Raising a Son: I Don't "Get" Boys

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Raising a son: It's very different from raising a daughter. Not in some ways, but in others -- it's a completely different experience. I'm not talking just about pointing the peepee down when changing diapers (a lesson I sincerely wish someone had mentioned before I went through a week of leaking diapers; postpartum, with no sleep, it took a ridiculously long time for me to clue in). I'm not even talking about learning all of the names of farm equipment and construction vehicles, or understanding why fire engines and trash trucks are so fascinating.

I'm talking about the deeper things. I'm talking about masculinity. And that's a subject I know very little about. I was raised by a single mother, in a very female dominated family. I was a very feminine kid. I preferred dresses and hair bows to jeans and a t-shirt. I'd always rather stay inside and read than go outside and run around. I've never voluntarily touched a frog. I've never accidentally touched a frog, now that I'm thinking about it. I don't like scary rides, I don't like scary movies. I'm frilly and girly, I like boppy music and sunshine and lollipops.

And my two daughters, thus far, are feminine little girls. My nine-year-old daughter Jessica more so than the baby, but Julie's two, and with an older brother as her most immediate influence. Jessie wouldn't touch a frog for money, would dress in lace and hair bows every day, and would never voluntarily go outside to perform manual labor.

Then there's my six-year-old, Sam. And he's.... a boy. I mean, a boy in a way that is completely different from my girls. From myself. Today, he got up, announced he needed to do some shoveling, put on snow gear, and headed out. He brought up my recycling bins onto the porch, and spent the next hour outside, diligently shoveling my front lawn. Because the fact that there was no snow on the sidewalks or front steps wasn't going to stop him. He was shoveling. I don't get that. I love it. But on a core level, I can't understand heading out into the frigid freezing cold because you need to shovel. When in fact, you don't need to shovel. For one thing, he's six. And for another, Marc had already shoveled yesterday. But it was so icy and dangerous, I wouldn't let him go out yesterday.

Shoveling Snow
Credit: oddharmonic.

He's got a whole different perspective. He's a boy -- and different on a level that I'm still struggling to understand. He wants to be a man. He wants to be a good man. And thank God, he's got such an incredible example to follow. My husband Marc is as masculine as I am feminine. Marc likes wrestling and Army shows and is perplexed by emotional complexity. He can't talk for hours about how he feels. Coming off of December -- despite my hours of agonizing and discussing how he feels about Christmas -- every time it came up in conversation, he'd screw it up. He'd say something that would make me nuts -- but when it came to action -- he was right there. He gave my kids the best Christmas, did all the shopping, all the prep work, and bent over backwards to make it awesome because he loves me and he knew it was important to me. Because doing something, that's so much easier for him.

Sam is so similar to him. So incredibly similar to him, he wants to be just like his daddy. And it's not just about being like his daddy, he is fundamentally like him already.

Don't get me wrong -- Sam has part of me in there too. I recognize his shyness, because I'm the same way. And my son loves a lot of traditional feminine things like cooking and cleaning and snuggles and is such a tender, sweet boy. But he's a boy, not a girl, and sometimes it just really strikes me that I don't understand him the way I do the girls. Adore him with every fiber of my being, absolutely. But I'm so, so glad that Sam has Marc. I'm as grateful that my girls have a daddy that loves them and supports them and teaches them every day what a good man should do. But with Sam - Marc is modeling what he'll grow up to be - and Sam watches and absorbs all of it.  As an adult, I'm sure that you'll see my influence on him as well, he'll make my challah recipe, and I hope that he'll decorate a Christmas tree.  I'm sure he'll dance around the kitchen when he cooks like I do, and I hope that he'll love to read like I do.  I'm sure that he'll do lots of things the way that I do - but mostly, I hope that he's the kind of man his father is.  I also sincerely hope that he never really moves that far away, so when Marc is too old to shovel my walkways - he'll come and do it for me.

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