I spend quite a bit of my life surrounded by boys. I’m the captain of a Boys’ Brigade Company and a mother of sons rather than daughters. When we took Belarussian children into our home for respite breaks, we always had boys. Even our cat was male. The only time the balance was redressed was courtesy of Amelia and Megan, our two guinea pigs.
I suppose like many people I had assumed that I would somehow recreate the family I grew up in – a son and a daughter. But I was sure in my second pregnancy that I was expecting another boy and I was right. However, if someone had told me I had the choice of only sons or only daughters, I would have gone for the former.
You see, I like boys. I like their liveliness and logic, their strength and their struggle. I like how a mad imp of a boy can turn into a thoughtful, caring young man. Since my teens, I found boys more straightforward and therefore easier to get on with than girls. There was no front, no fakery with them – if a boy disagreed with you or disliked you, you knew it – so there was no back stabbing either. As I’ve grown older, I’m not sure that’s entirely true: they’re more complex than that. But the fact remains – I like boys.
There may be times when I feel outnumbered, when the conversation passes me by and I can even feel a bit left out. There have been times when I would phone my mum just to hear another human being speak in whole sentences instead of grunts. And there are still times when I am exacerbated by silliness, terrible puns, and fart jokes.
But I have never missed out by only having sons. Things I had thought were unique to being a mother of daughters – not true, shopping for instance, including choosing jewellery and clothes. There is nothing quite like seeing your son in his first suit. And there is nothing like a fashion conscious young man patiently waiting outside a department store changing room to tell you how much an outfit suits you.
I was never allowed to do my elder son’s laundry when he came from university; in fact, he would text me at work to ask if I had any washing he could do before I came home. My younger son is quite the baker so he is the one who makes cakes to take back to his flat mates at the beginning of each term.
And there are all those other advantages of having sons. They are gentlemanly and kind as only young men can be. They carry bags, hold doors open, and lift heavy loads. They gallantly acknowledge that all the women in their family are forever 21 years old. And now they are grown, they tuck me under their shoulder for a hug, where their shape reminds me nostalgically of their father and grandfather.
They say, ‘I love you’ and, whilst I don’t expect to be the last, I know that I will always be the first woman they said that to.
In this period between their birthdays, I know that I have been truly blessed in my boys.