I was a “boy mom” for three years before a became a “I have both sexes mom”. (Can I say that? Is that even a thing?) I spent three years focusing on only those two boys before my daughter busted into the world. The experience of having two boys and then a baby girl has been enlightening, and I’m surprised by what I learn from them every single day.
For some reason I thought that having a girl was terrifying before Evie was born. Will the other kids be nice to her? Will she be confident and sure of herself? Are boys going to mistreat her? But now that I have a few years of observing my kids under my belt, I’ve found that my previous expectations and worries were actually kind of off.
After Evie’s personality began to develop (you know, starting with her first minutes of life when she wailed for hours straight in her husky, yes, husky and loud voice), my views began to shift. She has a beautiful smile, but her serious, what-the-hell-did-you-just-say-to-me face is her signature look. I recently dropped her off for her first (ever) day of school, and she didn’t even look back as I walked out the door; her independence was oozing. My boys took on the world at a much gentler pace and are, to this day, thoughtful and hesitant both physically and emotionally.
Boys are fun. They fart a lot and laugh a lot. They think that butts are hilarious. Sports are cool, superheroes are the best, and “Growing up to be like daddy” is at the top of their future jobs lists. At age five they’re quoting movies and reenacting scenes from Elf (oh, the Santa addiction…). They want to climb up the slide more than go down it, and wet puddles of mud pretty much beg them to jump in. (True story: if you ever find yourself trying to make friends with a group of five-year-old boys, just whisper the word “poop”. They’ll double over in laughter and immediately become your most loyal admirers.)
But boys are also affectionate.They want to hold my hand and play with my hair. They beg for family hugs to last longer every night when we tuck them into bed. They tell me that their teachers are the best because they help people. They love to hold their sister and promise to live with me forever. They are emotional and passionate. It’s their warmth that attracts people. This more affectionate side is what defines them at this point in their lives.
I hope that it’s always this easy to remember that their emotional strengths are just as important as their academic strengths or even their physical strengths. The world needs more emotional health awareness in general, and lately for me, I’ve been thinking about the emotional needs of specifically young males. As I jump into my tenth year of teaching, I continue to see the number of emotionally stressed and disturbed students increase. I sometimes worry that our society isn’t ready to tackle this. Is our first step awareness and acceptance? I’d say the answer is a resounding “yes”.
At the end of the day, I want my boys to be comfortable in whatever shoes they decide to put on. Sometimes it will be rough and tumble but other days they’ll want to sign up for a cooking class over a hockey team. We owe it to our sons to show them that well-rounded is more important than macho. They don’t need to hide behind that mask. I look at my boys and I hope that their affectionate sides aren’t fleeting, and I hope to always stress how healthy it is for them to be this way. Be free to show your emotions if that’s who you are. The suppression won’t do you any good even if it feels like that’s what society expects.