I used to think that raising boys wasn’t any different than raising girls. I believed that stereotypes ruled the land of childrearing, influencing the toys parents bought for their children. It was only because of cultural expectations, I thought, that boys played with trucks and girls played with babies.
I was wrong. Now, it may just be a fluke that both of my sons prefer traditional “boy” toys, but when I’ve supplied them with the baby dolls I had dreams of dressing and rocking, they threw them across the room. Or crashed them into each other. Or slid them down the stairs. They “drive” puzzle pieces across the floor like cars. They love balls and wheels and anything that moves. And more than anything, they are incredibly physical. I realize that is a child thing not a gender thing, but they aren’t just squirmy kids; they approach the world with their whole bodies.
What is it like to raise boys? It’s fun and silly and messy and loud and exhausting. Here are some examples:
1. Telling them they stink is a compliment.
Nothing makes my 6-year-old happier than being told he stinks. He thinks farts are boast-worthy. He delights in having smelly feet. Right now, his favorite thing to do is ambush me and breathe in my face before he brushes his teeth. I can only imagine how vile he’ll be when he’s a teenager.
2. No couch will remain un-forted.
Every weekend, my kids run to the living room for the Saturday morning ritual — making a fort with their dad. They pile the pillows high and cover them with blankets. Inside, they read to stuffed animals and drive cars. I don’t even bother putting the couch together until the weekend is over because there’s no point.
3. Furniture isn’t for sitting, it’s a jumping off point.
Expecting my boys to sit on their bottoms just sets me up for disappointment. While they use furniture to build other things (like forts and slides), they also use it as a literal jumping off point — climbing to the sides and top and flinging themselves off.
4. Emotions are physical.
Love, hate, anger, sadness — every emotion that my boys feel is expressed physically. They greet their dad after work with knock-down hugs, literally knocking him down to hug and scale him like a mountain. And they lash out when they’re angry, whirling around and knocking everything over in their path.
5. They will climb the walls — literally.
My first son was a climber. If it was in his eyesight, it could be scaled. We had to secure all of our furniture to the walls because dressers and bookshelves didn’t stand a chance around him. He loved the challenge of walls, though. He would fling himself against them, trying each time to get a little higher.
6. Investigating is a full-body experience.
My boys poke and prod and dig and delve into the world. I’ve said “look with your eyes,” more times than I can count, but they don’t know how to do that. They look with their fingers and mouths — they must investigate in as many ways as they can in order to fully appreciate what they see.
7. Farts are the funniest thing ever.
Even my 2-year-old agrees — farts are hilarious. He doesn’t talk much, but he’s hit upon a phrase that is sure to get him laughs: “Mama toot.” They’re funny when they smell and they’re funny when they’re loud. Basically, you can’t lose with a fart.
8. Correction: penises are the funniest thing ever.
Did you know that boys have penises? They do! And they’re even funnier than farts! I try my best to not react when my sons wiggle them around or whip them out. After all, they’re going to spend much of their adolescence obsessed with them, I don’t need them interested in them now.
9. Pee: it’s what’s on your floor.
Even though he’s been using it for years now, my son invariably pees next to and around the toilet. I need a recording of my voice in the bathroom repeating, “Don’t pee on the floor.” The second his mind wanders, his penis wanders.More On