Thursday, October 27, 2011

Boys and Flannel: Two Lessons Learned

I have recently learned two things about myself, about life, about the difference between boys and girls, or perhaps just the difference between any two people, and I learned about my own limitations.

The first lesson involved a quilt that I am making, a baby blanket, out of flannel.  The flannel was an impulse choice, I was walking around sort of aimlessly, looking at the fabrics, when I saw four colors grouped together in a way that made me happy, and so I took a yard of each color, not sure exactly what I would do with them, but knowing it would satisfy something deep inside me to do it.  Ah, it might have satisfied if only it had been any fabric but flannel - not knowing then what I know now and all.

Here are the things I have learned about flannel:
1. It is a stretchy fabric.  It is quite willing to pull and give and wiggle its shape all over the place. You have to be very stern with it, poking and prodding it with pins to show it who is boss.
2. It is also a very sticky fabric. This means that when you place one piece on top of another, you know, to piece the quilt together, and then you have to make some small adjustment, it sticks and sticks and then according to some law of physics, it suddenly jolts apart much farther than the minute amount you wanted it to move.  And so  you start over, it wiggling and stretching and sticking when you least want it to.
3. It garbles up my machine, filling it with lint and essence of flannel until my machine is coughing, choking, spitting, gagging, poor old thing.  Although, actually, my machine kind of does that with a lot of fabrics.

My second lesson is about boys.  A friend of mine has two young boys, one recently three and the other 15 months old.  She had somewhere she had to be most of yesterday and all of today.  I told her I would watch them for her, this long before I knew I was pregnant, and long before the  hernia had started bothering me again.  But the day for them to come dawned bright and I was feeling really good.  They are good boys, and didn't really give me any trouble either day - but sakes alive am I exhausted.  I still would have offered to watch them, I'd watch them again next week if she needed me, but I definitely learned something about boys. (or, again, is it just a difference in personality?)

Here are the things I've learned about boys:
1. They are a force of nature.  They are tornadoes, hurricanes, elephant stampedes, thunder and lightning, they are stone walls.  Which, in all honesty, I think makes their affection that much sweeter, when they lie soft and still, or cuddle their heads into that spot between your neck and shoulder, when they smile at you with their big cheeks covered in chocolate from warm gooey cookies - it warms you inside in a way that I don't get from my girls.
2.  Force of nature, yes. Whining, complaining, high pitched squealers they are not.  I think the phrase I currently use most often with Hallie these days is, "Try saying it again. No whining this time."  I have yet to hear these guys make a single whining sound.
3. All little kids have energy, but it seems to radiate off of boys in a different way.  Like, the energy from girls radiates in transverse waves and boys in longitudinal (I remember a few things from college).

I guess this experience has just really heightened my appreciation that we are having another girl.  Don't get me wrong, little boys are great, and these little boys especially are genuine sweeties, well behaved and good natured.  The thing is that I feel like I've been trained in girldom, and to have a boy suddenly thrust upon me would shatter everything I know about parenting.  Like
if you had spent your time training to run a marathon, only to be told that the test would be whether or not you could shoot 90 out of 100 free throws.
if you had spent years studying 15th century Spanish poetry, only to be told that the final exam was only going  to cover nuclear phsyics.
if all of your sewing experience was with cotton, and suddenly you were trying to make a blanket out of flannel.
if you had spent all your life on Venus and were suddenly told you had to move to Mars.

Now, I realize that millions of parents the world over have both boy and girl children.  I guess those parents are the ones that excel at the triathlon, or get double majors in Psychology and Calculus, but I don't think it's me.  Because apparently, all I can sew on is cotton.

I guess my best hope is that if I do ever have a boy I can also find a crash course in Mars-living.  And in flannel-sewing too, I guess, you know while I'm at it.


  1. I hear ya. I was totally rooting for a girl, but I guess I get to discover the wild and wooly world of boys! Or at least, boy.

  2. Uh, yeah, I think it's more personalities than boys vs. girls. Of course, I'm not much of a gender essentialist anyway. But a mom in our co-op would tell you that boys can screech and scream with the best of them (her 6 month old is constantly letting out ear-piercing shrieks, which everyone had assured her only girls do). Gareth is also very good at this.

    And don't even get me started on Gareth and whining. I'm constantly telling him to use words rather than whining/bursting immediately into tears/whatever other obnoxious noise he can make to express displeasure or frustration. Some days it feels like all he does is whine. I'm hoping this is more of an age thing that will go away with time, but I feel less than confident in that.

    Not having multiple kids, I can't compare energy levels. But I've known many a girl who are simply exhausting, some even more so than Gareth. I think Gareth has enough energy to power a small city, and things that other parents love "because they tire the kids out" only seem to energize my kid more. So I'd say he falls fairly high on the energy spectrum. Again, I'm not sure how common that is, not having many kids to compare him to.

    I think some of the exhaustion you're feeling is just from watching kids you aren't familiar with. I know I feel totally worn out after we have play dates with other kids, even if the other mom is there! Maybe you aren't like this, but somehow I feel more stress having less familiar kids in the house. Not really sure why, but it always wears me out, no matter how good they are.

    I haven't worked with flannel yet - and from your post it very well might be something I avoid in the future!

  3. Boys and girls are definitely different, but I agree with Erin-personality plays a big role.
    I also love flannel quilts! Buy it all the time and sew with it also!

  4. Oh Amy, I'm sorry the flannel is giving you such trouble. I haven't sewn with it a lot either. I know I hand sewed it into barbie dresses when I was a teenager, and it was a pain then. Are you doing the pattern we talked about?

  5. It's got a lot to do with personality, I'm sure, cuz my oldest boy can whine with the best of them, but he can also run full on into a door, step back, rub it a little, and go right back to running as fast as he can, and still not look where he's going. :)

    I told you what my brother-in-law said, right? If he'd had a kid like my oldest, he didn't think he'd have enough energy for any more kids.

    My 2nd boy is more chill than his brother, but he climbs up EVERYTHING. He'll be 2 in December, and just 2 days ago he was climbing up onto the top bunk. He couldn't quite get his leg over the top, and he wouldn't have a clue about how to get down, but he didn't care. He was proud of himself. :) And I gained a few more gray hairs. :(

  6. What was that Amish quote about boys? Let me find it. Oh yeah:

    "Raising boys is as easy as digesting iron."
    —Amish Proverbs by Suzanne Fisher

    Ha. I am glad you survived the forces of nature.

    And of course personalities play a role, but I think there are a lot of traits that are more common for each gender just like you said. :)