Sunday, January 28, 2007

Men are from Mars, Boys are from ???

I had a real moment of self discovery recently about boys and loving them, parenting them, and nurturing them. I was talking with some friends, some who have grown daughters, and it became quickly apparent to me as it often has with others in the past, that they are clueless about boys and their special hearts.

Our society today has, in many ways, become a male-bashing society. In an effort to give women a boost up, as was truly necessary in years past, the pendulum has swung too far the other way and often we devalue men. We seldom see a strong, caring nurturing male role model in TV shows, instead they are depicted as bumbling, brainless buffoons. Gone are the days of the fathers of shows like Little House on the Prairie or The Waltons and in are the fathers of shows like Everybody Loves Raymond, or the "men" (God forbid) of Friends. Slowly, in our national collective consciousness, we have placed men in the category of "Slow, Dim-Witted, Insensitive Jerk", necessary only to handle the more physical tasks of our daily lives that would otherwise perplex us.

Why is this? Why aren't sons cherished as much as daughters? Why are there orphanages full of beautiful, smart, caring boys and families are willing to wait months, if not a year or more, for a referral of a baby girl?

It is interesting to note that those whom I have met who are parents of boys only...whether they are young are grown, sing their praises to high heavens. It is as if we parents of boys have a special secret that the "others" don't know about. Let's debunk some myths right here:

1) Boys Are Not Affectionate - To this I give an emphatic Bull Pucky! Both of our boys are extremely open, warm and physically affectionate. Matthew, even at 7 1/2 years old, loves nothing more than to crawl up on my lap or snuggle next to me while we are watching TV and he is the same with Dominick. Both boys love nothing more than to sleep in our bed between us as a special treat. Could it possibly be that some boys are not as affectionate as others because they are expected to be less affectionate, and therefore it is a self-fulfilling prophesy of sorts? We have loved on our boys as much as we would daughters if we had them, and frankly I can't imagine having a daughter being any more comforting or warm than what I have with Matthew and Joshua. Now, admittedly, Matthew is far more reserved about who he shares his hugs with, but I don't think there is a thing wrong with that...he is affectionate with those he feels closest with, who have "earned" it, so to speak. Josh is a cuddle-bug with many of his favorite people.

2) Boys Don't Express Themselves Or Their Love - Boys DO express themselves differently, just as men do. Why can't we women accept that and appreciate it? Although both my boys say "I love you" constantly, they also show thier love for me in different ways. Jumping up and doing a pretend karate chop on each other as they say "Don't worry mom, I'll protect you!!!"...well, that is them saying "I love you!" in thier language. One of them walking in the room to see what I am doing, and then leaving to return with a car or a toy and play on the bed behind me as I type, well I guess I have always interpretted that as "I love you and I want to be near you!". Sometimes I think people don't read boys well at all. If a boy comes up and wants to wrestle with you or show you his muscles, that is his way of showing that he cares! As for men, well...Dominick "tells" he that he loves me in a million different putting gas in my car or going out and warming it up for me in the morning, by doing the dishes while I am working on something else, by giving me that extra hour of peace and quiet on a lazy weekend morning. That all is Manspeak for "I love you!".

3) Men/Boys Are Not "Deep" - Oh this one is such hogwash it isn't even funny! Between Matthew and Joshua in the last couple of years I have had coversations on the following topics: Sadaam versus Hitler, Kim Jong Il and nuclear destruction of the world, birth moms and abandonment, what does love really feel like inside your heart, what are the reasons for some kids being bullies, how are babies made, what is courage, what if we lived in Kazakhstan and mommy was Kazakh, why God is like electricity, why do people take drugs, what does it mean to be in a family and what will we have to teach "T", having birth parents means you also have birth grandparents somewhere too, and so many, many more things. I can't even begin to share all that we have talked about that would be considered deep for girls or boys at this age. But as a parent, you can't just wait for subjects to come up, you have to introduce them, and once that is done it is amazing where it will lead and the conversations that are then started later on by them! Boys aren't deep? Ha! At this stage I am just sincerely glad I don't have girls if they are deeper than this, and we haven't even hit the teenage years yet...yikes!

4) Boys Are Thoughtless - NOT! That is why my refrigerator is plastered with artwork by Josh that has "To my mommy" written on it by his teacher that she informed me he insisted HAD to be written on there. That is why as I struggled to carry things in from my car today Matthew grabbed some 2 liters of pop and said "Mommy, I can get this for you!". That is why when I had had a bad start to my day the other day Joshie put his arm around my shoulder and said "Want to start your day over again Mommy?". That is why Matthew kissed the photo of his brother-to-be in the photo album we are making for him...because boys ARE thoughtful!

Boys CAN BE loud, rough and tumble, crass, less perceptive at times of the subtle nuances of behavior. And I don't know what it is about boys that even in infancy they find thier own flatulance hilarious. But there is such warmth and sensitivity there that always blows me away that others don't see. As a Cub Scout Leader I work with boys all the time, and I can honestly say I adore them all. Each one has his own unique personality, they have so much energy that I can't keep up with them if I try! But they all have their tender sides too, if someone just takes a moment to look inside rather than dismiss them as "just boys". They express their emotions with action, not words. If you key in on that, you can often get the words to come out.

I have been accused, believe it or not in all seriousness, of wanting all boys because I just want to be the Queen of the House (yea, with my personality that is a total joke!). Someone once said a couple of years ago in half-seriousness that I didn't want competition in my house being the only girl. I couldn't believe that! While I admit that my "men" all treat me kindly and with great love and respect, that has nothing to do with it. It is because, I believe, I see something in boys that others don't, and I can bring something out in them that others can't. I am a firm believer that "boys will be boys" to some extent, but "boys will be boys" is often an excuse to allow parents to treat them differently, thus sometimes encouraging the very behavior they claim not to understand! If you tell a boy not to cry and to buck up and be a man, then he will learn to swallow his emotions. If you say that boys are always rough with each so you allow them to beat each other up, then you will not end up with a boy who has a tender, gentle side...he will live up to the level of expectation you place on him. If you say that boys do not do well in school, well for sure they won't...why should they, you already TOLD them they would fail!

So many people can not see below the veneer that is a boys personality. They see a loud, energetic, less-than-couth child and instantly categorize them. It takes time and effort to lift off that veneer a bit and see what he is made of underneath. For as often as I hear people (usually women) claim that men are uncomplicated, they sure can't seem to figure them out! I am not setting myself up as an expert either, all I am saying is that I care enough to move past the myths and stereotypes to try and figure them out.

So if Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus...where are Boys from? I believe they are from our hearts.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this.

And, let us be the first to say that my whole family laughed out loud at the "send him BACK!" comment. Apparently, we are hopeless sickos, too. Of course, then again we are still telling my younger sister that we are going to call the gypsies who left her on the doorstep 30-some years ago to come and take her BACK!

Kelly and her boys

LaJoy Family said...

HAHAHAHA! Of all the people who might read my blog, I KNEW you would "get it". From one sicko to another, I am so glad we have gotten to know one make me feel normal! Cindy and her boys :-)