Smelly Socks: Boys and Their Toys

By Anita Spisak
Nov. 1, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.

Adam with one of his Lego ships.

Adam with one of his Lego ships.

City Life

As a little girl, I loved to dress up my Barbie dolls, play office with my girl cousins and, of course, play with the Fisher Price homes, the a-frame and yellow house that were the toys for girls in the late 70s.

I also loved to read. One of my favorites, even to this day, is "Little Women." It was wonderful to read about the aspiring writer Jo March (whom I wished I could be), and how she grew up in a house full of strong and intelligent women. So, you can imagine my surprise when the doctor told me "It's a boy," and my first reaction was, "What do I do with a boy?"

Since then, I have come to somewhat understand, how a little boy's mind works. They are very much of the moment and want solutions fast. Much is made of how we girls tend to solve our problems. We want to talk about these problems, mull over our conversations and then, a few days later, finally come up with a solution, if there even is one.

With boys, it's instant. Have a problem - solve it now. Even my husband sometimes frustrates me with his let's-solve-it-now attitude. There have been many occasions where I just want to talk about a problem, and he's like, "So, what's your solution?"

Talking makes us feel better. There may not be a solution for days or weeks, but we, as women, typically like to go around in circles about the same thing, feel better about discussing it, come up with a bevy of solutions and then finally decide on one.

Boys, on the other hand, are totally different. I see it with Adam and Charlie and how they play with their toys. With girls and their dolls, not only can they dress them up, but they have to create stories and lives and problems and come up with solutions and they must talk to each other, otherwise what is the point? With boys, trucks can't talk to each other; they drive by or at each other. Legos must be built up first, then torn down, and plastic swords and guns solve problems quickly.

As a work-at-home mom, I watch Adam and Charlie play with their toys daily.

For a long time, Adam was obsessed with digging. I can't tell you how many times my husband would see red when the flowers or herbs he planted or the mulch that was freshly laid down was now on the patio, on the grass or on the patio table. Sprinklers, mud and a wet little boy do not make for a good combination. And he has accumulated in his little life thus far a bevy of shovels. There's the red shovel he got from Grandpa, the yellow one he got from Auntie Chris and, of course, the occasional shovel that mysteriously finds its way into our yard, that just the prior weekend, was seen in our neighbors yard.

Now, he's into Legos. He loves building ninja stuff, castles and ships. But very rarely do I see any interactions with characters. It's all about building up and tearing down. He is now starting to reach the phase where the bigger (i.e. 500+ piece) Legos are now being built and displayed on his dresser. Well, at least until Charlie decides to reach for one of them.

Charlie, on the other hand, loves cars. He can play with them all day long. Big cars, little cars, trucks, you name it. When asked what he wants for his birthday, he replies, "Cars." His bed sheets have cars. He has hubcaps and old license plates decorating his room, and he loves it. He can silently play for 30 minutes with a couple of Matchbox cars. And he couldn't be happier.

I didn't expect any of this when they were born, but having two boys is an adjustment for any mom. We have to learn to adapt to their likes, which most times are very different than our own, and maybe, just maybe even learn something from them - like that Legos, cars and dirt can be fun. Or maybe, we just let them have the fun, and we sit on the sidelines with our copy of "Little Women" and a cup of coffee and watch.

Anita lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two boys and two dogs, one of which is a girl. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at



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