A typical day in the land of boys often sounds something like this:
Poop joke (followed by snorts and giggles)… pee joke (followed by hearty chuckles)… fart joke (squeals and guffaws)… fake gunfire (bang pop!)… and several bomb explosions to top it all off (zeee…pwoow!).
As the mother of eight-year-old twin sons, I’m more than a little familiar with the humor and hard play of adolescent boys which on any given day includes gross jokes, guns-n-ammo chat, armpit noises, homespun armor, full-contact wrestling, and penis references. Sometimes I find it mildly amusing, other times annoying or embarrassing.
Having just finished second grade, my sons are at an age where they’re expected to refine their behaviors — or at least start trying. The problem is I'm realizing more and more it’s not that easy for them to do. I’m the first to agree they need to rein it in as they get older — but, they’re boys and part of their natural growth curve is being a bit rowdy, rough, active, and tough.
Lately, I find myself stuck between two philosophies: “Ease up and let boys be boys!” vs. “Cut the uncouth behavior, guys!” I feel defensive when my sons are judged too harshly for "boy" behaviors and offended when people try to slap labels on them. Yet… I'm increasingly frustrated and fed-up with the shooting/shouting/running/rough-housing and feel it's time for them to start mellowing and maturing. I wonder: Should I give them space or pull them back?
I recently read: “The behavior of boys is of growing concern, particularly when you consider that a significantly larger number of boys are medicated to control their behavior, males make up the overwhelming percentage of our prison population, that a larger number of boys are failing at school and are dropping out and there are more women than men in degree programs after high school. What is going on with boys?”
Good question. I want to know!
Every week, I volunteer at my kids’ school and see boys getting into more trouble, getting scolded and punished more, getting sent to the principal’s office more. My son recently ended up in the principal’s office for telling poo jokes during lunchtime. He knows better, but when I shared the story with mom friends, they rolled their eyes and said, “Every boy does that.”
The event prompted a lot of thought. As a mom, I know boys are curious, adventurous, and built for activity. I see how they love to climb, jump, disassemble, and destroy. I love that energy, but I’m not always comfortable with it and I walk a fine line between wanting to nurture their boy-ness and harness it so it doesn’t get out of control.
There are countless online articles about boys: why they’re different, what motivates them, and how to help them grow. In an attempt to better understand my sons, I decided to do some research. I knew I wanted a supportive approach and ended up ordering a handful of books: Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons, Raising Cain: Protecting The Emotional Life of Boys, Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, and How Do You Tuck in a Superhero? And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys.
I’m not sure whether these will hold answers. I do know this — I don’t want to let my boys down. I believe they deserve the right to jump, spin, shout, climb, crash… and engage in the occasional belching contest. If I have to put up with poop jokes for a few more years, so be it. I want my sons to turn into men who thank me for letting them be boys.