I’m going to say something that is probably gonna get the gender police all riled up, but raising boys is hard.
Keep your earrings on, and note, I did not say raising boys was harder than raising girls.
I am not a boy mom who is about to tell you that. First, it’s unlikely to be true –boys and girls are different in some ways, but we’re still all just humans so we’re not THAT different. Second, I wouldn’t know anyway. Having only been the mother to male children who identify fully as such, I couldn’t tell you what being the mother to a girl child is like. I have my make believe moments where I envision life with a daughter as basically being her and me playing unicorn princesses after we put scratch-n-sniff stickers in our Disney autograph books and then go for glitter mani-pedis together, but I feel like that’s probably just not real life.
What I do know is that my position as a fully identified woman who subscribes to many female gender roles and beliefs, raising male children who are quite stereotypically male children makes things interesting. Mostly because I know the mind of the standard little girl. I get what she likes, I know what it feels like to go through puberty and worry about your boobs not growing enough, or *gah* too much! I understand the typical little girl’s relationship with her body, I appreciate the daily struggle of being a woman and navigating the world as such. I know how it feels to be judged for being too skinny (yes, there was a time in my life) or too fat or too brown or too smart or too opinionated or too hard or too soft or too everything.
I know this struggle. Because I live it.
I do not know what it’s like to go through puberty as a boy. I don’t fully understand their body struggles (seriously, they want to be bigger? Never in life have I wanted to be bigger). I don’t know the bro code, or why they wrestle like puppies, or what draws their hands into their pants to sleep, or what you’re supposed to call your man junk when you’re in a room full of men.
I don’t understand the pressure to be hard, to show few emotions, to act like things that matter don’t, to love sports more than books, and to have an answer when people ask you about your team.
This is a struggle I want to punch in the face because it puts my babies in boxes and, as much as they love to turn those into forts and then hang out in them for hours, these boxes are different. They’re hurtful and they’re limiting and they make my son feel ashamed to admit that, he still loves basketball so much, but he kinda just really wants to miss practice to go to theater club.
But here is what I do know. I know what my children need. I know what makes them them. I know what I can do to support that even though sometimes it gets all mixed up with norms and expectations. And I know what makes a guy decent. When all else fails, that is what I focus on.
Positive Parenting: 10 Things I Say to My Sons to Make Them Decent People
1. Be kind. I wish more people would encourage kindness in their sons. They’re encouraged to be brave, and strong, and fast, and smart. Those are all things that help them –kindness helps us all.
2. Make good choices. Bad things happen when people make bad choices, I remind my boys of that daily. Because they like to test this theory extensively.
3. Forgive. It’s hard, but it will make you a happier person.
4. Pay attention. Watch what goes on around you. You might be able to learn something. Or help someone. Or change things.
5. Stop talking. Think. Then speak.
6. Take a shower. Personal hygiene is a dying art form in today’s society. I can’t say we are the most well groomed family on the planet, but I am tired of seeing kids (and grown ups) go about life like they can’t be bothered to care about their personal appearance. People cast judgments on one another rather I think it’s right or not, and my boys are facing enough of those without also adding disheveled and smelly to the list.
7. Have faith. In yourself. In me. In humanity. In something more. It will get you through tough times. Like when you’re in the grocery store the night before a blizzard hits. You’ll need to believe that you and humanity can survive, because your fellow shoppers aren’t going to convince you.
8. Help your brother. They will be the people with you when no one else wants to be. Also, if you can help this person who is working your every nerve and trying all of the itty bits of your patience, then helping someone who isn’t quite so mind blowingly annoying will probably be a walk in the park
9. Put your shoes away. Clean your plate off the table. Put your dirty socks in the hamper. Hang up your coat. Help out around the house. Care for yourself and your area and don’t expect anyone else to do it for you. Not your dad, not your mom, not the lucky lady who will one day be your wife. Not anyone.
10. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I don’t want you to just feel it, I want you to hear me say it because I mean it every moment of every day. And I’m proud to let people know that.