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The Truck Gene Drives Me Crazy

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My son's pediatrician said it's a Y chromosome thing. He was very reassuring and told me not to worry. I wasn't exactly worried, just baffled. How did it happen that my 18-month-old son, Phineas, already had an obsession?

Here was a little boy greeted at birth with a nursery full of non-gender specific toys: rattles and ducks and black and white squeaky things. As he grew, for every toy train, we made sure there was a teapot; for every baseball, a baby doll. Eventually his shelves were crammed with Duplo blocks and crayons and, oh, who cares.

All he wanted were trucks.

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If they weren't his toy trucks, they were books about trucks. And if they weren't the books, then it was the real thing roaring and chugging by our living room window. At least five per hour. We had the garbage truck, the mail truck, the recycling truck, the UPS truck and SUVs that may as well have been trucks. As they passed, Phineas would sit on the back of the couch and greet each one like a beloved, diesel-spewing friend.

It didn't take long for me to realize the doctor was right. It's a boy thing. Phineas' friends Gabe and Max and Patrick had the same predilection. Ali, Phoebe and Chloe did not. Here's how I know. You can try this test in your own playgroup. Casually ask the other mothers to explain the difference between, say, a backhoe and a bulldozer, or a platform loader and a grapple. Watch the mothers of the girls go blank when you mention a grader. Watch the boys' mothers nod and say things like, "Ah, yes, graders. If it weren't them, how could anyone scrape away the dirt to make a smooth path for the paver."

After years of raising both a son and daughter, I have to conclude that trucks are in the DNA. They are loud and big and dirty, and most boys have no power to resist them.

I am sure there are exceptions. There has to be. But I live right next door to a busy playground where I have yet to see any girl embrace trucks with the same vigor that I have witnessed in almost every toddler boy. Phineas not only fell asleep hugging his favorite wooden fire truck (a ladder, not a pumper, for those in the know). But he often woke us in the night with the plaintive wail of "Big, big truck!" In the morning, he would pounce on his giant dump truck as if he missed it while in slumberland. And his only playground battles involved sharing his flatbed trailer with, of course, other flatbed-trailer-loving boys.

Once when I had to scold Phin for climbing onto the dining room table and playing demolition derby with the books and candlesticks and everything else, he lowered his head and softly, blamefully muttered "Trwuck." Like the truck made him do it. Like what choice did he have?

So what does this mean? How to explain truck mania?

Well, this mother had always believed in nurture over nature. I never thought that boys were made up of puppy dog tails and girls of sugar and spice. It's the care we take in raising our children that determines their emotional make-up, personality and interests.

Forget that.

After years of raising both a son and daughter, I have to conclude that trucks are in the DNA. They are loud and big and dirty, and most boys have no power to resist them.

When my son turned 3, my husband suggested having his birthday at a monster truck rally. "Wouldn't he love that?" Mark enthused.

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Of course he would, but not me. I pictured five little boys drooling as 65,000 horsepower worth of diesel-burnin' steel clashed and collided in a muddy field. When I proposed that I would rather host 50 sugar-high tykes in our home than be dragged to such an event, my husband got this sheepish look, and said, "Well, I don't mind taking them. I've always wondered what those rallies were like."

What could I do but shake my head? Perhaps genetic engineering is my only hope.

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