Smooth Operators or Wild Animals?


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My twin boys have been fascinated by pretty girls since they could wave from their double stroller. But as a mom who grew up with only one sister, I have zero experience with handling little boys who notice females and recruit their own babysitters. I’ve asked myself many times: where does it come from? My husband didn’t date a lot of women, and even at age twelve the boys don’t watch movies rated more than PG.

At eighteen months, they could easily summit the play structure in our local park, with Twin A effortlessly climbing the tallest ladder. Yet one day, as I pulled Twin B off the dirty Cheeto he was wrestling away from a pigeon, I saw Twin A above the slide whimpering like an abandoned puppy. Had he hurt himself? Was he in danger?

I flew across the playground like Batgirl on a mission, but as I got closer his motivation became obvious. Our neighbor’s new gorgeous Brazilian nanny was ahead of me, arms outstretched. I watched while this hero “rescued” my son from his faux moment of terror. As my boy smiled over the nanny’s shoulder at me, I could have sworn he winked like Daniel Craig playing James Bond.

Ten minutes later it was nap time, and I dragged each boy away from the playground by their overalls. Twin A fought me, insistent.

“No Mommy! No! Kiss. Kiss.” He pointed to the nanny, breaking away and running into her arms once more. Then calling, “Bye! Bye!” he waved and blew kisses back to her, all the way through the gate.

At the time I was too sleep deprived to think about the forethought Twin A had put into faking his terror, and I didn’t see the pattern. Nor had I realized Twin B was running a close second in the pick-up artist category.

When they were three, I hired a neighborhood sophomore to babysit. I warned the boys that Brooke was coming, hoping to avoid the usual clingy meltdown departure scene.

They kept nodding and agreeing with me like, “Yeah yeah yeah. We’ll be nice. Share our toys. Whatever.”

I didn’t understand they thought she was a playdate.

At 3:15pm the doorbell rang, and Twin B bolted down the front hall to play host.

He swung open the door and looked Brooke up and down.

“OHHHHH!” Twin B exclaimed, turning to me and raising his eyebrows.  He had expected a three year old and got Megan Fox instead.

“It’s good Mommy,” he said once he had regained use of his tongue. “You can go.”

I consider myself a feminist. I minored in Women’s Studies in college. I knew I should be outraged by my boys’ attitudes. But I was so stunned by their confidence, and the sophistication of their efforts, I have to confess – they made me laugh.

Where did they get it? Not from my engineering manager husband who was always shy with girls, and has endured hours of mandatory corporate sensitivity training throughout his career. And as far as “nurture” goes, the only TV show they were allowed to watch had one female character named Dorothy. And she wore a green and yellow polka dot dinosaur suit.

A couple of years later when the boys were five, two of my husband’s older brothers came to visit. We were seated at the local pancake house, and the boys ran for the hostess station to retrieve crayons for their menu art. Alarmed at the duration of their absence, my husband and I were about to call 911 and launch a search party when the boys reappeared at our table – grinning, and escorted by a twenty year old with long red hair and giant blue eyes.

“This is Chloe,” Twin B said, clinging to her hand. “She wants to babysit us. Can you get her number?”

Chloe turned out be a C.U. Buffs cheerleader who smiled at me. “Your boys are adorable!” she said.

The uncles grinned and elbowed each other, applauding the twins’ bravery.

Maybe it was genetically inherited from them?

When the boys were in fifth grade, a school administrator pulled me aside to ask for my help “brainstorming a problem.” I thought, “Ooh! She needs my help and advice! She knows I worked in the corporate world! She recognizes I have skills and experience!”

The administrator led me to a quiet corner, and spoke rapidly about how cute the boys were when she first arrived three years ago, how they’ve always liked to hug her but she’s not very tall, and now they’re bigger, blahdy blahdy blah, until it finally dawned on me: an elementary school official was asking me to stop my ten year olds from hugging her because the alignment of their faces and her cleavage was getting weird.

Since then, I’ve coached the boys to high five the teachers and staff as an acceptable greeting, and I make frequent attempts to lead discussions on treating girls with respect. Heading into middle school, they seemed more obsessed with sports than the opposite sex. Maybe I’d get a reprieve on the whole boy-girl thing until junior prom.

Yet recently after sixth grade let out, Twin B and I were walking toward the parking lot. He reached out to snatch a Frisbee mid-flight, then casually shot it back to a group of tall, older girls who nodded appreciatively.

“I like impressing eighth grade girls,” he said, without looking at me or breaking stride.

I’ve come to the conclusion that where ever this behavior comes from, instinct or environment, attempting to charm girls is part of their personality – a trait that most females fortunately find innocent and sweet….for now. Maybe the best I can do as their mom is nurture them to use their manners, be honest, and develop some skills like cooking for when their cuteness wears off.  Hopefully, this will keep me out of the principal’s office.

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