Sometimes I am surprised I have any feminine traits whatsoever. After spending my youth around two older male brothers and all male cousins, I could throw a decent spiral by the age of 8. Top that with a move to a rural farm area in Ohio at 12, and I was suddenly pioneering a large tractor and had some nice mulch growing under my fingernails. Thank God I had a sister to get sweaty with, but for the most part, I was a tomboy.
Fast forward a decade or two and my residence consists of two growing boys ages 8 and 6, a husband whose stomach never ceases to amaze me, a male Golden Retriever with an affinity for socks, and me, the lone female. Don’t get me wrong, I love to watch football, don’t mind going a while without showering, and can wrestle my boys with the best of them; but sometimes it might be nice to have someone ask me to paint my toenails. And God forbid if I call my boys “handsome” instead of “cool!”
I actually feel very blessed to be able to raise these boys to be great men, and I am blessed to have a great example in their father while doing so. My sister asked me the other day if I thought I did anything differently in terms of raising boys than I thought I would with girls and it gave me some pause. I think there are differences between the sexes in regard to how you teach them lessons, but I think the lessons overall are the same.
In a culture where I think women are often disrespected, either by fault of their own or as a result of a society where so much less value is placed on integrity and moral codes; one of my main concerns is that the boys grow up being very respectful of women. They are constant witnesses to their dad thanking me for dinner (every night), complimenting me on my appearance from time to time and opening the door for me. Some women are offended by such acts from men, and I guess to each her own, but when I think about how I want my boys to treat their wives, this is it.
Most women are more emotional than men. A generalization for sure, but men tend to be more pragmatic and “get over things” faster than we do. The other day, I was trying to explain this to the boys. I explained that sometimes women and girls cry more–and not just when they are hurt physically, but when their feelings are hurt. I told them that they should try to be sensitive to this as they grow. For example, it is never acceptable to drop a girl off in the middle of the street during a downpour after taking her for a fine culinary meal at Arby’s and then leaving her stranded without even a kleenex or a coat. Okay, obviously a bad college flashback on my part, but you catch my drift.
I also strive to teach the boys manners, but I think I would do this in the same fashion as I would girls. One big difference. Burps and farts are funny to boys, they just are–and if you have spent any time in a high school, frat house, or locker room lately, it doesn’t get much better with age. At the dinner table and around grown ups, not acceptable. But in their rooms or outside with their friends?? Well, I could waste my time chastising them, but as the old adage goes, boys will be boys. Please and thank you, and looking adults in the eye and answering them, are a must. If they need to engage in a little armpit humor from time to time, well, I may not join them, but I may just laugh.
Another big difference is the way boys engage or fight with each other. Have you ever listened to how a group of men talk to each other, interact, and will even arm wrestle into their 40s? Yeah, I may not get it, but if I get huffy every time the boys break out in a wrestling match or the tackle football looks particularly gnarly, I would be wasting my breath. Call me crazy, but girl drama is not that fun, and lasts waaaaay too long. Most men would rather duke it out, shake it off and have a beer, and that’s pretty admirable if you ask me. (Of course, the beer part still has to wait). Sometimes, the more I intervene in these things, the bigger the problem becomes. Have at it, and let it be done.
Last but not least, and this is a big hot button. I want my boys to become men. I don’t care if they play sports or instruments. I don’t care if they can recite Whitman or know the NASDAQ, but for the love of all that is holy and true, let’s not turn them into women. I see women, I love women, I engage with women, but I want to be married to a man. I want them to be able to listen, to be sensitive, to not be threatened by a powerful woman; but in the same breath, I want to feel protected (even though I am strong!), I want to show you love by making your food and washing your clothes (and be respected for my brain and my work too!), I want to take care of you (and feel worshipped and adored!). I want to know how to change a fuse or a tire (but have you offer anyway, while you praise me for my knowledge!). Call it sexist, call it unfair, call it whatever you want; but when I picture my boys taking care of their wives, I want them to be like my husband.
Do you have boys, girls, or both? Do you raise them differently? I’d love to hear your thoughts!