When my wife was pregnant with her first child, she was hoping for a baby girl. Not because she didn’t want a boy, mind you, but because she was worried that she wouldn’t be able to relate to a boy as much as she would a girl. A son was a daunting proposition to her. And though I don’t have an official study to back me up, I suspect she’s not alone.
Caroline got her wish. Her first child, my stepchild, was a girl. But when she became pregnant with triplets, Caroline quickly realized that the law of averages suggested she’d give birth to at least one boy. It turned out to be two. And while she’s glad that she now has children of both genders, she’d be the first to admit the following: sometimes she just doesn’t get our boys.
Tom Matlack, co-founder of the site the GoodMenProject, has recently written an essay which gives moms who find themselves in the same boat as my wife some things to think about.
Matlack’s essay is featured today on Babble. He begins by giving moms some serious props: “Let’s get one thing clear from the get go: moms are generally better parents than dads. And that goes double for me.” It’s with that humility which Matlack offers his thinking points. Though one commenter denounced his points as sexist, I think she missed the point. Matlack is not trying to paint absolutes with his piece. He’s simply trying to point out fundamental differences between boys and girls, ones that might not be readily apparent to a mom like my wife who was admittedly less confident in her ability to mother a son than she was a daughter.
Unlike many parents in the blogosphere, Matlack doesn’t positioning himself as an expert. His first two sentences alone prove that. Instead, he’s positioning himself as a male, one who happens to have grown into an emotionally available father who cares enough about the institution of parenthood to ponder such matters. Therefore, I didn’t read any of his points in absolute terms. Instead, I read them as broad concepts offered in good faith.
Here are but three of the ten things he offers:
Think caveman: With this, Matlack encourages moms to consider that a little boy might have fewer emotional states than, say, the average female. “Don’t project your complex emotional life on your son,” he writes. “His issue of the moment might not be that complicated. He wants to eat, poop, or run.”
Winning does matter, but less than you think: With regard to all things competitive, Matlack acknowledges that many boys (and girls) badly want to excel at everything. Of course, this is not always going to be the case. “With boys,” he writes, “it’s important to emphasize the lessons to be gained from failure, instead of trying to win at all costs, and to emphasize the development of the whole boy. Too often in our culture, boys are pushed to become one-dimensional robots.”
When in doubt, hug. Matlack points out that boys often have a harder time expressing their feelings than girls. (Go back to “Think caveman.”) No, this is not an absolute. Nor is Matlack trying to claim as such. Instead, he’s merely suggesting that if your boy happens to fall into this category, sometimes a hug will work wonders. You don’t always have to get to the heart of the matter. Your son might not even be able to get there, especially while he’s down in the dumps.
If you’re a mom who sometimes thinks her son is from Mars, I highly recommend you read Matlack’s essay by clicking this link. But please don’t approach the piece as a black-and-white assertion of gender differences, as that’s not what it’s intended to be. Instead, it’s just a little food for thought, offered by Matlack, who is a good man, indeed.