On Having a Son.

October 20, 2008

I have a great big huge gigantic (you get the idea) soft spot in my heart for my little boy. I was never one of those women who really wanted a boy or a girl. It was just never that way for me. But when C-Man was born, I became totally and completely smitten not just with him, but with all little boys. (Don't get me wrong, I luuuuuuuuuv my little girl too, but there is some sort of special vibe between a mama and her little boy...especially her firstborn little boy.)

I have been reading a really interesting (and a bit controversial) book called The Wonder of Boys by Michael Gurian. Has anyone read it? Its basic premise is that boys and girls are biologically quite different (that's the controversial part), and therefore have different needs. It is the first book about boys that I've read (I've read lots of parenting books), so I don't know if this is the be-all and end-all of what it means to raise a son, but so far I'm really liking it.

On a related note, this is a poem that a friend with two boys shared with me. It is about having a son. I just love it. So much that my chest hurts when I read it. Even for the 472nd time.

by Alastair Reid

My son has birds in his head.
I know them now. I catch
the pitch of their calls, their shrill
cacophonies, their chitterings, their coos.
They hover behind his eyes and come to rest
on a branch, on a book, grow still,
claws curled, wings furled.
His is a bird world.

I learn the flutter of his moods,
his moments of swoop and soar.
From the ground I feel him try
the limits of the air--
sudden lift, sudden terror--
and move in time to cradle
his quivering, feathered fear.
At evening, in the tower,
I see him to sleep and see
the hooding-over of eyes,
the slow folding of wings.
I wake to his morning twitterings,
to the croomb of his becoming.

He chooses his selves--wren, hawk,
swallow or owl--to explore
the trees and rooftops of his heady wishing.
Tomtit, birdwit.
Am I to call him down, to give him
a grounding, teach him gravity?
Gently, gently.
Time tells us what we weigh, and soon enough
his feet will reach the ground.
Age, like a cage, will enclose him.
So the wise men said.

My son has birds in his head.


  1. I remember before I had children a friend of mine told me that I'd be the perfect mom for boys. I thought that was so weird because I was totally girly, makeup, design, high heels, the works. Now here I am with two gorgeous boys wondering how did I get so lucky.

  2. I totally get that poem, and it's perfect for Charlie!

  3. what a beautiful poem. i've never thought of myself as a person who's better equipped to handle a boy or a girl, but it was refreshing to hear your story!

  4. This is a FABULOUS poem. It's funny, but it reminds me of the big kid that my husband still is. The ideas he comes up with, the sense of play and wonder he still has with the world around him, the way he loves to tinker and experiment, the way he collapses into sleep like a puppy after a long day. It makes me hope for sons because I know he'll be such a wonderful father to them.

    This poem reminds me a bit of the Frost poem Birches which I think you'll like if you haven't already read it.

    Thanks for the amazing post (as usual!)

  5. My first-born boy and I have a special attachment as well. He's seven now and is still an expert at pulling my heart strings!

    I have and have read most of The Wonder of Boys. It's fabulous. In fact, I need to pull it out again.


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