I just read an article that made me a little frustrated. I won’t even tell you the name of the article, because it was from a good source and the author had good intentions. I even agreed with most of what the author wrote… I just kind of resent her overall message. But reading this article is what inspired me to write something that I feel really passionate about.
I know that in our imperfect world, females are vulnerable. Sadly, so many men in this world take advantage of, abuse, and oppress women. (I am grateful to live in a part of the world where women and men have equal rights under the law.) For centuries, women have been viewed and used as sex objects far too often. As a woman, I obviously condemn any oppression, abuse of, and degradation of my sex.
But please: Don’t use the fact that there are some really scummy men in this world to justify being prejudice, sexist, and hateful toward males. I worry that with so much talk about men turning out to be rapists, men turning out to be cheaters, and men turning out to be good-for-nothings, that we are telling our sons (or all the boys around us) that they don’t have much to aspire to. THAT IS NOT OKAY! I know that there are infinitely more good men than there are bad.
We can’t just assume that because someone is a boy that he will be a certain way (like aggressive), just like we can’t assume that because someone’s a girl that she will be a certain way (like compassionate). We can’t make our child feel that they should have been someone they are not. (For example, I should never, ever make my boys feel that it would have made me happier if they were girls.) We should make our children feel that we want them for THEM.
That being said, I HATE the phrase “boys will be boys”. What does that even mean? Is it justification for stupid behavior? Because that infuriates me on lots of levels. Girls have stupid behaviors, too. Does that phrase mean “because you’re a boy we’re going to give you a get-outta-jail-free-card”? Because we shouldn’t let our boys believe that any violent behavior is ever acceptable (just to use “violent behavior” as an example). From what I’ve experienced, the phrase “boys will be boys” usually means: “Wow, that boy is wild and crazy and likes to punch things a lot. Oh well, boys will be boys.” If someone were to say this to me about my sons, I would feel like saying, sarcastically: “thanks for putting my son in a tiny little box of expectation and gender stereotyping. Would you say ‘girls will be girls’ if some girl right now started throwing a tantrum and stomping her foot?’”
My oldest son is a high-energy person. While I was pregnant with him, I knew that he would be this way; he was constantly moving and tumbling and kicking. He started babbling and then talking early on as an infant, and as a preschooler, he is a chatterbox! We call him our Energizer Bunny. Since he started walking, his walk and run is more of a bound.
My oldest son is also extremely smart. He started to read/sound out words before he was 4 years old. He knew his alphabet before he was 2, and he loves learning facts about a lot of different topics. I just know that his little mind is going a million miles an hour.
My second-oldest son is a rough-and-tumble kind of kid. He loves all things balls, cars, trucks, trains, and dinosaurs. He loves to play fetch, chase, tag, and wrestle (we call him our little puppy). He has extremely strong lungs that he trained to scream/shriek extremely well, so we’ve spent a lot of his life teaching him that screaming doesn’t get him what he wants.
This little boy wasn’t a really early talker, but once he hit 18 months his language really took off. He is now quite the little chatterbox! He is also as sweet as can be. He often takes the time to stop what he’s doing and come up to me or his daddy or brother and give us big hugs. He loves to be sweet with animals. He is my other little reader; he already knows the alphabet before age 2!
My point in describing parts of my boys’ personalities to you is to show that each of my children are very unique. I try to not label them in the context of them being boys so often that I forget about all the wonderful characteristics that make special human beings. Yes, their gender is major part of their identity, and I want them to LOVE being boys and men. But I also want them to see themselves as HUMAN with unlimited potential, and I want them to see the people around them as HUMANS with unlimited potential.
It is far too easy to categorize our children into what we think they should be, what we think they will be. It’s not totally our fault; our society is image-obsessed, which can be problematic not only for our body images but also for how we view our kids’ behaviors. We care an awful lot about what other people think of us and our about our children. I get it: It’s nice to have nice kids, cute kids. It’s nice to have random strangers compliment you on how darling and well-behaved your child is. But there’s more to being a parent than making sure our kids don’t scream in the grocery store or have the perfect outfit on every time they go out.
So, parents of boys (and all you bystanders, as well), how about instead of using “boys will be boys” we start saying and thinking “what beautiful, happy boys?” Each of our children deserves to be raised with the assumption that he or she will grow up to be a good human being. Embrace the uniqueness of each child, love them as they are, and teach them to love the people around them. Because a person that learns to love, respect, and serve those around them is less likely to oppress, abuse, and dehumanize the people around them.