"Don't you wish you had a girl sometimes?"
The boys vs girls discussion could go on ad nauseam. I don’t know that much about raising girls, other than what I experienced growing up with two sisters. There was a lot of drama, a lot of hysterics, and tears. A lot of ‘borrowing’ clothing. Girls seem to excel at holding grudges and endless talking about things. Feelings. It never occurred to me that maybe boys don’t grow up that same way, emoting, and feeling and drama drama drama. Don’t get me wrong, through our 18+ years of figuring out this boy parenting gig, I’ve earned my moments of counting to ten and wishing with all my heart that I could just shut and lock the bathroom door for 10 minutes, I have to say, though, that when young, boys and girls are very very different animals.
Here’s what I’ve noticed about boys:
Sticks. If we kept every stick my boys have found and dragged home, we would be able to build ourselves a new (if slightly rickety) home. Boys. Love. Sticks. Long sticks, prickly sticks, fat sticks, smooth sticks. Pointy sticks. I feel a Dr Seuss rhyme coming on. And they become beloved so quickly, it’s amazing; what looks like to me like a normal, run-of-the-mill stick is to them something so special that we MUST haul it home and keep it in the playroom. “Please, mommy, I don’t have one like this.” Try as I might to convince them that they should leave some sticks in their favorite places (‘how about we find a good hiding place, and then it will be here waiting when we come back!’),I don’t always managed to convince them.
Everything is a gun. Toast. Umbrellas. Toilet paper rolls. Toy cars. Even Lego constructions can all be guns. Pompoms glued together = gun. Paper airplanes folded just so = gun-toting machinery. Plastic utensils = guns. What’s shocking to me that even my 2 year old nephew is pretending to ‘boom boom boom’ things. I’ve given my ‘why we shouldn’t pretend to shoot everything’ speech so many times; each time it falls on deaf ears. Little boys pretend to shoot things. That’s just the way it goes. As the boys got older, and they discovered nerf battles, they realized how much fun pretend war can be, and suddenly, those bright little rubber-capped missiles are everywhere. Here’s the thing: pretend battles do seem quite violent (as do the accompanying war cries and capturing of prisoners), but they also help the kiddos work together to accomplish a goal, and build teamwork skills. The game can bring an entire neighborhood of kids together, and empowers community. Creativity to turn boxes into forts and the aforementioned sticks into swords. It’s not all bad. Of course, the best part of the recapping of involved events at dinner time. I love those jumbled-together giggle-laced stories.
Noise. Volume. Boys are loud. L.O.U.D. They make a lot of noise, all of the time. Noise is constantly emanating from one part of their body or another. They talk a lot. They yell, scream, and make car sounds. They even make noises while building blocks. Everything requires a sound effect. And if they aren’t making a sound effect, they have a running commentary on what they are doing with just enough ‘Mom, watch this!’ that you actually have to pay at least half an ear of attention. Eating can be a chore because it requires the mouth to do something other than talk; and talking while chewing gets a reprimand. I honestly used to think that my husband was the loudest person I had ever met until I met my first-born son. He is by far the loudest person I know. Still is, though his two brothers are not far behind him.
Faster is better. Why walk when you can run? Biking needs to be at top speed, regardless of knowing how to use the brakes. Same goes for scootering, sliding, anything play-related. Cars should only go fast. Even bouncing balls should be done at full speed. Everything involving movement needs to happen fast. It’s go go go, fast as you can. Yes, this means that when they slip and spill, it will be a big (loud) bloody mess. (So side note: always ALWAYS carry band-aids.)
Climbing. Up up up! My three boys are monkey-like when it comes to getting their bodies up any surface that has branches, finger holes, or the like. There is a tree right beside our kitchen window, and I can’t even think how many times I’ve looked out and spotted them up well above the first floor window, swaying in the breeze. Our family rule: If you can get yourself up on it, go ahead and climb. I don’t help and I don’t give boosts. My thinking is that if they can’t get up on it to begin with, then they obviously aren’t ready to climb whatever it is they are wanting to climb. My youngest spent many hours of his younger years, neck craned backward, peeking up through branches and leaves at the other two scrambling up the branches high up there, wanting to badly to be up there with them. All too quickly, I have three little monkeys swaying in the branches. In fact, for my youngest, for the longest time, his ‘happy place’ was in the mango tree out in front of the house. He hauled toys, books and snacks out with him, and precariously balanced there, he could while away hours.
Boys fight. At top volume, with a lot of heart and conviction and as though they are going to fight to the death. And then, after the battle (usually right after, with no time spent dwelling), they are over it and all is good. Friends again. Again, I grew up with sisters; retaliation and drama, grudges galore. One issue could and would become an ISSUE, and be brought up over and over again. Months and years later, that ISSUE may still be brought up again, and hurt feelings resurfacing. Boys? Mad as hell, punch each other, and then over it.
Rah rah sports! Now as they get older, sports sports sports are what they think about, talk about, YouTube about. They can and do discuss dunking skills and which player is definitely better, regardless of the time spent on court. Give them a ball, and they will be happy. Kicking, running, dunking, volleying … they love movement, they love the team, they love the combined effort to get the point(s). I love that they love movement, and hope they carry this thrill of activity throughout their lives.
Boys will be boys. Is this all even okay to say any longer? I’ve also realized a few things: gender identity is a wide spectrum, and your boy may very well truly enjoy playing with dolls and imaginary house. My three had a favorite toy: a play kitchen where they created plate after
plate of (wooden) food for me to ‘eat’ and another favorite was the dresser full of dress-up clothes. Friends, what I challenge you to do is offer and embrace all manner of games and toys, so long as they are safe, offer opportunities to foster imagination and kindle the ‘what if…’ Doesn’t have to be fancy, pink, nor battery-operated. And embrace the noise, embrace the laughter, embrace all that boys bring to your days.