Boys Will Be Men

Did you know yogurt makes great finger paint on windows?

Did you know it’s great fun to let gulps of water dribble down your chin?

Did you know family is just another word for audience?

Did you know it’s vastly entertaining to make a girl scream?

Did you know it’s impossible to feel at home until farm animals are scattered all over the living room floor?

Did you know chairs are actually made for climbing? And hair for pulling? And toys for throwing?

I didn’t know all this, not in a way that counts, until him.


You know, the one who moves so fast he’s usually the blur on the photo.

Mothers have been observing their sons since Eve pushed Cain into the world, but it feels as fresh to me as if my son were the world’s firstborn.

He amazes me. He is hardwired to become a man, but I get to nurture him in these days when he isn’t afraid to cry and hasn’t yet mastered the art of disappearing behind a hunting magazine.

I am the softness that teaches him to protect, the tenderness that helps him to be strong.

The way I treat his father illustrates to him what a man can expect from a woman.

He loves me, needs me, but when he hangs out with his daddy, they are card-carrying members of The Guy Club—and I can only stand on my tiptoes and peer in the window. Until the play gets too rough. Then I go find something else to do to prevent my tender female sensibilities from interfering.

I intuitively understand my daughters (most of the time), but my son? I admit he’s something of a mystery. A fascinating, adorable, lovable one, to be sure, but there’s that elusive tang of maleness in him that is quite beyond me.

James Thurber said it best: “Boys are perhaps beyond the range of anybody’s sure understanding, at least when they are between the ages of eighteen months and ninety years.”

How does he know this stuff, this guy stuff? He throws stuff, he climbs stuff, he demolishes stuff. He’s not yet two, but he has the birthright of a man.

My little man.

Excuse me while I go give him another kiss. I’m stockpiling them on his dimpled cheeks for the inevitable day when he says “Mom! Yuck!”

* * *

Since I have you here, I’d like to ask you a question I’ve been wondering for a long time. I have heard talk about the specialness of a father-daughter or mother-son relationship. Is it just talk, or is it true?

Is a mother’s relationship with a son different from the one she shares with a daughter? If so, how?

And like all relationships, there are healthy and unhealthy ways to go about it. What are some pitfalls to avoid? For instance, how do you nurture your son without smothering him?

Even if you have more ideals than experience, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

11 thoughts on “Boys Will Be Men

  1. Love this post. My son just turned one and since he was 8 months I have seen that urge to drive vehicles and throw balls and many things work as a hammer or screwdriver. The list goes on. So boyish. Will be following to hear thots on your questions and meanwhile I will prepare myself for a whole lot more…according to your two year old!! lol!

    • I forgot to mention one major benefit to raising a boy (at least, our boy): a whole lot less drama. When Micah falls down, he pops back up. When the girls hurt themselves, it turns into a fifteen-minute production of tears and bandages (whether or not you can see the injury) and kisses and telling and retelling of the whole event. It’s all quite exhausting.

      But then our boy is much busier and into more trouble than our girls ever were, so there are advantages to both kinds. 🙂 Have fun keeping after your little guy.

  2. I’m suspicious the father-daughter, mother-son connection is overrated. Children need a strong connection with their same gender parent and seem to be shaped into their roles by observing the opposite gender parent relate to his/her spouse.

    • I’m suspicious your suspicions are right, which makes me wonder why it rates at all. So far my children have been uniquely special to me because they are individuals, not because they are a certain gender, although the differences between little girls and a little boy still fascinate me.

      Those differences do affect the parent-child relationship, but some of it might be too subconscious to analyze. For instance, how much of the drama surrounding little girls happens because we sort of expect them to be emotional, even as we briskly hoist up a little boy and minimize his pain?

      And yes, I know I’m guilty of stereotyping. There are sensitive boys and tough girls and variations all over the spectrum. Even as I typed this, my son was wailing because he couldn’t put a sock on a dolly’s foot. 🙂 Only one thing’s certain: Even within a family, no two children are ever the same.

  3. You’re blog has been very interesting to me, as my husband has epilepsy. Sounds like you have a son about my son’s age!! Could I have you email address? I’d love to contact you!

  4. I too was aware within a few months of the differences of boys. My first son would try all sorts of stunts that his older sister would never dream of – when he was nine months old!

    But in other ways he broke stereotypes – such as being very soft-hearted and easily offended. My girls have been strong-willed, not afraid of dirt and bugs, and not that classic drama queen.

    As you said, they are all unique individuals. I love seeing their personalities emerge. I haven’t seen any father-daughter or mother-son relationships that are that outstanding compared to the same gender – but maybe we are unique.

    And I don’t have any wisdom to share since I’m right in the middle of it and fail often (daily).

    • Thank you, Gina. I doubt many of us in the trenches feel wise, but I am grateful to you and others who are willing to share what they are learning. As for parenting, it’s only those without children who know how to raise them. 🙂 The rest of us just bumble along and pray God can make something of our mistakes.

  5. I worry sometimes that I’m guilty of teaching my children to fit the stereotypes. I catch myself allowing my daughter to cry but expecting my ‘big’, almost-eight-year-old son to be brave. I wonder how much we unconsciously do that?

    • If it’s unconscious, it probably happens far more than we realize–or want to admit. Stereotypes aren’t necessarily evil. They become a problem when we excuse bad behavior on the basis that it’s typical behavior for that gender, such as a bullying boy or an excessively weepy girl. The other trouble with stereotypes is when we pressure children who don’t fit the “normal” mold to adopt personalities or interests they don’t naturally have in order to fit in.

      A lot more could be said on this, but I’m wary of wading into the online gender waters.

  6. I don’t know about how a mom goes about bonding with a daughter excepting my relationship with my own mom—I have 3 sons. But I know it is entirely possible to bond with sons:) just do stuff they like to do. Ask me about our visit to a gardens that I thought looked so inviting 😉

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