Friday, September 23, 2011

Boys Will Be....

Randomly it seems, I have had several conversations recently with parents both young and old on boys and their inherent "boyishness."  That uncanny, seemingly-uncontrollable need to play video games, shoot things, push, yell, destroy, etc.  I have seen it already in my own sweet boy.  One minute every thing's hunky-dory, the next minute he is running wildly down the hall with a chunk of his sister's hair.  He is not allowed within ten feet of a library book lest we find bits of paper scattered throughout the house.  He luckily has not discovered guns yet in any form, but I know he will and I am already dreading it.

Here's a story from my retired neighbor:  his sister is a Quaker and worked very hard to keep guns and violent images/play away from  her son.  The son made guns from sticks and his own hand, loving to play "shoot the bad guy."  This son is now a Navy Seal, a "professional warrior" the neighbor called him.  Now, that is a pretty admirable job, protecting our freedom and all, but how did he get from Quaker to Navy Seal, one wonders?

Yesterday at the library two pre-school aged boys were playing guns with a couple of the arch blocks the library had.  They were running, screaming, rolling over tables and ducking for cover behind the "nursing mamas" rocking chairs.  Finally one ran up to my sensitive girl (who had been carefully constructing her princess castle), took his "gun" and smashed princess-land to smithereens.  I sat bolt upright in my chair, unsure as to what my role should be.  My daughter hung her head for a few seconds, then silently ran into my lap to "cry it out."  Luckily for me, one of the lovely children's librarians had seen enough and rushed over to scold both boys and mamas.  One mom made her son apologize and they left soon after.  My daughter got over her trauma and rebuilt her castle.  Still, the whole incident left me wondering:  were these "bad" boys, or were these just boys?

This is an issue that I truly struggle with.  I don't want to raise a violent boy.  On the other hand, I want to raise a strong boy, an assertive boy.  I want both of my children to know how to change the oil in their car,  cook a souffle, and defend themselves if needed.  More than anything, I want them to be their own selves, but of course, the best version of themselves.  I guess, like most moms, I just want it all.  That's not too much to ask, right?  I'm just not quite sure yet how to walk that line.  How to encourage their natural likes and strengths without raising a child who will one day make another child cry.

This is not intended to be a commentary on the "gun" issue.  Maybe I will curse you with my ambivalence on that particular subject another day.  I am just wondering how it is that one raises a "good" boy, a good man?  A man's man and yet a modern man.  A man who can protect himself and his family from an assailant or a dishwasher disaster.  A man who can cook an omelet and sing a soothing lullaby.  It occurs to me that my own husband has many of these qualities.  Hopefully that will at least give us some advantage.  Of course, as I am writing this, my son is pushing his sister and making her cry, so that's all for now!

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