THE SMELLY BUSINESS OF RAISING A BOY

Staring at the two young boys rubbing their crotch against my leather couch, I tried hard to mask the horror on my face. In my mind, I could see only two solutions to this problem: bleach the couch or get a new one.

“They do this all the time. Boys are obsessed with their penises!” laughed my friend, brushing off the strange behaviour as a common problem all mothers of boys experienced.

At the time, having a well-mannered and mild-tempered four-year-old daughter, I could not imagine any son of mine being different. Honestly, if someone had told me that raising boys would involve a ton of toilet humour and penile fascination, I would have scoffed at their ridiculous suggestion. But five years on, with a four-year-old son of my own, I am eating my words.

Now I scoff when anyone tells me that raising boys is no different from raising girls (e.g. my mum, who tells me that my inferior parenting skills are the reasons behind my son’s mischievous nature). Parenting a boy is like being a circus trainer, tasked with corralling a crazed monkey hyped on natural adrenaline. Imagine a cymbal clapping monkey with no off button and short-circuited.

Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. Perhaps it’s just my son, and I’m giving circus monkeys a bad name. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son. He is very loving and sweet, but man does he test my limits in ways my daughter never did.

When I complain about grey hairs as a result of raising a boy, I don’t think people truly believe me. So I think the best way is to give examples of how raising a boy has been different from raising a girl.

Example 1:
My four-year-old son and I are sprawled on the couch with a blanket on us. We chat about random topics. Out of nowhere, he pulls the blanket over our heads. Thinking it was a new game, I go along with it. He gives a suspicious giggle. A second later, I’m throwing off the blanket and gagging from the foul-smelling odour hitting my nostrils. Where my daughter finds bodily fumes disgusting, my son thinks it’s funny to Dutch oven his mother.

Point here: Little boys are fascinated with flatulence. They love doing farts, wielding these smelly fluff fluffs like weapons of mass destruction. If my son could use his putrid puffs as currency, he would be rich.

Example 2:
Every night I give the kids a goodnight cuddle and a kiss before they hop into bed. One night, my son asks me to crouch down to his level. Thinking that he wanted a big cuddle, I bend down. Instead of receiving a goodnight cuddle, my son turns his back to me, bends at the waist and proceeds to fart in my face. He laughs like a crazy hyena before scooting off to bed.

Point here: As a mother, I should always be on high alert for any signs pointing towards a fart attack. See previous point. 

Example 3:
We meet up with another boy my son’s age for a play date at the park. The minute we hit the playground, it’s like game on. My son turns everything into a pissing contest.

“Mummy, my water bottle is bigger than his!”
“Push me higher! I want to go higher than him!”
“I got here first, this is my steering wheel!”

Point here: Little boys are competitive. Whether it’s innate or not, expect roughhousing, aggression and most likely, tantrums.

Example 4:
Since my son has been out of nappies, he’s become obsessed with his penis. Sometimes he uses his peen as a hose. Sometimes it’s a toy to explore.

Oh, there’s a hole… I wonder if I can put something in it? Oh, what happens if I pull the skin really far out? Oh, I wonder what these two bumps are?

And now that he has better control of his bladder, he waits until shower time and uses my clean shower screen as his canvas for a pee drawing. A penis art brush.

Point here: Little boys love their penises, almost as much as potty humour. I bet this is a life-long love.

There are many examples I could write about but then this post would never end. And now, there is an eerie silence in the house, which is rarely a good thing when parenting a boy.

Let me sign off by saying there’s a certain charm to raising boys… and smell.

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THE SILVER LINING OF BEING AWKWARD

Humans are social creatures. It’s important for us to feel a sense of belonging. This fundamental need drives us to seek company; to form meaningful relationships with others; to engage in conversation. Essentially, we seek to make a human connection. A disconnect can lead to social isolation, loneliness and depression.

I struggled with my sense of identity and belonging throughout childhood and early adulthood. I was an extremely introverted child and shied away from people. I wasn’t able to effectively communicate and therefore, I found it difficult to make friends.

As a grown-ass adult, conversation still doesn’t come easily for me. Unfortunately, I’m also awkward as f#@k. Random sh!t just comes out of my pie hole. On the outside, I might look aloof and confident but on the inside, I’m a jumbled mess of insecurities that could rival that of a fifteen-year-old teenager. My six-year-old daughter has more pizzazz and social skills than I do. It’s really embarrassing. Luckily my friends accept me for who I am, flaws and all.

Recently, I met a mother of a child in the same swimming class as my daughter.


“Hello,” I said to the woman sitting next to me.

She gave me a welcoming smile and asked, “Which one is your child?”

“Oh Mandy,” I replied, pointing at the rambunctious girl doing cannonballs into the pool and getting told off. I rolled my eyes. She had a few minutes until class started and still managed to get into trouble.

“You’ve got a lively one there,” she laughed.

I giggled. “You don’t know the half of it!” Mandy’s a Little Miss Independent.

