“Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails; that’s what little boys are made of.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“You throw, like a girl.”
“You cry, like a girl.”
It is constantly built in to us by society that boys are rough and tumble, that they are grotty, stinky little whirlwinds who are tough as nails. To be anything less than that as a male, is to be weak. To be weak is to be likened to female.
This is the issue.
First of all, we need to stop that sort of language and association that to be a girl, is to be inferior. Girls give birth. Anyone who has grown and then had to birth an actual person from their body can attest that there is nothing weak about that – full stop, end of debate, mic drop.
Second of all, we need to stop making excuses for the bad behaviour of boys. I am raising two of them and for the most part they epitomise the stereotype of their gender. They are messy, they are loud, they are crude (fart and bum jokes all day, every day) and at times their odour leaves a lot to be desired. When they play I often worry about the strength and structural integrity of my house, “Ok, if they go through that wall, will the ceiling still remain…?” They are boisterous, they love cars, sports and making mud pies but they are also sensitive, compassionate and gentle at the same time.
For centuries boys have been brought up being told to toughen up. Its seen as weak to show any emotion other than aggression and then that aggression is excused as just being a by-product of possessing a Y Chromosome. Every single day men are excused for bad behaviour simply because of their gender.
I refuse to accept that.
This is clearly very topical now in the wake of the #TimesUp movement but that is not my motive here. Recently my four-year-old has been having problems managing his behaviour and emotions which is therefore resulting in social misdemeanours. This is not unusual for boys of his age but it’s reaching a level which is making me uncomfortable. You see, people all around me are excusing his behaviour:
“Oh, he didn’t mean it.”
“He’s only four.”
“He’s just being a boy.”
Nope. Doesn’t cut it.
Call me unrealistic, call me unreasonable, call me anything under the sun but my kid will be held accountable for his actions.
During my years working in childcare, I frequently had conversations with parents reminding them that they should be mindful that they are raising adults. Their children are children now but eventually they would need to be able to function in society as fully-fledged grown-ups, capable of compromise, shouldering responsibility and therefore being able to wear the consequences of their actions.
Being a parent in today’s world means being overwhelmed with conflicting information about how best to raise our children. We must foster their self-esteem without making them over-confident, we must help them to succeed in life without preventing them from knowing what it is to fail, we must help them where we can whilst also teaching them resilience.
It’s an impossible task and it means often parents just end up feeling like failure is inevitable.
As a mother of boys and a sister of brothers I am mindful of the importance of my role in shaping the future generation of men. Times are changing, men are being held more and more accountable for their actions, less excuses are being given and I have hope that my boys will reach adulthood in a society that will expect more from them than it has in the past.
Today my boys will not be let off the hook for displays of aggression, they will not expect their mother to clean up after a mess they have made, they will not be made to feel weak for their tears, or foolish for their fears. They will be raised to think about others before themselves, open-mindedness of all beliefs will be encouraged, they will learn to accept that there is strength and power in knowing how to be compassionate and vulnerable. My sons will understand that to be able to identify with your emotions is to identify with yourself. Their thoughts and concerns will be heard and given value.
They will be able to be true to themselves and accepted for whoever they choose to be.
It is crucial to our children’s future that the boys we raise aren’t hindered by society, that their sincerity and honesty isn’t supressed, but they also must not be enabled by society either. Their actions and attitudes, if narrow-minded or unfair, shouldn’t be held up by society under a guise of masculinity and birthright.
Today, I will raise my boys to be men and today that means something very different than it did yesterday.
You might also like to read: