Snips and snails and puppy dog tails, that’s what little boys are made of….
Boys and girls are different, have you ever noticed? I continue to be amazed at the difference.
At our last birthday party, the little girls (outnumbering the boys 2 to 1) played together so nicely that I might have forgotten they were there. They played dress-up and fixed each other’s hair. They also pulled every My Little Pony and Little People doll out into the middle of the floor and commenced to sorting them by color, pink and purple of course. They played nice, quiet games.
The boys, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say that they were a bit rowdy. It was rainy outside and they were stuck playing in a house that was filled with 30 or more people. They used tinker toys as weapons. They ran through the hallway yelling. They threw toys at each other. They wrestled. They got hurt. Then, they wrestled some more. At least one of them decided jumping off the bunk bed would be fun.
I spent the afternoon, along with my mom, step-mom, and mother-in-law, fussing at the boys to calm down. There’s a time and place for “boys to be boys,” and it wasn’t in my people filled house. I’m so glad the next party is in June. I’m already praying for outdoor play weather and limited injuries. Perhaps I’ll re-stock my first aid kit between now and then as it is probably depleted since the December of Many Stitches.
All this got me thinking about raising boys. Boys have it rough in our society. I bet many of them spend their days hearing the words “NO” and “Have you completely lost your mind” all too often. Little boys are stuck at home all day with their mommas and their sisters. If they are lucky, they may have a little brother to keep them company. With so many dads out of the picture or working in 9 to 5 jobs an hour away, our boys are without male influence most of their day. When they go to school, they find that many of their teachers are women, they are expected to sit in a desk for hours on end, and are discouraged from doing anything that might cause injury or damage. Our boys are lacking many of the good things they need in order to grow into good, strong men.
I want to be a good mother to my boys, but it’s so hard for me to be the influence they need. My oldest boy wanted to learn to ride a bicycle the summer he turned five. The bike we bought him was a bit too tall for him. So when I saw a smaller one at a yard-sale for $3.00, I happily paid the lady and put it in the van. I unloaded it when we got home and went inside to change the baby’s diaper, telling him that he was welcome to try it out in the front yard and I’d help him learn to ride at naptime. I had only been in the house for a few minutes when he came in to tell me that he could ride his new bike. I didn’t believe him. Yet, proof was easy to see as he coasted across the yard. It didn’t take long before he learned to pop wheelies and leave skid marks in the gravel driveway. He loves slamming on the brakes, sliding the bike sideways, and then measuring one foot in front of the other to see how long his latest triumphant skid mark is. All this boyish risk taking makes me wheeze and have heart palpitations. It’s hard being a momma to a boy.
I’m still finding my way in this frightening territory, but I have learned a few things.
- Teach boys to have compassion for others. The mushy, gushy stuff doesn’t always come easily for them. Sometimes, they need us to explain how their little friends are feeling and help them understand and feel empathy. Besides, it’ll be good practice for when they grow up and get married.
- Let boys have jobs to do around the house and brag on them when they do the job well. Boys (and girls) need jobs to do and they need to feel the the pride associated with a job well done. They also need to be needed.
- Boys need an outlet for their physical energy. Whether they participate in sports, take care of the family livestock, tote firewood, pull weeds, ride their bikes, or climb a tree, they do need to do something active every day.
- Boys need to see their father or some man in their life working. They need to be taken on as an apprentice by that person, learning to fix cars, hoe a garden, drive a tractor, or drive the family car. Boys need to learn how to be a man of worth. Best way for them to do that is to have a man of worth in their life who loves them enough to teach them and spend time with them.
- Boys need to learn how to treat other people respectfully. They need to learn to treat girls as girls, knowing that they are often stronger and bigger and need to be protective of the ladies in their life. They need to be taught to be gentle and respectful to older folks. They need to learn to be quiet and dignified when the situation calls for that type of behavior.
- Boys need to learn manners. I’m not talking about which fork is best to use, but the practice of being considerate of another’s needs and comfort.
- Boys need good books and role models. Most of what I see in the main-stream that is targeted for boys is not, in my mind, appropriate encouragement for what I want my little boy to become. There are good things out there, but they are few and far between. I want my little boys to see strong, compassionate, honorable men who do what is right, say what they mean, and are tough as nails.
I’m still finding my way in raising boys. Truly, it is a challenge that I want to get right!
What have your learned along the way in the process of raising boys? What has stretched you the most? Hope you’ll leave a comment and share your observations and boy-raising knowledge. This momma needs all the help she can get.