Monday, July 11, 2011

Boys will be psychopaths boys

Shep at 3 with one of his many manufactured guns

Long ago, back when I knew everything, I was a teacher and not a mother.  There was a little boy in my pre-kindergarten class who used to draw many scenes of various warriors attacking each other with swords and knives and guns. Blood the color of red crayons spilled onto the construction paper from their dismembered bodies.

I was quite concerned. Surely his anger over his parents' very tense divorce was being manifested in his artwork. I fretted. I prayed. I worried he was a budding psychopath. I recommended his parents take him to a child psychologist.

I grew up, got married, and gave birth to a boy. And another.

My first son, Shepherd, had beautiful blue eyes and blond hair that shone like a halo above his angelic face.  When there was a baby doll near him, sometimes he would cradle it, rock it, perhaps even sing a sweet lullaby, as had been modeled to him by both myself and his father.

But much more often he'd pick it up, look into its sweet baby doll face, then hold it by the feet as he bashed its sweet baby doll head against the floor. Repeatedly. As hard as he could.

Which had never been modeled to him by I nor his father. Ever. Not once.

As soon as his little fine motor skills could handle it, he made guns. Guns from Pop-Onz. Guns from bristle blocks. Guns from peanut butter sandwiches.

Should I call a child psychologist? Was he a psychopath?

No. He was just a boy.

Eventually I learned to respond by rolling my eyes, and marveling at the difference between the sexes.

My angelic son is almost eight years old now, still blond, and obsessed with war in general, WWII specifically. Recently, when asked what his hobbies were, the child of two rather pacifist parents replied, "I'm really into violence." He peppers me with questions as I drive him to soccer practice.

"What's your favorite gun, Mom?"

I wince at these repeated inquisitions. For I've never, ever had a favorite gun. I've never had any slight fondness for any weapon of any kind whatsoever. Nor a favorite battleship, nor fighter jet, nor battlefield, nor battle, nor general, nor...
"Um...a machine gun."

"Oh, good choice Mom! Machine guns are awesome. What kind of machine gun is your favorite?"

"Um...a black one?"

He sighs at me pathetically, and in the rear view mirror I see him roll his eyes.

Later he asks me if we can look together on YouTube for videos of Hitler's bunker so he can remake it with his Legos. "I admire the Germans...not for what they did. Killing the Jews and all. That was really evil. But they did have a lot of discipline...and they did have the best weapons..."

Should I call a child psychologist? Is he a psychopath?

No, I've learned, he is just a boy.
I roll my eyes.

This afternoon, his exhausted younger brother is placated on the couch with cartoons. Soon one of my giggling daughters hands me a piece of paper with her latest artwork. I expect to see one of her unicorns, or maybe a spotted pup frolicking in a field of flowers - the usual. Instead I see this:

"Oh my word, Sissy! That's awful! Why did you draw such a thing?!?"

Should I call a child psychologist? Is my daughter a psychopath?

She giggles some more. "Shep told me to draw it! He said draw Deadly Dora killing Boots! So I did!" She giggles some more at the absurdity of it all.

I exhale.

She's not psychotic. She was just, temporarily, a boy.

Relieved, I roll my eyes.


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