posted by Joe Anaya on April 2nd, 2012

Boys are different than girls. That’s the end of it. There was a time a few decades ago when they tried to prove that the differences between boys and girls was just the way we were brought up, but now there’s pretty clear evidence that a lot of the difference is hardwired into our brains. As my son gets older, one of the differences I enjoy with him is the physical nature of play.

To my wife’s horror, she once caught us in a slap fight. Now before anyone calls Child Services, these are not hard painful slaps, just enough to manage a sound and force the other person to acknowledge contact.

We were sitting in the hot tub, because despite being Southern California, our pool is still too cold for human enjoyment. I was trying to relax; he was trying to play. One of his favorite games is “Annoy dad.” He achieved this by sucking water into his mouth and with cheeks bulging spits the water out on my face. I make the rule, “No spitting water on me.” He now fills his cheeks with water and gets an inch away from my face and dribbles water over me. “Hey no spitting on me.” His reply is of course, “I’m not spitting, I’m drooling.”

One of the things kids love to do is find the technical line of trouble and skootch right up to the line without crossing. Yes, he was not “spitting” the cheeks full of water on me, but he was right next to my face with cheeks full of water. Still annoying. “Okay, you have to stay away from my face.”

Where’s the next line of trouble? Cheeks full of water, mouth puckered next to my ear; over the top of my head; at the back of my neck. “Hey personal space. Keep away from me or I’ll pop your cheeks,” I threaten. Of course, he put his puffy cheeks right up to my face. I reach out and give his cheek a bop. Water shoots out and he’s giddy with the possibilities.

Getting frustrated, I thrust my face into his and demand, “How would you like it if I did this to you?” He reaches out and slaps my cheek. I instantly reach out and counter attack with a slap of my own. He slaps back. But I bob my head back and he misses. “Ha,” I exclaim in triumph. He catches me off guard with a left-handed slap. “Ha-ha,” is his retort. Within seconds we are in a slap fight; bobbing and weaving, jabbing, faking and slapping, and laughing hysterically. That’s about the time my wife saw us and demanded to know, “What are you doing!”

She wouldn’t understand; it’s a boy thing. The same way, she didn’t understand why we’re wrestled on the ground. Or why we were whacking each other with light sabers.  Or why we were testing how hard he can punch me in the stomach. And I’m sure some anthropologist could explain the mimicking of fight scenarios. Or a psychiatrist would explain the Oedipal nature of the father-son fight. But really it’s just a lot of fun, if you’re a guy.

File Under King of the Castle