So somebody over at the Huffington Post wrote this thing about raising boys, and the blogosphere went a little crazy. It seems some of her observations were a little on the obvious side, and at least a couple of them read to some folks as more than a little sexist
As it happens, I have a son, so I am in a position to review her post. As it also happens, I have two daughters, one older and the other younger than my son, so I am also in a position to consider whether her comments are indeed sexist.
So let’s take a look. You can read the original over at the Huffington Post; here are my comments.
1. Star Wars is akin to religion.
This is true, and it’s an incredible parenting tool. From the moment he sees Star Wars, you get to hold his every action up to the standard of a Jedi Knight and challenge him to rise to it. “Son, does a Jedi talk to people that way?” It works with daughters too. George Lucas has given us such a gift.
2. Simultaneously hating and being grateful for the privilege your son will have as an adult male.
How about this: Teaching my son to be aware of the privilege he has, and training him to always use it to benefit those who don’t share in it. It’s surprisingly easy to do, and it turns your son into a good man that others respect; the kind of guy who, when a teenage girl is stuck at a bus stop after midnight in an unsavory part of town and a creepy guy starts bothering her and she runs to hide in the restroom at the nearest fast food joint, when she whips out her cell phone to call for help, your son is the first person she calls. He gets out of bed, gets dressed, comes to you and says “hey, I need a ride, we need to go pick up my friend.” When that happens, the pride and satisfaction you’ll feel will make it worth every drip of pee on your bathroom floor.
3. Boys give the best hugs.
Um, girl hugs are pretty great too. Truth is, up until about age 7 or 8, boys and girls are equally affectionate and guileless. Enjoy it, because there will most likely come a period when they (both boys and girls) are too cool to hug you. Don’t worry, they get over it.
4. Farts are funny.
Like most comedy, timing is everything. A fart at the right time and under the right circumstances is hilarious. For kids under five, “pull my finger” is comedy gold.
5. Everything will be covered in pee.
We never really had this problem. Maybe it was knowing that his sisters would kill him, but he seemed to manage to not douse the whole bathroom. Your mileage may vary.
6. Anything can, and will, become a gun.
True story: when my brothers-in-law were little, their mom tried to discourage guns and war toys; she gave them a toy farm instead. It took all of fifteen minutes for the pigs and cows to declare war on each other. So, yeah, conflict does seem to be hard-wired into boys, but my son was never particularly obsessed with guns. Sticks were his thing. He always had a stick or staff in his hand, stomping around like Gandalf. Kids are weird.
7. Boys are physical.
Some boys are, some aren’t. Some girls are, some aren’t. Granted, boys are generally more likely to rough-house, girls are somewhat more likely to enjoy dance or gymnastics. Both genders seem to enjoy karate class about equally.
8. Boys don’t listen.
Hot tip: Girls don’t either. The research may say that girls have more sensitive hearing than boys and are more attuned to voices, but they sure can tune them out when they want to. Here’s a second tip: kids don’t listen any better when you yell. Yelling just tells them that you’ve lost it. Kids figure out your patterns really quickly, and they know exactly how long it is between when the screaming starts and when you’ll actually get around to imposing some punishment. The trick is, get quiet. As any mafioso can tell you, people with power never raise their voices. They don’t have to; they know that when they speak, everyone listens or there are consequences.Your kids need to know that if you tell them something, there will be consequences. Yelling just tells them how long they can ignore you.
9. Marvel versus DC. Pick one.
Please. We don’t practice two-party politics; we vote for the man, not the brand. Batman is cooler than the Punisher, because he’s noble and heroic and doesn’t need a gun, to cite one example. There are plenty that go the other way as well. We taught our children the alphabet using superheroes. A is for Ant-Man, Atom, Aquaman and Angel. By the time they could read, they were well-versed in both DC and Marvel. They had favorite comics; our firstborn liked Legion of Super-Heroes (post-Zero Hour) and Green Lantern; our son liked Captain America, Batman and Wolverine, and our youngest adored Herobear & the Kid and Leave it to Chance. None of them were ever loyal to a particular company.
10. Clothes mean nothing.
That totally depends on the child. Some kids, even boys, are super-attuned to what the other kids are wearing, and won’t be caught dead in something that isn’t cool. My youngest girl was the clothes-horse, changing her outfit several times a day so as to be appropriately dressed for whatever the occasion. Our eldest daughter was even less concerned with clothing than our son; she had a basic uniform of t-shirt and jeans, while the boy was at least concerned that the superhero on his t-shirt was from the same company as the logo on his socks or underwear or whatever.
11. Boys love unconditionally.
So do girls. When your little girl stomps her foot and tells you to leave her alone, your boy will slam his bedroom door and scream at you. When your tween daughter is sullen and sulky and hates you, your son thinks you’re the stupidest person who ever lived. When your teenage daughter gives you the silent treatment, your son will think that everything you say, do or think is idiotic and embarrassing. But when they don’t feel those things, when their friends comment on how cool they think you are, when they are happy and everything is right, they will love you with all they’ve got. The boys and the girls. They will simply love you. And they will say so. Unconditionally. When they are grown and out of the house, off on their own adventures, they will call or text and tell you they miss you and love you. The boys and the girls.
Truth is, we raised two girls and one boy, and the differences were fairly slight. Almost 28 years ago, a doctor handed me a little girl, and I said “holy crap, now what?” Three and a half years later, another doctor handed me a boy, and I said “oh boy, how am I gonna do this?” Five years later, the first doctor handed me another little girl, and I said “okay, I think I got this.” All these years later, with our kids all grown into amazing young adults, I know two things are true: (1) every kid is different, and (2) the differences between any two children are far greater than the difference between boys and girls in general.