boyspeak to mantalk


My 9-year-old Maya was born with many gifts. One of them was the uncanny ability to understand the language of the opposite sex. I wasn’t born that way, and in fact, I still have difficulty interpreting what has now evolved from boyspeak into mantalk.

I discovered this talent when she was still in 1st grade, at the yearly school Jog-A-thon. The format of the race was the children had to run as many laps as possible in an hour. All the elementary children were lined up and Lewis, a cheeky blond boy in Maya’s class, leaned forward and yelled with a slight lisp, “I’m going to KILL you, MAYA!!” I was a little stunned by the murderous vernacular and wondered if my little race horse would whither out of the gate. But Maya wasn’t remotely phased.

Maya was standing right at the other end. She leaned her beautiful face out of the line up and threw her head back, shrieking with laughter. I was amazed to see a smile as big as the sun pasted across her face. Wow! She was tough! I would have melted into the tarmac with shame and mortification at that age at the idea of being called out by a boy!

Maya somehow already knew how to decipher boyspeak. Somehow she understood that – “I am going to kill you” equaled “I have my eye on you and I think you are really cool!”

Maya was the tiniest girl in her grade and perhaps even smaller than all of the kindergarteners. But what she lacked in stature she made up for in volume. Initially she hadn’t been interested in doing the race, so we had to provide a financial incentive – if we’d known about Lewis, we might have committed less per lap! We had decided to sponsor her for $10 a lap. I’d never seen her jog for very long, maybe the occasional lope amidst a lot of complaining. We thought that she would run 2-3 laps at the most -You’re probably wondering where our school spirit was that day and that’s a good question!

The gun fired – luckily not by Lewis, and off they went. Maya started out strong and just kept going. I was shocked. Maya ran and ran. First 10 laps, then 20, then 30. Her face was as red as molten lava, but she just wouldn’t quit. Even Grace, my 12 year-old, couldn’t keep up with her! Not only was I afraid Maya was going to pass out, but this was also more money than we had bargained on spending! We had now pledged over $300 to the school!

I watched my tiny Maya saunter past her pint-sized competitors, even though they towered over her. Lewis plodded by me, already a lap behind Maya, his shaggy shock of sweaty matted locks. I forgot myself and yelled, “Lewis! Maya’s beating you!! Ha! Ha!” Casper looked at me, eyes agog, ”Your heckling a 6-year old?” How low could I stoop?! Get a grip woman! I guess that streak of mommy tiger slipped out! Hey, he threatened my girl! Of course, he hadn’t in truth, it’s just that I didn’t speak his language!

By now, Maya had gathered quite a following by the high schoolers who were cheering her on. “Go, Short and Speedy!” they were chanting. I was getting concerned about the cost and I prompted Casper to ask her if she wanted to stop. We didn’t want to discourage but at the same time…! She huffed, “My body is telling me to stop, but my mind is telling me to go on, and I am going to listen to my mind!” We were stunned! Where did this spunk come from? Was it the need to outdo Lewis? I had never seen this side of my daughter!

Finally, the bell sounded. The hour was up. Maya had run 43 laps in an hour – the equivalent of 4 ½ miles. I couldn’t run 4 miles, let alone at 6 years old! She had won, she had beaten Lewis, she had beaten the entire elementary school – except for one 5 grader, 3 times her size. She instantly became a legend!

The next day, I received an urgent phone call from the nurse, I had to pick Maya up – apparently she was in a lot of pain. Her legs were so sore, she couldn’t walk! I rushed over to the school and was accosted by the nurse. “You have no idea how special your daughter is!” I tried to tell her that I did, in fact know how special she was, but she ignored me! She grabbed me by the arm, “It is VERY rare for such a young child to have so much determination. We expect she’ll be running the school by next year! “ She joked. “Do you know what she said to me when I asked her why she ran so hard?” I shook my head. “That she had never had a trophy before and she wanted one!”

WOW! All along, I thought she wanted to outdo a boy and I was so wrong. It had nothing to do with him. She wanted a trophy!

The school went and bought a special trophy for Maya, which we display in her bedroom, it is almost as tall as she is.

Every year I ask Maya if she wants to compete in the yearly Jog-A-Thon and she declines. Why? “Because I already won a trophy, I don’t need another one!

