How true! How true!
Every so often, some ad agency genius comes up with an idea that rings the bell of authenticity for me. Rings it loud and true and clear as a... well, a bell. I’ve no idea what product or service the ad was promoting, I was too caught up in the truth of the premise, and my brain started racing to all the incidents in my life that prove the axiom.
And that maxim is; men never stop being boys and their aim in life seems to be to get away with things when Mom isn’t looking. The television commercial I saw started with two little boys and their dad sitting peacefully in the family room. Mom is heading out to shop or something equally essential and routine. As soon as the door closed behind her, one of the boys jumped up, shouting, “Oh, boy. Mom’s gone” and pandemonium instantly breaks loose.
Having grown up in a family of four sisters, I wasn’t aware of such typically male behavior until I met my future husband. He told me tales of his boyhood and some of the pranks he and his friends got away with. I suppose he was trying to impress me with his bravado and spontaneity, but underneath there lurked a certain wicked glee, almost entirely based on the fact that they’d managed to do things that their mothers had forbidden, and they hadn’t been caught.
When, ten years later, I found myself the mother of three little boys, it all made sense. No one can look more innocent and angelic than a little boy solemnly promising his mother that he will never again climb out an upstairs window and run around on the porch roof, fifteen feet above ground and overgrown prickly shrubbery. That should be amended to “never again caught” doing so. And no one can hide the evidence better than a little boy who has just smuggled Mom’s sterling silver cream pitcher back into the house after spending an afternoon playing with it in the neighbor’s wading pool. He’ll keep his promise to never again touch that silver pitcher. Next time he’ll take the Waterford crystal one instead.
Such little boys can be forgiven because they are little boys and have a lot of things to learn yet. But such little boys also grow up to be husbands and, much to my despair, they don’t always learn those lessons. Such grownup little boys shouldn’t be sent to the store on a Saturday afternoon for Pampers® when it is discovered that the very last one is already on the baby. Why not, you ask? Because such grownup little boys will come home three hours and five games of pool later, when the baby has been twice diapered with dishtowels held in place with duct tape. They will neither make excuses nor lie about it, they will simply smile smugly, knowing they got away with something, and will most likely try to charm or jolly you out of it.
Such grownup little boys can’t be trusted to hold down the fort for a weekend while their wives tend to a family emergency out of town. The only time I tried to do that, I came home from helping arrange a funeral service to find a full-size jukebox and about fifteen kids in my living room, and my husband and one of his buddies playing gin rummy in the kitchen. I never did get a straight answer as to where the jukebox came from.
Once I took the kids to visit their grandparents for a week and my grownup little boy promised to paint the kitchen while we were gone. When I came home, the kitchen was painted and I lavished praise and thanks on him for such a nice job. It was over a month later that a neighbor asked what decorating we’d had done, as she’d seen a decorator’s truck parked in our driveway. But probably the most exasperating example of this habit of getting away with things is the time he had surgery to repair a punctured ear drum and didn’t tell me about it. He never would have, either, if my neighbor who happened to be one of the nurses who looked after him, hadn’t remarked how much she had enjoyed visiting with him while he was in the hospital.
I’m not sure why this sort of behavior gets transferred from mothers to wives, but I expect it has something to do with the strong male trait of wanting to be in charge. It seems to begin when they are little boys and Mother is usually the main authority figure. Once married, they transfer that rebellion to their wives. It’s not that the things they get away with are serious, it’s just that they seem to have a compulsion to be disobedient, even in little matters, and they get a big kick out of doing so.