Wednesday, September 17, 2014

He's All Boy

I have a love-hate relationship with that phrase -- "he's all boy!" From the start, I knew that Hadley was a super strong (like, freakishly strong) little guy. He's loud when he's passionate about something and when his energy gets flowing, he's a bull in a china shop. I can't believe how many times I've heard people say that phrase when observing him. Heck, I'm sure I've said it a couple of times, myself.

Maybe I'm just an over-analyzer, but I'm kind of sensitive to gender-specific statements. This one's clearly not meant in a negative way (even if it is sometimes accompanying some less-than-stellar behavior), but some gender statements can be. Any use of the terms "girlie, sissy, toughen up and be a man/take it like a man, grow a pair, throw like a girl" makes my skin crawl.

We all want the best for our kids, right? We're going to encourage him to pursue his interests, whether they be sports or music or art or science or animals or reading or...anything safe, really. And in any combination and amount that he's comfortable with. I was afforded that opportunity, and it's one of the things I'm looking forward to the most about parenting; watching what interests develop and being there for his successes and failures along the way.  

I'm not looking forward to the days when he's influenced by all the outside factors that promote "manliness." I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I'm hoping he doesn't pick a super high-testosterone, trash-talking sport. If he does, I'll maintain a poker face and have plenty of open dialogue about acceptable behavior. Oh, and sit him down with his cousin, Matthew. He's the epitome of what a scholar athlete should look and sound like.

Watching most of the teen boys at school go through a testosterone-driven social dance is a lot like watching a PBS nature special. The unspoken fight for alpha male is palpable. They become overtly physical and aggressive. They spew vulgar and derogatory language at each other under the guise of friendship. They single out the seemingly weaker beings in a show of solidarity between the louder, bigger, most aggressive. It's not fun, and clearly I speak up, even when it's what they deem "boys will be boys" behavior.

And this, dear reader, is what I'm concerned about most with raising a boy. He's sweet. He's tender. He's sensitive. But, sure, he's also got super-human strength and is quite big for his age. What will he do with all of these wonderful traits? What amalgamation will he put forth to the world? What effects will outside factors have on his development?

My biggest hope for him is happiness. Happiness to be whomever he may be. If that be a confident, verbal, strong-willed individual, awesome. If that be a sensitive, introverted intellect (I'll admit it, he's smart), equally awesome. But if he ever is made to feel shameful for whatever personality or quirks he may have, I hope we'll have given him the tools to stand up for himself positively, or at the very least know in his heart and soul that he's above the nonsense, and that his and our opinions of him are the only ones that matter.

*deep sigh*

Does anyone else have parenting fears like this one? Is it completely irrational, or does it ring true a little bit?


  1. I have these fears all day long. They definitely aren't irrational. Having been a bit of a rough and tumble child (totally prone to violence) I completely take issue with our constant assignment of certain behaviors to specific genders. As far as I'm concerned, everything before puberty that seems to imply girls do one thing and boys do another is ridiculous. I've watched enough Nickelodeon, and heard enough discriminatory generalizations just fall out of friends and relatives mouths to know that these boys-will-be-boys ideas are learned early, and reinforced every day.

    I sometimes think it'd be easier if I were raising a little girl. I think it's more acceptable for us to go on fight-the-power rants to daughters than it is to explain to our sons that the hierarchy that elevates them for being male and white is actually quite horrible and they should forgo the social benefits of their birthrights to help deconstruct it...

    1. Yes, yes, and more yes! I agree 100% on all of your comments. I'm not sure whether it's easier as a parent of a son or daughter, since it's less about what the world sees (ugga ugga, we are women, hear us roar) and more about how to help them feel secure in a world full of generalizations and irrational expectations. Even the way that my mother taught us that "women can do everything men can do...AND what women can do" definitely set expectations that felt too demanding, and still haunt me a bit.

      Thank you SO much for reading -- and commenting with your wise thoughts!! I was a little nervous hitting "post" on this one, for some reason. ;-)

    2. I understand being nervous about voicing these concerns. Something about child-rearing makes us vulnerable to the critical eyes of family, extended family and friends. Even though I feel comfortable being who I am, I can tell that the people around believe they have some sort of vested interest in who I raise Emmet to be, and I often feel like I'm caving or self-censoring under these unspoken pressures.

      If I hypothetically tried to raise Emmet as a vegetarian, I know for a fact that it would cause consternation and judgement amongst the in-laws, and eventually amongst his peers. This would lead me to question whether it was a battle worth fighting, or if his life would be more care-free if I conceded to the pressure and let them invade my child's diet with their "tradition" and "what works".

      I wonder the exact same thing when considering my planned curriculum of acceptance and social justice. It will be a bit of a fight against the people closest to us who will unflinchingly tell him his mom is wrong or "being silly" or that he's going to get picked on and bullied if he listens to me. So do I just let things go the traditional route, or do I assert myself enough so that he eventually thinks of me as the mom with the chip on her shoulder...?

      Parenting is hard, yo.

    3. Very, very true. I have issues with the judging eyes, at times, but in some ways I'm already silently winning some battles. Sometimes the best way to fight a fight is by doing rather than arguing. In this case, our "healthy" eating -- although it's not vegetarianism -- is foreign in ways, but with how healthy and relatively illness-free our little guy is, it has some of the important family members seeing the an extent.

      Heck, we've discussed homeschooling quite a bit. Talk about judgment! But, I'm learning that, in some ways, it's best to go with the flow and see how it goes. If we decide to take that route and it doesn't work out, he's ultimately an incredibly bright child and will rebound just fine. (Maybe if he wasn't, I'd be more worried...?) If it does work out, well, the result will speak for itself.

      I totally get why you'd worry about ending up that mom with a chip on your shoulder. Any time a parent has their priorities/methods questioned? Forget about it. Infuriating. And the judgments seem to be flying more these days.

      Hard is right, yo.