Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Making boys be boys

A few months ago, we attended a county fair with a family we met through our mothers of multiples group.  This family also has boy / girl twins, and they're exactly one month younger than our kids.  We socialize with them about once every 2-3 months, and the kids have a great time together.  On this particular day, when it came time to say goodbye, their little girl gave both our kids a little hug and kiss.  Their little boy tried to do the same, approaching our son first.  His mother immediately yanked him back.  "Caden!*  You're a boy, you high-five!" she shrieked.  Her not-yet-two-year-old just stood there looking bewildered.  And my heart broke just a little bit. 

My son is, without a doubt the most affectionate human being I have ever encountered.  He asks to be picked up because he just wants to plant kiss after kiss on your cheek.  He loves to hug his sister.  He even hugs and kisses his dogs.  When we brought the kids to Sesame Place, we had to pry him away from Oscar because he had nuzzled so deeply into the crook of the cranky muppet's neck.  I know he won't be like this forever, and I can't imagine trying to squash it out of him.  It makes me so sad to know that Caden has that sweetness in him too, yet his parents are training him to be like his father and have the emotional range of a paper clip. 

Today, I went to a Thanksgiving potluck at my kids daycare.  There were two other moms there who know each other socially.  They were encouraging their sons to fight each other on the playroom floor.  They caught the moment on their cell phone cameras as they shouted things like "pin him, tackle him, get him in a headlock".  The more aggressive the boys became, the more the mothers cheered them on.  My own son sat in my lap and watched, and showed no interest in joining in.  As soon as the other moms left the room, the two boys actually ran around holding hands.  I wonder what the mothers would  have to say to that. 

I am sure that many people out there think I am doing my son a disservice.  That I am not preparing him for the real world.  That he'll be in for a big shock when he gets older and realizes that hugging his friends isn't allowed.  That he won't be rough and tumble aggressive enough to be friends with the other boys.  Maybe they're right.  I'm not trying to say that one way of raising a boy is better than the other. Still, it makes me sad to see boys being pushed to behave a certain way.

*This name, like all names of this blog, has been changed in order to protect anonymity


nutella said...

That first story is so sad!! I feel bad for this boy and the massage that he is hearing. And for the future man he will become.

As for the fighting, I can't believe the daycare allowed that!! No matter what the moms thin and allow, that sort of behavior is NOT permitted in school.

You are a great mom and both of your kids are learning how to be nice and be polite and play gently. And those are skills that will only help them as they grow up.

thefigureheads said...

wow, that would've shaken me to my core. thanks for raising a sweet boy and not discouraging sensitivity!

Strawberry said...

Yeah, that is truly awful. I can't imagine discouraging appropriate affectionate behavior in children, regardless of their sex. Curly loves to give his friends hugs, and he always gives us and other family members kisses. What a horrible thing it would be to tell him he shouldn't/can't do that because he's a boy.

Allison said...

So, so sad. These poor sweet boys.

Pomegranate said...

oh wow. that really is sad. i love that even the hetero people in my life are not like that. there are some advantages to living in the city, being a public school teacher, and having play-dates with sometimes overbearing attachment parenting moms. i'm really not exposed to that.

if anything, i am constantly surprised by the things that i see in the children that actually are gender-specific (like boys being overwhelmingly physical and or being a late talkers).

i suppose it will change when bunny is in preschool. it saddens me to think that we will eventually have to face this twisted reality.

anofferingoflove said...

how heartbreakingly sad for those boys. :(

anofferingoflove said...

ps. i do love that the boys in the classroom held hands after their parents left though :)

Anonymous said...

ugh! both of my boys are super affectionate. Hook (who is 8) still wants hugs and kisses from us and loves to hug his friends despite their protests at times... Gender is definitely something cast upon children. Sometimes in rather unfortunate ways. At least you know you are raising your children to love and be loved and to break gender stereotypes while they still are comfortable doing so.

tbean said...

This post, no joke, broke my heart a little to read. I cannot tell you how much I smoother my boys with hugs and kisses on a daily/hourly basis. And encourage them to reciprocate. The fact that this mother actively teaches her son to not be affectionate is just abhorrent to me. (I'm wondering if this is the same family you referred to in your comment on my last post...) I know my boys will get a lot of socialization messages from the wider world about how men display affection, but I was expecting it to start more in grade school (first grade, kindergarten) NOT at age 2. That is just terrible.

The world needs more sensitive, emotional, feminist men. I hope, at least, that we can raise a few of them.