Welcome to 'Boys R Us'

Deep in my soul, I knew someday I'd have a daughter. She'd dress in her Sunday best as she hosted teddy-bear tea parties. I'd teach her to bake, crochet, and dream. My house would abound with femininity and smell ... pink.

What a shock it was to have three boys! We had teddy bears in our house, but they were never invited to tea parties. They were used as punching bags and superheroes instead.

So why am I so deliriously happy? Because you haven't lived until....

1.You go to the school's open house and see the life-size self-portraits the kindergartners have drawn. You immediately notice a gender difference, because the girls' drawings look almost human and are neatly colored with pastel crayons. The boys' drawings look like Picasso gone mad. The teacher explains that the more detail the drawing has (belts, buttons, eyelashes, etc.), the more ready the child may be to learn to read. You beam with pride as she says, "Here's a child who uses a lot of detail," as she picks up your son's drawing. Your pride turns to embarrassment as you realize your son has shown excellent detail by drawing a naked self-portrait that is anatomically correct.

When you ask your child about it, he explains, "Mrs. Hickson said to draw a picture of ourselves. She didn't say to put clothes on it."

2. Your Boy Scout earns a merit badge by cleaning out the woods. It is there he finds a rat skull. The scoutmaster tells him to bleach it to make sure it's clean. He also says it's a mole, not a rat. You don't care, because it looks like a rat. You'd rather dance a tango with a rattlesnake than have a dead rat head in your home. Your mind wanders back to the day your "bundle of joy" arrived. Everyone said how much fun a son would be. You try to hold that thought as you bleach the rat skull.

3. Your boy toddler grabs a seed from beneath an apricot tree and smiles at you. When he puts it near his mouth, you tell him no. Repeatedly. You're too worn out to go to him because you're eight months pregnant and it takes herculean effort just to blink and breathe simultaneously. You finally do your motherly duty and waddle over to him. As you reach him, he pops the seed in his mouth. You hold onto him as he tries to run away, and you finally succeed in fishing it out. It's then that you discover it isn't a seed. It's a snail.

4. You've visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., three vacations in a row. You plead for a break. So your husband tells you the good news: You're going to Florida next spring! After the cold, snowy winter, you deserve to have some fun in the sun. You, however, are aware that the Los Angeles Dodgers have spring training in Florida. You might as well start singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," because the tan you get won't come from sitting at the beach.

5. You've gotten up at 4:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning because your son has a hockey game in another state at 8:30. When you encouraged your sons to play sports, you thought of teamwork and discipline. You never realized there's a different set of cleats for each sport. Nor did you realize you'd have to build an entire wing onto your home to house the shoes, uniforms, bats, balls, helmets, mouth guards, shin guards, karate gear, and shoulder pads that go with them. In the meantime, you're supergluing the seams of the only pair of shoes that you own.

6. Your half-boy, half-man teenager, who towers over you by four inches, runs to you before his football game to hug you and tell you how cool you are right in front of his friends.

Soon, my sons will be ready to start their own families. I suspect they dream of sharing such adventures as rat heads with their sons. If there's truly any justice, however, they'll be contending with ballet shoes, Barbie dolls, and tea parties ... complete with teddy bears.

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