Think male of the species, and we conjure up archetypes such as the tomcat, the stallion, a snorting bull or a strutting cockerel. As I cradled my first new born son, I was overwhelmed with love. But I also had a sense of trepidation for the path ahead, as I had no understanding or experience of the exuberance of boys.
Now, as a mother to two teenage sons, I look back on a boys’ world of energy, noise, smells, mess, gadgetry and sporting obsessions. I have long since acclimatised to their constant movement, yelling and unprovoked body-slamming of one another, and their ability to switch from meathead back into sweet boy in a flash.
Naturally, over the years in my testosterone-filled domestic life, I’ve had a few yearnings for a daughter – wanting to have someone to share girly things with and add a touch of femininity to the male domestic landscape. It might sound sexist, but, just occasionally, it would have been nice to have a willing helper in the kitchen, rather than have to enter daily negotiations just to put a plate in the dishwasher.
With boys, what you see is what you get
Parenting someone who is not like you can be a challenge. Trying to relate to their way of thinking and understanding the things they are going through when you haven’t experienced them yourself can be hard. Males are territorial. They’re physical, they’re combative, they’re competitive and they’re louder than girls. They like machinery, being silly, transport, warfare, building and defending. And they’re always negotiating… ‘Would you rather be eaten by a tiger or a shark?’ (6) ‘What £10? That’s not going to be enough for a Subway AND my bus fare.’ (14).
Going back to primary school age – grass stains, mud, food blobs, dirty underpants left on the stairs, wiping sticky fingers on the cushions are unimportant to boys. While girls will agonise over what to wear to the school disco, boys simply sling on some clothes and turn up. With boys, what you see is what you get.
But, there’s something enduringly satisfying in knowing one’s raising fine, honest men, who will, one day, (we hope) make good partners to (lucky) people in the future, and great dads too.
You can marvel at your young son’s ability to learn times tables, hundreds of different nationalities’ flags, who plays for what team and how he can remember people, places and events in your lives from years back. How can boys have such brilliant minds and memories, and yet unable to learn simple tasks? Switching off lights, flushing the loo, wiping wee off the toilet seat, picking up lolly sticks/sweet wrappers/dirty tissues, taking off muddy shoes at home (they remember this at friends’ houses), playing garden football in socks…
Why do boys need their mother to stand next to them to open a drawer to show them where their favourite T-shirt is? I find myself repeating the same things, again and again ‘Can you put your shoes on?’ ‘Why is there only one shin pad in your PE bag – where’s the other one? ‘Did you remember to hand the consent form for the school trip to your teacher?’ Boys tune out to mundanity. ‘Good’ is the standard description of the school day, as is, ‘Can’t remember’ when asked what he had for lunch. Boys only want to be involved in important things.
Every day when they were younger, I was in awe of my boys’ wonder, energy, sensitivity, curiosity, innocence and compassion. Now they’re teenagers, these characteristics have vamoosed, gone (although friends assure me they revert to their defaults at about 19). Indeed, right now their characteristics are the polar opposite of their eager, young selves. And they’re way more expensive to run. It’s confusing for parents, and even knowing what a nightmare teenager I was myself, doesn’t help. Childhood is over in a flash. My advice would be to not let screen time dominate young lives and get them out doing and seeing things before the teenage years click in – then, trust me, every suggestion you make will be rejected and they will be embarrassed to be seen anywhere near their mum.
Sign-up to GoMunkee now to keep those ‘boys will be boys’ amused and active, whatever their age. And girls too.