Friday, July 11, 2014

In Response To "10 Things I Wish I Knew About Raising Boys"

A number of friends have posted this link on Facebook recently -- 10 Things I Wish I'd known about raising boys -- it's definitely not the first of its kind to get passed around or written about. In short the author discusses 10 things about raising boys: planes, trains, & autombiles, boys don't stop moving, clothes shopping will be a piece of cake, his fascination with his penis starts sooner than you think, roughhousing is innate, you'll probably make a trip to the emergency room, pee will be everywhere, you'll learn not to compare your boy to girls, the goofiness starts early, and boys adore their moms.


I know that this is the experience of many mothers. Mothers of boys AND girls. I'm not trying to "shame" the women who have posted this -- my friends who have are mothers of boys who definitely fall under these listed items. However, I wanted to give a voice to the mothers, like myself, who have a boy who doesn't.

Although my son loves trains and cars, he also loves his Rapunzel doll, his play kitchen, and cuddling with/swaddling his stuffed animals. Although he's an active kid, he can sit down at a dinner, he loves to draw and color at his little table, and loves to sit and do arts and crafts. He is very picky about his clothes -- the colors, if they match, what characters are on them. He definitely plays with his penis, but I've seen plenty of little girls (including myself when I was younger) explore themselves as well. Toddlers are figuring out their bodies! It's awesome! 

"Roughhousing is innate." I think this is the hardest one for me because my son is not a rough houser and it's been interesting to watch when other boys walk up to him and push him to signal that they want to play, or older men pretend to scare him and tackle him while trying to relate to him. All this causes is crying and fear. What's really interesting is that I was the opposite as a kid. I would growl and tackle people to show them that I loved them. I had wrestling matches with my little brother. Even now, I love roughhousing. My kid...not so much.

I won't go through all ten things. I just wanted to point out that sometimes it's posts like the one linked above that help perpetuate the essentialism of gender. Just because my kid has a penis, doesn't mean he wants to tackle people or doesn't know how to control his bladder or loves yelling and screaming. Some boys love that -- that's great. Some girls love that -- that's great, too. I wish posts like these would be more along the lines of "10 things I wish I had known about raising my boys." We try so hard to put kids into two distinct categories in regards to their gender, when our children might end up identifying as trans* or neither gender or somewhere in between along the very long spectrum of how people relate to the world and want to express themselves in regards to how they look, how they act, what they enjoy...the list goes on.

I think, early on, not giving boys boundaries, saying "boys will be boys" when they are mean or hurtful, steering them away from things our mainstream culture says are "feminine," is part of what gives men the sort of entitlement they feel later on in life. It's not teaching them about consent. Soraya Chemaly has a wonderful article about "The Problem with 'Boys Will Be Boys'" if you want to read more about it.

Again, I'm not "slamming" the mothers who relinked this post, or the mom who wrote it. Maybe what she wrote really is your experience. But, I want other moms out there who are thinking, "that's not my boy" to please know there's another mom right here who has a boy she's raising to be who he is...not what society tells him a "boy" should be. I'm hoping this means I'm raising a person who is kinder, empathetic, compassionate, and takes responsibility for how his actions affect other people. We should be teaching all of our children that, regardless of their sex.