Lisa, the woman, was a talker. This suited me just fine as it prevented me from any outbreaks of verbal diarrhoea.

“Breanna does choir, ballet and swimming on Saturdays. She does Japanese, tennis and piano during the school week.”

“Oh Mandy does piano,” I threw in. It had been a while since I contributed to the conversation and I didn’t want to look disinterested.

“Yes, piano is so good for the brain. Breanna has done it for a few years now. She’s excelling at the moment. Did you know that music makes children smarter? I’ve listened to classical music since Breanna was in my tummy.”

Lisa rambled on and on. I don’t think she had paused since we started talking. How did she do that? She must have huge lung capacity.

I gave a noncommittal grunt as I watched Mandy attempt breast stroke. I was so proud that she was giving it a go.

“And of course, I had to speak to her teacher about the girl not inviting Breanna to her party. It’s just not acceptable in this day and age.”

I realised I had zoned out. I tried refocusing on what Lisa was saying.

Does she realise she’s monopolising the conversation? Is she a nervous chatterer? Is it possible that someone is more socially inept than me?

Our girls hopped out of the pool and rushed over to get dried. Lisa was still talking. I heard ‘coffee’, ‘next time’ and ‘see you’. My brain connected some imaginary dots.

“Yeah, I’d love to,” I replied, absent-mindedly stuffing Mandy’s things into her swim bag.

Lisa shot me a wary expression and left.

“Mum, why did you say you’d love to when she said ‘see you’?” Mandy asked me with a look of confusion.

“Lisa asked me to go for a coffee next time she sees me,” I said, a little uncertain.

“No she didn’t.” Mandy scrunched her brow. “She said she needed a coffee next time, and she said see you.”

“Oh.” That explained the weird look then.


Yes, I’m socially awkward. Yes, I say random things. Silver linings people. I’m pretty awesome at listening… most of the time.

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JUMPING FEET FIRST

With the easing of lockdown restrictions, I took the opportunity to catch up with a friend and meet the newest addition to her family. Unfortunately for me, I had to travel over the West Gate Bridge to get to the meet-up destination.

For those unfamiliar with Melbourne, the West Gate Bridge is the fifth-longest bridge in Australia at 2.6 kilometres, has ten lanes (5 inbound, 5 outbound) and sits 58 metres over a large river.

As I have an intense fear of heights, possibly a phobia, driving over this bridge had me shitting bricks. Instinctively, my hands were gripping the steering well for dear life. I felt nauseous and dizzy, my stomach was roiling and I was trembling in fear the whole trip across.

Rationally, I know the likelihood of unintentionally driving off a bridge is zilch. It’s even more absurd to think that a truck could bash into my car and push it over the steel safety barriers. Yet, it didn’t stop my anxiety from escalating and delusional fears from surfacing.

The drive had me thinking that perhaps I had let this phobia get a hold of me. It was a stupid bridge, albeit 58 metres above water, but it was nothing compared to some of the things I’ve pushed through before.

Some years ago, my husband and I travelled to Queenstown in New Zealand for our honeymoon, wanting to experience extreme sport and outdoor activities. Being an adrenaline junkie with little fears, Queenstown suited my husband perfectly. For me, who preferred sedate and sedentary activities, this was the jumpstart to being more active.

We did jet boating at high-speeds through rocky gorges. We went skiing on the beautiful white snow of Coronet Peak. We cruised on Milford Sound and were amazed by the majestic mountains and gorgeous natural surrounds. We zoomed down 1.6 kilometres of Skyline Luge tracks. I even sat on the bottom of a gondola that hovered 450 metres above ground… with my eyes closed the whole time. The buffet at the top was worth it!

But it wasn’t until we did the bungy jumping and swings that my fear of heights swallowed me whole. My legs were shaking before I even set foot on Kawarau Bridge. I remember it vividly; the chokehold of fear, looking down at the waters below. I remember the man telling me to dive and just feel the moment. I also remember wanting to back out but my ego not letting me.

So I jump. Yeah, you read correctly. I didn’t dive. I cannonballed off the ledge. Can you guess what happened? It was a bungy jumping fail of spectacular proportions. As the cord recoiled, I ended up pinging up and down like a pogo stick for what seemed like forever. I felt sorry for the dudes given the task to reign me in. I kept missing the stick that one of the guys held out for me to grab and more than once, he overbalanced trying in vain to end our collective misery.

There were many MANY people on the sidelines that video recorded my epic bungy jumping fail. It probably went viral – look up ‘crazy Asian girl does epic bungy fail’ or something like that. My husband was so amused that he insisted we pay the exorbitant fees for the video and photos. In fact, he purchased the most expensive package so we would have digital evidence for our grandkids and their grandkids to have for laughs.

So really, what’s one small bridge when I’ve conquered that, right? Next time I drive over the West Gate Bridge, I need to remind myself that I’ve faced worse and survived. I even have video evidence if I ever need a reminder.

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