gets home from work–the wrestling, whisker rubs, wild horsey rides, and tickle torture session that I have put up with, sometimes begrudgingly, for years, well, I miss them terribly.  And so do the kids.  Because I just don’t know how to roughhouse with my boys, whether there is a baby in my tummy or not.

I grew up in a female dominated house.  My dad is about as manly as they come–a farmer with massive callused hands who can lift/move/do anything–but I am one of 4 girls.  My only brother is the youngest and came along after our lives were pretty girly.

Because of this there are certain “boy-things” that I didn’t understand.  I once thought it was strange to let boys play with guns and swords.  Sure, let them play with cars and tractors, but weapons?  Why do they have to be so violent?  Why are they always roughhousing and screaming and in the midst of some war?

My boys weren’t going to be like that.

But then I became a mom of little boys, and as I watch my stout 18 month old Dominic turn baby carrots into guns and play-act epic battles with plastic dinosaurs I can’t help but admit that there might just be something deeply and innately different about boys.  And that something might actually be very good.

I’m not a child psychologist, just a mom, so I’m not going to try and name it explain why boys are different.  All I have are my imperfect observations.  As close as I can tell it seems that boys have a greater awareness of evil and “badness” in the world at large.  They are on the look out for it.  Boy also seem eager to know the good and fight for it.  They are deeply concerned with battling those bad elements and protecting the good, both real or imagined, although often it is hard to tell the difference.  And for whatever reason this battle is physical, always physical.

Both Gus and Dominic spend most of the day absolutely boiling over with aggressive energy, and what I understand now is that it’s not meanness, it’s just aggressive boy-ness.  My sisters-in-law gave the kids a blowup ball pit for Christmas and it quickly turned into a wrestling cage.  I’d race downstairs after hearing whoops and screams, and arrive to see two smiling red-faced boys happily pouncing on each other, the toddler begging the four year old for more and rougher.

Roughhousing 3

I’ve been thinking about another layer of all of this while traveling these last couple weeks.  Due to complications with housing, closing dates, training and work trips, we haven’t been with my husband for a week and a half–with about 10 days of separation still ahead of us.

And the days have been a little rough.  The kids (and I) are going through a lot.  We are comfortable and well taken care of, but it is difficult to be constantly on the move and living in a state of temporary.  They are good kids and we are happy, but the meltdowns are a bit more plentiful and Gus just CAN NOT KEEP HIS HANDS TO HIMSELF.  A few days ago I was at my wits end with him.  Every time someone came within his reach they got punched, shoved, grabbed, kicked or choke-hugged.  It just made no sense.  There wasn’t necessarily meanness behind all of these actions–but it was still distressing behavior.

Through God’s goodness we are near my sister and her family down here in Kansas.  And also through God’s goodness they have 3 wild, appropriately aggressive boys with a father dedicated to roughhousing with his children.

And these past days have been so nice.  Yes, the meltdowns and uncertainty persist, but Gus is so much more pleasant and the roughhousing has everything to do with it.

There have been countless sword battles, light-saber duels and wrestling matches while here and while this is helping tremendously, it is only a substitute for what they kids really need–a good tussle with their dad.

Roughhousing with dad can sometimes end in tears but more often it ends in a hug, a laugh or a lesson.  Because roughhousing with dad is so much more.  For it is only our fathers that we can depend on to catch us after we have been flung up into the air.

I often feel sorry for fathers of newborns.  Those little ones arrive home basically attached to mom.  And it makes sense.  Our bodies were made to care for newborns leaving dads often times feeling useless.  And then around 1 my kids went through a “I only want mom stage” once again leaving dad feeling a little bit sidelined.

But as the boys grow this has shifted–and it’s shifted hard.  They may still look to me to help with the aches and pains of life, and for food and instruction, but they look to their dad for so much more.  He is the warrior.  He knows how to do stuff that actually matters.  He likes it when they jump on his back.  He is who they fear when they have done wrong.  He too is interested in defending the good, just like they are.

And so, we well but not complete.  Whether or not they can name why, my boys are missing their dad.  This will all be over soon and we will be settled in Kansas.  Bill will once again be rolling around with the kids on the floor as I try to get them into jammies, and I’ll likely be annoyed again.  I just hope I can remember a shred of what I’ve learned during this time and loosen up a little bit about meaningless things like bedtime and tidy bedrooms.

All the best

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