They no longer hold the race over a weekend, so I haven’t witnessed the race since then. But I just discovered that Maya in fact does participate each year. She doesn’t care about winning, but she runs nothing under 3 ½ miles each time – and each time, Lewis yells at her that he is going to beat her. He did beat her in 2 and 3rd, but this year she bested him again.

I called Lewis’ mom, because I was curious if she knew about their ongoing feud. She didn’t. This was their secret feud!  I joked that Maya was thinking of inviting Lewis over for her celebration party. I heard Lewis yell, “I’m going to bring a chainsaw!” Again, I was shocked by his offer! And so was his mother! “I don’t know what that means?! I stammered. Maya thought his response was hilarious. She roared with laughter. Maya’s lack of intimidation was giving me courage to answer back! I yelled into the phone, “Lewis, bring the chainsaw to cut the cake!” I was quite proud of myself!

After, we got off the phone. Maya goes, “Mom that was good, telling him to cut the cake, but what he meant was – and she gestured with her finger sliding across her tender little throat, making a dramatic, gasping sound. “Sore loser!” she jested. Oh! I get it, he was telling her that he was mad that she had won!

I am not allowed to say she has a crush on anyone. That’s not cool! (Even though Lewis gave her a skateboard with a giant pink heart on it for her birthday a few years ago!) And she no longer asks boys for play dates or calls them like she use to when she was younger. But I still love watching her relate to members of the opposite sex. She finds boys hilarious and most glorious, coolest species on the planet.

And because she appreciates members of the opposite sex so much, they have gone up in my esteem as well!  She knows how to interpret boys in a way that often escapes me with men.

The bottom line – she speaks their language. And now she is teaching me how to find the love between the lines!


Related Posts

34 thoughts on “boyspeak to mantalk

  1. omg!! i remember when your show was on and she was just a baby!!! now she is running 4 miles?!! maya is one spunking little girl, may she never loose that drive that you and your husband have given her. btw, you might not want to bribe her again, you guys could end up broke and maya one very rich little lady. LOL

  2. Catherine, this was the greatest short story I have ever read. Your daughter was me, except the opposite sex. I am a man, but I was the little boy as your daughter was a little girl. I remember a little girl telling me she was going to whip my butt. Oh my lord. I wish I would have been able to understand girls in the 1st grade. Thank you Catherine for writing this. Make a perfect book. A perfect learning book. Made me think of all the stress I went through for nothing. : )

    1. I wish i had learned a little earlier! I, too, would have avoided a lot of pain! I was so afraid of boys that i literally hid under the dashboard of my father’s car, when he drove me to my co-ed high school for the first time and i saw a group of athletic looking boys approaching us on the road!!

  3. Great little story, Catherine!

    Two lessons:

    1) When you’re kind & humorous, you receive no penalty flags for “taunting”

    2) Kids never, ever stop teaching their parents

    Thanks for sharing such an endearing story

  4. Maya has the right mind set, she can see through the words and understand the under lying root of the behavior. She doesn’t re-act to it, but she allows her mind to act upon the opportunity for excelling into greatness.

  5. What a great story! And it just makes it even better that it is about Maya! Looking back, I can remember that same lighthearted, yet determined personality even in her preschool age!

  6. That story is classic! I love that Maya just wanted the trophe. Although I guess you heckled a kid for nothing. LOL. Great story.

  7. My Gia must be a bit older than your Maya, and she’s one tough athlete too, and I am always amazed, watching her. Where does she get it? I was loping and lazy at that age, but Gia loves pressure, competition, and laughs her way through it all. Her brother and sister are equally athletic, but don’t have that “i’m gonna beat you if it kills me, sucker” mentality . . .

    But all three of them love trophies.

    Kids. Aren’t we lucky, getting to live with them? Great post Catherine.

  8. A wonderful story.
    I was imagining the look on Casper’s face when you yelled at Lewis.
    As a teacher, I know how amazing kids can be.
    I have a feeling Maya will go far…and I mean more than 4 and a half miles!

  9. Hi Catherine,

    What a great story and fond memory for you! It also sounds like a “defining moment” in Maya’s life. Good for her! She will excel at whatever she wants to! It reminds me of my daughter Sarah when she was in 1st grade. The 2nd grade boys asked her to tutor and help them with their math. The teacher approved of this because Sarah was a wiz at math. Sarah went on to be popular with her class, I believe, because of her giving and helping spirit at that early age. It sounds like Maya is cut from the same cloth! I look forward to hearing more stories!


