At what age do boys become dudes? It’s way earlier than you think.

It’s potentially a wonderful philosophical and developmental question. When exactly does a child progress along the path of maturation to become an adult? Is it based on having achieved some level of cognitive development?  Perhaps it is based on crossing some chronological gateway, an age when we magically convert from boy to man? Or perhaps it is based upon having completed some rite of passage?

My toddler today helped me postulate that the progression from boy to man (or as I will refer to it from now on: dude) begins at the moment when a boy begins to seek a girl’s attention, and thinks that doing stupid things in public is necessary to attract said girl’s attention. Evolution to dudeness begins so early. My dude has only recently edged past 2 years of age. He has never been overly fond of the swing on the playground. He certainly tolerated getting lifted onto the kiddie seat and pushed a few times, but he would clamor to get off within a few swings. Until this afternoon.

We were playing around in the park when a little girl, perhaps no more than a year older than he is, was hefted up onto the baby swing. My boy’s head immediately snapped up from where he was industriously filling in a hole in the sand some other kid had fastidiously dug out moments before. His eyes were suddenly different. He dashed the twenty meters separating him from the only other toddler’s swing seat in the park screaming “Papa, swing!” at the top of his lungs. I obligingly lumbered along and plopped him down into the seat.

I pushed him gently, no further than his usual tolerance would allow me to. “Papa, higher!” he chirped.

What? I actually had to ask my wife for a confirmation, since I could not conceive that he even knew the word.

“Papa. HIGHER!”

Sure, kid. Whatever. I gave him a stiffer push, sending him soaring up to about chest height.

“PAPA! PAPA! HIGHEEEEER!” He insisted stridently.

Huh? I then noticed that he kept peering over to the right at the little girl. Her dad was pushing her a little higher than I was pushing my boy. Sorry, my dude. He was most definitely deep into dude mode at this point.

He was rapidly returning from the far point of his oscillation. He began screaming as the seat touched my hand: “Pa…” The words cut off as I shoved harder than I ever had shoved my little dude before. Careful what you ask for, kiddo. He soared on mighty scything arcs that reached ever so slightly above my head, giggling and chortling gaily all the time. Every time air resistance threatened to lower his apex below that of his companion, he would instruct me to give him another boost.

This swinging stuff is harder work than it looks. I eventually started to tire. Thankfully, the little girl’s parents thought it was time to get her home to toss her in the bath. She had not made it five steps away from the swing that my little dude began to think that swinging was no fun anymore. Off he went.

Yep. Biochemistry at its finest.

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