Raising a little dude is loads harder than I expected. I've learned that I need to think like a caveman most days. As women, we have thousands of emotional states. Boys on the other hand, tend to feel one of three things at any given time: mad, sad, or happy. Trying to elaborate any of these emotional states seems pointless. Their issues are never that complicated. He wants to eat, poop, or run. On a really bad day he wants his toy back after some other kid took it from him. He doesn’t want to stare out the window and have lengthy discussions about the meaning of life, as I often wished that he did. I'm slowly learning a thing or two about these simple creatures I call "sons". I'll share a few morsels of helpful info that I've come to know as truth about raising little men.
Watch his body not his mouth. Again, like adult men, the clues to how your son is doing will show up first in his body language. Jumping up and down with six-inch vertical leaps is the natural state of being and is good. Slumped shoulders are bad. Yelling is good. Quiet needs attention.
When in doubt, hug. Boys will often have a much harder time than girls verbalizing their problems. My 5-year-old son will sometimes burst out into tears after seemingly trivial events. I know there is something deeper going on, but I am not going to get it out of him, at least not at that moment. So the solution is physical not verbal. I spend a lot of time just hugging my boys. I usually have no idea why. But as a default cure-all, it seems to work wonders. A minute later they are all patched up and ready to rumble again.
Yes, it really is all about poop. Girls seem to potty train 6 to 9 months before boys, but once boys make it onto the throne, there is no stopping them. Moving their bowels is pretty much the highlight of their day (at least at our house it is!), and they are going to want to talk about it. Bathroom time is a participatory sport. My five-year-old likes to head to the bathroom just as the family is sitting down to dinner, sometimes during dinner. It’s the first time he has been still long enough to realize he has to go. And he wants me to come with him, not just to assist in the wipe but to have a leisurely conversation about the status of his poop. As much as I found this inconvenient at first, now I just go with it. Quality time is quality time, folks.
Batman lives forever. Boys, even at a young age, realize the importance of super powers. They want to be good and believe in the existence of ultimate good in the world. Boys sort out their identities in relation to the mythical characters they hear about. My son is obsessed with Batman and Iron Man. He wears a full costume, even to Wal-Mart or to the park. What amazes me even more than his dedication to the superhero is how the people respond to his outfit, proclaiming, “Batman!” as he enters the store. He'll nod his head just slightly, acknowledging his public before moving onto the important work at hand, like going to kindergarten.
Pointless physical activity is perfect. My boys will spend an entire morning moving dirt from one side of the backyard to the other side of the backyard using only a spoon as a shovel. They insist that they are treasure hunting or burying super villians or something else incredibley ridiculous. What they are really doing is wearing each other out. I certainly will never complain about that!
Winning does matter, but less than you think. Boys — perhaps even more than girls — put themselves under extreme pressure to perform in school, in sports, and in social situations. They talk about it less, so the sting of failure can run even more deeply than with girls. With boys it’s important to emphasize the lessons to be gained from failure, instead of trying to win at all costs. Too often in our culture, boys are pushed to become one-dimensional robots. Goodness isn’t about winning at youth soccer or having the most friends or being the smartest kid in class; it’s also about being kind. That’s something as a mom that you can particularly help your son understand.
Clothes matter. I know there are way more options for dressing little girls than little boys, so the tendency might be to just throw jeans and a t-shirt on your son and forget about it. But you better make sure they are the right jeans and the right t-shirt. The only consistent battle I have had with my sons so far is over what they wear on their feet. Shoes, in kindergarten are a fashion statement, so it seems. They want to look cool; they want to be comfortable (pants that are tight but not too tight, warm and yet breathable). I do draw the line with clothes that have already been worn two days in a row, but I don’t discount the importance of fashion to my kindergartener.
Bedtime is sacred. Because boys are so active, it’s hard to get them to sit still. The best time of day is the ten minutes before they go to sleep. Crawl into bed with them, read books, and hold them while they fall off to sleep. There is nothing sweeter than lying next to your overactive son while his body goes limp next to you, and he ever so faintly begins to snore. These are the moments I live for.
Well there you have it. That's all I know so far. I've only been at this gig for 5 years and sometimes I find myself more and more confused as days go by. Boys are simple, yet still a mystery to me. As a mom, I find it's our life mission to try to figure them out. Not in a means to control or manipulate, but as a way to understand their heart and their passion. Loving these little boys is the greatest joy in my life. Dirty, boisterous, exhausting, confusing and amazing creatures that consistently bring a bit of sunshine to my cloudy days. Boys will be joys, indeed.