Article and Photos by Carrie Bentley

My husband and I have often used the phrase, “This is why we can’t have nice things!” With three small boys in our house, we have grown used to things disappearing, breaking, or getting worn out. Our boys aren’t trying to be destructive: our boys are just a special breed of non-stop movement, mixed with brains that don’t seem to understand cause and effect. 

I grew up in a family with three girls and one boy. My own mother might tell a different story, but I remember playing a lot of sitting games. We played jacks or checkers or just sat around talking to each other. My boy-filled household has little sitting. Instead they run, tackle, grab, touch, throw, climb, hug, and bounce. When they were small, our nice things started out on the floor or a bottom shelf. When each boy started moving around, nice things moved to the second shelf, then the third, then into storage in closets. 

My first son really enjoyed jumping on the furniture when he was a toddler. He still loves to climb trees and climb up the walls in our hallway, where he can stretch his legs across so both  feet touch the walls. One day when he was small, I caught him jumping on the couch. Again. After I’d told him at least a hundred times not to do that. I shouted across the house,

“Don’t jump on the furniture!” He called back to me, in rhythm with his jumping, “I’m…not…jumping…on…the…furni-CHAIR!  I’m…jumping…on…the…furni-COUCH!” This is why we can’t have nice things.

My second son put everything into his mouth. His crib had bite marks covering the railing. He would chew on toddler board books until it looked like a monster had taken one giant bite out of the whole book. He once decided to bite the buttons right off our television remote control. The baby advice books don’t tell you of the dangers of remote controls. We still have the remote control, wrapped in tape where the buttons used to be. This is why we can’t have nice things. 

And just to keep us guessing after we thought we had parenting figured out, my third son isn’t destructive at all. He just likes to take things and keep them for himself. For some reason, he really likes anything my mother-in-law gives me as a gift. She once gave me a scarf, and he decided it was his new blanket. She gave me a small pitcher, and he decided it was his new hot chocolate mug. It holds four cups of liquid. No one needs four cups of hot chocolate. Maybe that is why we can’t have nice things?

As the boys get older, we don’t find ourselves saying that phrase much anymore. Most of our nice things have already been ruined, stored, or given away. Now we mostly worry about the walls and windows as people get tackled and things get thrown. In the long run, none of those things matter much anyway. I’ve realized that I have at least three very nice things in my house that I don’t have to bubble wrap to keep safe — my three rough and tumble boys — and I wouldn’t trade them for all the remote control buttons in the world.