The women I know who have daughters are always telling me about the drama in the lives of girls: friends who aren't being friendly anymore; who said what about whom; crying outbursts over seemingly nothing. And every time I hear one of these stories, I am secretly happy--again--to have only sons. They don't wear their hearts on their sleeves. They say what they mean. Everything is pretty much black and white--very little middle ground. In essence, you know where you stand with boys, and emotion rarely gets in the way.
I thought this was wonderful. Until yesterday.
On the first day of school, I put little notes of encouragement into each of my sons' lunch boxes. A little pick me up from home to help with the anxiety of starting a new school year, I figured. Jacob came home and hugged me, thanking me for the note. Ben didn't say anything, but his note came back home with him in his lunch box. I left it in there for day two, just in case he had missed it the first day. I even opened it a little so he could see it was a card with a message inside. It came home again. Finally, I asked him if he had seen the note I sent him.
"Oh, yeah, I saw it. Um, Mom, please don't put those in my lunch anymore."
I'm sorry. What?
"Why not, Ben? Didn't you like it?" I asked, trying to hide the feeling of having been punched in the stomach.
Then Jacob piped up, perhaps to save my feelings in case Ben decided to be honest.
"It's OK, Mom, I've got this," he said. "Ben," he said, turning to his brother, "just do what I do. When you see the note, just pretend you're looking for something in your lunch bag and read it without taking it out. Then you don't have to be embarrassed."
Embarrassed? What? Jacob too? At this point, after having told all my friends about the love that boys have for their mothers, how much better it is to have boys than girls, I was speechless. I had to leave the room.
After a while, I realized that I couldn't take it personally. Kids are going to be embarrassed by their parents' expressions of care and love, regardless of whether they are boys are girls. It's not me. It's them.
Once I accepted this--that Ben was only rejecting my expression of love while among his peers, and not actually rejecting my love --I felt much better. Plus, Ben accepted his brother's advice with grace and was, mercifully, silent on the subject afterward.
Whether he would still welcome a love note, now that he has the reading tip from his brother, is unknown. I'm OK now, but I think I'll wait a little while before asking if he still wants me to refrain from sending them.
Like a year or two.