Raising a Blended Family

“Boys will be Boys.”

on January 28, 2014

Ya’ll, I have something to admit. Before I ever got pregnant with Pax-o, before we started TTC, before we even seriously set a timeline for TTC, I knew that if we were to have a baby together, I would want it to be a girl. It HAD to be a girl. Of course it would be a girl!

We already had one girl, for one. I envisioned sisters playing happily together (yes, an idyllic vision that leaves out hair-pulling, sibling-fights, and tattling, I admit), passing down clothes (hey! I’m cheap!), and lots of frilly cute sweet baby girl-ness.

All of my prior experience with kids was with GIRL kids.  I grew up in G.irl Sc.outs, first as a sco.ut and then as a lea.der and counselor. I had a sister (no longer). All my friends were girls. And, let’s face it, I’m a LESBIAN, which by definition means that I do not do “boy” very well. So, it had to be a girl.

And then, of course, “it” wasn’t a girl. HE was a Paxton, a very MALE Paxton, obvious from the very first sex-reveal sonogram at around 18 weeks or so. We turned on the sonogram machine and there it was, blinking into view, proof that I obviously possessed nothing close to mother’s intuition as far as the sex of my baby was concerned. And to be honest, it took me a minute to reconcile this very male BOY growing inside me with the visions of frilly and pink I had in my head. It took me a minute to truly realize we were having a boy. And then, once I did, came the (inevitable?) thought… what the heck do you DO with a boy?!?! Girls, I knew. Girls seemed easy. But boys?

Of course, we figured it out. We have him and love him and I couldn’t imagine any other baby in the whole wide world other than him. I have zero regrets whatsoever with him being male. But sometimes, I feel like the question still remains: How is having a boy different than having my imagined-girl? How does he act differently than a girl would? How does he play differently?

Enter the phrase: “boys will be boys.” If I had a nickel for every time someone said that about the way Pax acts, I would be a much richer woman. Old grandmas say it, random strangers say it, other-moms-of-boys and moms-of-not-boys say it, even my wife says it sometimes.

At best, I am ambivalent about this phrase. What does that even mean, anyways? Just a general excuse to explain away otherwise rowdy, obnoxious, or unwanted behavior? What if I said, “girls will be girls” for every thing *I* did, or Thing One did, or my wife did? I’m betting I would get some blank stares in response because really, what the heck does that even mean?!

At worst, I flat out hate this phrase. Abhor. Cannot stand. For the reasons above, but also because I think it places too much value on sex and gives not enough credit to the processes of exploration, of thought process development, of childhood. Pax climbs a table, falls down, and bonks his head. As he gets up, wailing, someone tells me “boys will be boys.” NO. This has nothing to do with him being a boy. It has to do with him being a baby, learning his environment. He just learned cause and effect, that’s all. All babies do. He learned that “if I climb this and then do not hold on, I fall.” I’m a girl and I climbed things all the time as a kid. Got quite a few scrape-ups in my day. Thing One is in the midst of this phase now. Yet no one ever looked at me or her and said “boys will be boys,” because, of course, I am not a boy. Thing One is not a boy. Yet, had a boy exhibited that same behavior, those same people WOULD have dismissed it as “boys will be boys,”  instead of seeing it as a natural part of childhood exploration that ALL children undertake in some form or another. It is the process of childhood development, not the process of boys will be boys.

I also dislike the statement because, implicit in it, is that whatever action caused the statement to be made is an action that is only undertaken by boys, or somehow excusable because it was a boy, and not a girl, who partook. There is the implication that girls do not do that, that it is a “boy” thing only. Boy gets dirty- but “boys will be boys.” Because of course, girls do not GET dirty. Boys roughhouse and get hurt- “boys will be boys” – because girls do not roughhouse or wrestle either, or do a million other so-called “masculine” activities.  When this statement is used in such a manner, I feel like it is the inherent society-driven stereotypical gender roles coming out and being placed upon that child, rather than that child expressing them himself. And I reject that. As much as I can and am aware of it, I reject it. My son will develop into whomever he was meant to be, and “boys will be boys” has nothing to do with it. It’s just him. Paxton. My son.

In the end, the question “what do I do with a boy?” doesn’t seem so scary, after all. It is, perhaps, the wrong question to be asking anyways. Whether he was a boy, or a girl, Pax would need the same love, the same care, the same careful supervision to allow him to explore his world safely and fall on his face and get back up again*. I’ve decided the question to ask is not “what do I do with a boy?”, but “what do I do with my BABY?”, and the answer, it seems, is pretty damn simple after all. Love him. Teach him. Hold him. Play with him. Care for him. Snuggle him. Unconditional of sex or anything else. Let him be a BABY**.

*literally, today. Quite the bruise on his noggin as he learned to climb OVER our playgate but not how to land on the other side. And, by the way, f*ck my life for the fact that he can now escape and get hurt at-will.

**It feels strange to use the word “baby” to describe my 15.5 month old. It also feels strange to use the word toddler. They need to invent an in-between word.



4 responses to ““Boys will be Boys.”

  1. Rachael says:

    Love this post. As a mama with a 22 month old daughter, who loves cars and all things ‘boy’ I think these types of phrases are silly. Girls do get dirty. Girls do like cars. I know my daughter does. I didn’t as a kid, but it doesn’t mean she can’t.

  2. meridith says:

    This expression kills me. It so often holds boy children to a different standard. We experienced this a couple of times with boys being rough at school – it was just ‘boys will be boys’ and not teaching all children about respect for each other’s space. I’m particularly when the mothers of rough boys say that. I have a rough girl and I don’t excuse her behavior that way – I wish they wouldn’t either!

  3. Lindsay says:

    I, too, hate this expression. I always felt like it was just giving boys a pass at doing things that are rowdy/rough. And it rubs me the wrong way.

    I am trying to parent Evelyn in a gender-less way. Lord knows society does enough of that for us.

  4. Isa says:

    I still wonder about this–We’ll find out soon what we’re having, and I’ll admit to being nervous about a boy, mostly for the reasons you outline above. Which is weird, because I like boys! I like men! I just don’t like sports, which is stupid to say, because plenty of boys don’t like sports, either. And I am surprised how much of E’s behavior is ‘girly’. She does fall and climb and get bonked on the head, but she’s pretty fussy about getting dirty and has decided that her snowman toy is, in fact, a baby. But is that girl behavior, or just baby behavior? I’ve known fussy boys, and nurturing ones, and so on. The fact that she chooses the pink tutu when offered is probably just based on the fact that it’s awesome, and the choice was presented. Argh! It’s hard, because so much gendering comes from elsewhere–what are the kids (and adults) teaching her about gender at daycare? What about her grandparents? It’s hard to unpack. In any case, I’m glad to see you’re flummoxed by it, too!

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