By Laura Brownson
I won’t lie. From the get-go, I’ve been boy crazy. I was daddy’s girl. Then around sixth grade, I fell madly for David Wright who rode me around on the handle-bars of his BMX bike. But we fell apart the following year when I met Rex Hancock who was the only boy who could beat me in a running race. Rex lost out to Casey Frye who could break-dance like nobody’s business. Serial monogamy personified. So, the fact that I have two sons should seem like a natural progression for me. In fact, one could argue that I’ve been practicing for this role my entire life. Yet, I am constantly struggling with the basics of boy behavior and ever-confounded by what is ‘boy behavior’ versus what is just ‘MY boys’ behavior.’
When I set out on this journey of motherhood, I REALLY, TRULY believed that we should NEVER put our kids in categories. I thought the whole girl versus boy thing was a myth. I believed girls would like trucks as much as boys would like dolls, if only given the chance to discover the alternate side of their personalities. And that was my job, of course, to be the all-wise, uber-sensitive, completely open-minded mother. I would encourage my boys to discover their full selves, never allowing them to be limited by society and it’s gender-based restrictions.
Then I had Cade. Cade is all boy. He exhibits every stereotypically male behavior – short of leaving the toilet seat up and scratching his private parts – and he has since the day he was born. He never wanted to snuggle. As soon as he gained a semblance of interest in this world, he (now almost 3) loved all things mechanical with a particular penchant for cranes. He had the equivalent of a baby-orgasm the day that he discovered a crane outside the window of our
When I introduced a doll into our house hoping to soften the blow of the new baby’s arrival, his favorite game was to throw the doll on the ground and say, “baby got a boo boo.” He loves tools, cars and his favorite color is blue for god’s sake.
When my second son, Cooper, was born, I saw a very different child. Cooper’s temperament is far more even-keeled. For a long, luscious time, he loved to cuddle with me. But as Cooper has grown, the ‘boy’ is emerging. No longer does my 9 month-old cuddle or EVER sit still. His absolute favorite activity is wrestling with his brother. He climbs on top, no matter how scary the potential consequence, and grabs Cade’s hair, pulling with every fiber of his baby muscles. No matter how many times his brother pushes him down, Cooper gets up and goes back for more. It terrifies me. Where’s the tenderness? The gentleness? The softness?
I hate labels more than anything. I am loathe to say that my experience shows that boys tend to be more aggressive while girls tend to be more passive. It kills me. Actually, it embarrasses me. I know there are many exceptions, but at least in my household, my guys are ‘guys.’ Raising boys has given me a whole new perspective on men – something that I never learned from David, Rex, Casey or even my husband Scott. Something about the force of masculinity. It is powerful and at times, difficult stuff. It gives me greater insight into why the world is the way that it is. Good, bad or indifferent, a world run by men is very different than a world run by women or a combination of the sexes.
Now none of this may be revolutionary. For me, it’s a simple ‘ah-ha.’ And it still may be possible that it’s MY boys, rather than MOST boys. Either way, as long as I’m around, you can bet that I’ll be working overtime to teach my guys how to find alternative voices, how to negotiate the world in a non-violent fashion, how to tune in to their emotional lives, and yes, god willing, how to love the color pink.