I am a mom of boys. This is something I hoped for since I got married–that I would have boys–because I get them. Boys don’t say one thing and do another. They are not manipulative. Sneaky, maybe, but not manipulative. I’ve never heard of “Mean Boys”.
Plus, with boys, there’s no drama. No “he said/she said” play-by-plays of the soap operas of teen social life. Boys are pretty black and white, practical and logical. I can handle practical and logical.
My firstborn was just as I imagined he’d be. It was as if he’d read the AAP textbook on child development milestones to make sure he’d hit each one right on time. He napped like clockwork and was as predictable as one could imagine a baby to be.
Then we had another boy. It soon became evident that the only thing the brothers shared was anatomy. My youngest was emotional and teary, sensitive and touchy and seemed, to me, very needy. He’s matured as he’s grown, and things became much easier when he was able to communicate with us. We could explain thing rationally, apply logic, and reason with him. But too often, I still think, “this is what it would have been like to have a girl”.
But here’s the thing. I have never laughed harder than I do with my youngest. I have never felt pain, sadness, futility or frustration deeper than with him. Lately, I find myself crying over news stories of victims of all kinds of atrocities and wrongdoing, and these are people I’ve never met. My practical side has been chipped away. I’ve become less practical, more sensitive.
Thankfully, this isn’t an ongoing condition. In fact, when it strikes, I mine the feelings instead of running from them. When grief, despair and compassion sneak up on me, I reach for my pen to write down how it feels, what it’s doing to me inside. When my heart is breaking, I bottle the emotion so I can share it later through my characters.
When I read a book and get to know characters, I want to really know them. What makes them cry? Laugh? Snort derisively? How much can they take before they crack? That will be telling of their strength, intelligence and personality.
When creating characters, practicality isn’t enough. Thanks to my sensitive son, I can finally create characters that feel all the feels so that my readers will be able to as well.