These are 4 words that, when spoken together in this order, make me cringe (okay, so technically they are only 3 words, with 1 word used twice, but you get my point). And, now that we know (pretty much) definitively that GAR and I are, indeed, having a boy (ha ha! I was right! The “angle of the dangle” doesn’t lie!) I’m guessing that I’ll hear these words a lot. And it will take every ounce of control I have in my body not to scream when it happens.
Though I may be over generalizing here, I’ll say it anyway – it’s this “boys will be boys” attitude that parents use when raising their sons that’s responsible for so much of what’s wrong with the grown “men” I encounter in society on a daily basis.
You have no idea how many times I’ve been told that raising a boy is soooo much easier than raising a girl. And, while it’s true that I’ve yet to raise a single child and, therefore, my opinion on such things generally can’t be trusted, I still feel rather confident in declaring that statement total hogwash – raising ANY child, and raising him/her “well,” is very, very hard. In addition to teaching our children the basics and nurturing their intellectual growth we also have to teach them how to be good people … how to grow up to become a functioning, contributing, well-rounded, considerate and an all-around kick-ass adult someday. And this is hard because, let’s face it, as we look around there are a ton of really shitty adults out there setting examples for everyone to see.
And it all probably started when they were kids.
Once, years ago, a coworker brought her young son into my office because he had been kicked out of daycare for biting. While in our office he was really beating up on his mom and dad – slapping, kicking, ramming his toys brutally into their shins and making loud explosion sounds – nothing out of the ordinary for a child exploring his boundaries really. But his mother didn’t once correct him. She stated that they were choosing to ignore this behavior instead of rewarding it with attention (even if that attention was negative). Certainly this is one school of thought of raising children, and I’m neither agreeing nor disagreeing with it right now – just stating it here. But suddenly this child turned towards me and punched me right in my stomach. I wasn’t sure how to respond. For one thing it hurt like Hell, but should I ignore it as his mother wishes? After all, isn’t punching strangers where you draw the line? But before I could even react everyone else in the room began to laugh and my favorite words were uttered: “Ha! Boys will be boys, won’t they?”
Yes, yes they will. If that’s how we believe boys SHOULD be acting. While this sort of behavior is normal for children of both genders I’ve noticed that a little girl who pinches or bites or even so much as shouts out in a manner that’s considered too loud is scolded or told she’s been “unladylike,” whereas a boy who does such things is generally treated much less harshly. This is just one small example of what I mean here, but you can no doubt see the general point I’m trying to make – people say that raising a boy is easier because we expect less of them in so many ways (and then we expect sooo much more of them when they’re adults and running for president and whatnot – it’s a weird way of thinking that I’ve never really understood). Or, at the very least, we associate things like roughhousing and rowdiness, which are normal “kid” behaviors, as being “boy” behaviors and, thus, when boys do them we find them less objectionable, less in need of “correction,” than when a little girl does them.
I guess my point is this – boys aren’t a single bit easier to raise. If you want them to grow up to not exhibit these behaviors later in life you can’t laugh them off with a “boys will be boys” mentality when they’re young. In fact, I think raising my son to be kind, caring, gentle and yet also emotionally very strong will be incredibly hard because everywhere he goes outside of this house he will be given the green light by others to “act like a boy” in all these other (in my opinion) unhealthy ways.
My mother-in-law said to me once that she was so glad she had 2 sons because she never had to worry about them “getting in trouble.” Since my own dear, sweet, wonderful husband has seen the inside of a jail cell a time or two (while still under the care of his ever watchful mother), I can only assume that by “get in trouble” she really meant that he couldn’t get knocked up. While there’s no denying that this IS a perk of being born with man bits it sort of leaves out a very important fact – that boys can get GIRLS pregnant (in fact, that’s generally how it works). And it’s exactly that sort of laissez-faire philosophy that mothers of sons have about teaching their children about responsible sexual practices that is why every mother/father of a daughter lives in constant fear every time they let their teenager out of their sight for more than 5 minutes.
I am very much looking forward to raising my little man (and I do already think of him that way, as a “little man” who will someday be a “big man” and it’s my job to raise him to be the type of man that deserves respect), but I’m not laboring under any delusions that it will ever be even remotely “easy.” Parenthood is full of so many challenges and, let’s face it, I don’t have a freakin’ clue what I’m doing (nor do I even really have a handle on what challenges I’ll even be faced with – and I’ll probably never see most of them coming). It’s an incredible adventure that I am excited and nervous and overwhelmingly overjoyed to begin. I love my son so much already and I can’t wait to bring him into this world and show it to him. And, no, I’m not always going to be his best friend. He’s not always going to fill me with incredible pride with all of his actions and decisions. But I can’t wait for both of us to learn from our mistakes, try again and emerge as better people. To me this is what raising a child, any child, is really all about.
Oh, and I’m sure I’m going to screw it all up – bad. We all do. And he’ll hate me and resent me for all the things I didn’t get right – that ungrateful little fetus that he is. But damn it if I won’t try my very hardest every step of the way … and maybe start buying wine in bulk … I’m sure they’ll be plenty of times in my future when I’ll need it!