5 Things I've Learned About Men From Raising Boys
They are soft.
Why are boys always expected to have hard, tough shells? My boys are the softest, sweetest little squishy hearts. If my son even suspects I might be angry, he melts into tears. By nature, they are sensitive and can pick up on unspoken emotion much better than I ever anticipated. In fact, I think we are doing a disservice to the men of the world by assuming they are emotional apes. If you give them a moment, a chance to speak; you will be in disbelief with how soft, tender and aware they truly are.
The penis is real, my friends. This was my biggest “ah ha!” moment as a woman, ever. From just mere weeks old, both of my boys were grabbing at it, playing with it, inspecting it. I’m beginning to wonder what all the fuss is about. I can't even count how many times a day I have to tell my child to stop touching his penis. I once thought about logging it so I could pass this very useful information onto his future partner.
“Just get in the car and stop touching your penis!”
“I can see you rubbing your penis against the coffee table, please stop.”
“It isn’t appropriate to play with your penis during dinner.”
“Hun, can you move your penis away from the water jet please?”
I never want to give them a complex and make their body seem 'bad' so I implemented a penis in the bathtub free-for-all. Now, before you go judging us thinking that I have weird freaky children: let me tell you, I am not alone. I know this because mothers of boys unite. We have to, it's the only way to get by. Honestly, understanding how this connection to their body, to feeling good, is so incredibly innate; I’ve understood sex from the man’s point of view more than ever. Basically, that thing men do where they have to have sex all the time or they die inside? I think they actually might.
They crave physical connection.
My sons would probably live inside my skin if they could. I basically spend my whole day with one child attached to my leg and the other swinging on my arm. If I sit down to relax, my son rests his hand on my arm in the gentlest way. As I'm sitting there thinking about how sweet and adorable the interaction is, he starts to go in for the kill. Within 5 minutes he’s trying to sit on my chest and give me a ‘hair massage’. Or maybe he's decided that the best place to rest his head is directly on top of my face. I would estimate that 3 times daily I run away and hide in my bedroom because they are so intrusive in my physical space that I feel claustrophobic. They are tactile and love is expressed through how much of their body can be next to mine at any given moment. I blame all my acne on their little grubby hands constantly slapping my skin with mystery substances.
They need it to be dirty.
Really, really dirty. I think it has something to do with points 2 and 3 above. I was slightly (ok, very) controlling with my firstborn about mess and germs. Honestly, it’s probably on the top of my ‘parenting regrets’ list. My controlling nature made him become nervous and cautious. A couple years ago as I was picking him up from daycare I was able to observe him for a few moments before he noticed me. There were about 5 boys sitting in a pile of dirt, burying themselves in mud and sand. The laughter was contagious and their spirits were wild. The second my son saw me, he ran to me with a worried look on his face “Mom! I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so sorry I got dirty.” That moment really broke me open; I never want to be a mom that values cleanliness over experience. I made a silent vow that day to let my kids be kids. Even when it's not pretty. Now I try, if even through a clenched jaw, to let them get dirty. I'm not talking cute dirty, but the ‘I think you might actually catch a disease’ dirty. While our lives are now messier, they are definitely happier. Don't get me wrong, I'm still a hand washing freak but, I'm trying, OK?
Let them be wild.
Let them be too much, too loud. Let them climb the high things and crawl into small spaces. Let them dangle by their weak little arms from monkey bars and spin so fast they puke. They are figuring out what they are made of; the strength of their mind and limits of their body. Resist the urge to offer unsolicited advice. Maybe your way makes more sense, is safer and generally accepted as logic; but if I have learned anything over these past 4 years; it is that controlling a situation never, ever ends well. I've robbed them of opportunities to learn things by themselves and it never feels good. Even if it is painstaking, tedious and messy; I still try to let them do it on their own. Today my son said: "Mom, you actually don't know how I feel because this is my body and my mind so you can't tell me how to feel." Touché kid, touché. (Sidenote: I still have a long way to go in the controlling department, just ask my husband. But hey, I can't be perfect.)