Thursday, August 09, 2007

Sons and Mothers

Lynne Jonell and Petra Mathers created the wonderful Christopher and Robbie books. Author Jonell based the stories on her experiences with her own sons. It takes a mother of sons to come up with When Mommy was Mad, Mom Pie, Mommy Go Away (which could also be titled the incredible shrinking mom), I Need a Snake (who doesn't?), and It's My Birthday, Too! Mather's drawing appear crude and child-like, which is part of their appeal. One can imagine a young boy creating them to illustrate these intimate stories of everyday life.

My personal favorite is When Mommy was Mad. In the book, Robbie is concerned because Mommy forgot to kiss Daddy good-bye, is making banging sounds as she cleans the kitchen, and isn't smiling as she works in garden. Along with his brother, Robbie tries to figure out why Mommy is so mad. Could it be because he didn't get his buttons buttoned up correctly? Finally, Robbie catches the mad bug himself and becomes a "borkupine" who borks the angries right out of Mommy. Every time we read it, I am reminded of an essay I read by Thich Nhat Hanh in Peace is Every Step describing the ways anger can spread through a family unit and how, through mindfulness, that anger can be dissipated before much damage is done. I love the idea of breathing and mindfulness as coping technique for even young children.

I have long thought mothers of sons have a different perspective on the world. Talking to mothers young and old, I've noticed that mothers who raised boys just "get it." They understand a little boy's need to whip off his Indiana Jones-style hat and bow to every one he passes on the way out of church; they know that a small boy leaning over a storm grate with a library book is not really contemplating the destruction of property, but wondering if that book will fit in those rectangular holes. I'm reading and enjoying It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons by Andrea Buchanan. The essays are funny and poignant and spot-on. When my oldest was born, I, in all my feminist haze, was certain that just supplying gender-neutral toys would ensure a sensitive, evolved male. Ha! (He is sensitive, but he's also loud, physical, and fascinated by machinery and "contractions"/contraptions.) His first five words were: Momma, Daddy, more, Max (the cat) and....lawnmower. Yep. Lawnmower. Picture me rocking 18 month-old son in preparation for an afternoon nap. Ever so faintly, through the open window, we can hear a lawnmower. Eyes pop open. Boy sits up. "Lawnmower!" he exclaims, meaning, "Momma, we have to go find that lawnmower now." Nearly three years later, along came little brother who loved to eat peas and grapes simply because they resemble balls. He's the one who would pat the tv and holler "Football!" meaning, of course, that if someone would just turn it on, surely he could watch a game day or night, summer, winter, or fall.

This is not to say that mothers of girls won't enjoy the Jonell-Mathers books, just don't despair if they are mystifying. Boys are like that.

1 comment:

Ros said...

And they grow up to men who are like that. :-( Seriously, I wish Sean were still young enough to enjoy these books.