  10. THAT is hilarious. It’s KaragoraSPUNK……I have it too. People always underestimate me because I don’t appear to look like “I Can” with almost ‘everything’….and then “I Do !! ”
    I will bet Maya will find in her coming up years that it will be her most useful tool…..being underestimated.

    “I forgot myself and yelled, “Lewis! Maya’s beating you!! Ha! Ha!” Casper looked at me, eyes agog, ”Your heckling a 6-year old?” OMG I could see that happening! Funny.

    Much to write to you and Casper. Be on the look out at your fb pages tomorrow. xoxo’s

  11. That Is an awesome story.I enjoyed it very much. I too can relate to running at that age. We used to live out in the country and growing up 3 miles out of town we didn’t have any friends or neighbors that lived close enough to play with, much less our own age. i love to run.
    I use to make my brothers angry, just so they would chase me. I love to run when I was a kid.
    But i never participated in any sports in school because I just wasn’t that athletic nor was I really interested til I got older.

    1. that is so funny! Maya often tortures Celeste (7) so she will chase her! She tells me that Celeste chasing her is her favorite pastime!

      1. cat0x

        that is so funny! Maya often tortures Celeste (7) so she will chase her! She tells me that Celeste chasing her is her favorite pastime!


        Watching children at play is so fascinating, isn’t it, Catherine?

        When the Russians occupied Afghanistan, Time Magazine did an in-depth article about the Afghan people. One unforgettable photo in the article featured two young Afghan boys smacking their heads together, much like the mountain goats in that region. Although it gives me a headache, just thinking about it, that sort of play is great preparation for the metaphorical “head butting” that those boys would face in their adult lives.

        And Maya teasing Celeste, on the surface, may seem a bit cruel; but the end result of the chasing is wonderful physical exercise for both of them.

        You and Casper are truly blessed to have such vibrant and healthy children!

  12. Hi Catherine-

    I just stumbled across your blog for the first time – and I LOVED this story about your Maya! She sounds like such a FUN little monkey! My baby girl just finished kindergarten this past Friday – it was a day full of running races and water balloon battles – and I was filled with the same pride as I watched her go toe to toe with all the boys in her class – and *most* of the time she came out on top – but all of the time she had a smile that lit up her whole face. I love the way you write – I often resort to letting my photos *speak* for me and not finding the words to say what I am feeling- thank you for the inspiration!

    jen 🙂

  13. Hi Catherine, I was laughing out loud at this one! Come to think of it, I remember when Maya
    flew around the track. I just didn’t know the back story;)
    There have been many times in my life that I wish I had understood boys the way that Maya does! I think it’s safe to say that I’m not the only one in our family who adores her.

    1. Hi Rebecca, I’m so glad you liked it! I had to promise Maya that Lewis would NOT find out about this blog! I figure Maya doesn’t want her edge revealed!

  14. These are all really good! When are you going to do another one? I just finished them all…Again, reallly fun to read!! Thanks. You are a very juicy writer.
    Oh, and I love you very much.

    1. Hi dearest Ingy! I was thinking it might be time to write some more! The children sucked all the free time out of the summer!! NO excuses! love you dearly.

  15. Hi Catherine, I have a son turning 9 and a daughter turning 5. Your story put a huge smile on my face. Thank you! 🙂 Anine

  16. It seems I am a latecomer to this terrific story. I read this just as I was lamenting how little change there had been in gender stereotyping as I was looking for a gift for a four year old girl and found sewing, dolls, crafts and so on while toys for little boys include much more mentally challenging items. It seems our little Maya was showing us that she didn’t buy the old adage about “what are little girls made of, sugar and spice …” . She added determination, competitiveness and readiness to work hard for a clear goal she selected independently. Good for little Maya and Mom and Dad. By the way I see a bit of grandmom Elizabeth in that spirit.

    1. Mirjana! i would agree that a touch of Grandma’s DNA is trickling through Maya’s veins! Thank you for your lovely message. Maya’s favorite sport (to play – not to watch) is football and the boys in her class recruit her as she gets the most touchdowns!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *