I read this recently and so did a bunch of you. I know, because I saw it shared far and wide in my Facebook feed. The gist of it if you don’t care to read, is a mom who is just plain FED UP with people “judging” her for her rambunctious son because … HE’S A BOY for crying out loud! He’s SUPPOSED to be that way. And don’t even try and contribute to this conversation, mothers of only girls, because you. Don’t. Even. Know.
Ohhhhhhkay. It doesn’t take a psychologist to see that this woman was clearly feeling extremely defensive when she wrote this post. I don’t blame her! She talks about the smirking of other women and other mothers saying something must be “wrong” with her son for his behavior. Yeah, I think its fair to say ANY mom would feel a little defensive hearing something like that.
But here is where I feel pretty strongly – lets not make this an “it’s a boy” thing. I know. I KNOW. I am one of the dreaded mother’s of only girls. Instead of an “it’s a boy” thing, lets make it into, “my child is an individual” thing. Because I am willing to bet there are plenty of mamas of girls who have a rambunctious toddler on their hands. My daughter can scream, kick, hit, and play knee deep in dirt and with the best of them.
Anytime I hear a mom say something along the lines of “boys will be boys” or “girls will be girls”, what I am really hearing is a mom who needs reassurance that her child is normal. Which 99% of the time they are. There are vast and wide definitions of “normal”. As a mother, we are the ones who know our children best. Blaming “bad” behavior on gender though? I’m not going to jump on that. I’m not going to jump on the naughty little boys and moody teenage girls bandwagon. Maybe your son IS naughty or your teen girl IS moody. That is fine, normal even. I don’t have any problem with the fact that a child is displaying this behavior. I have a problem with the inference that this child is helpless against this behavior due to the presence of an extra X or Y chromosome. When I hear a mom say “____ are just easier”, what I am really hearing is a mom who might be feeling a little guilty that she has a different relationship with one child over another. And that’s OKAY you guys! We are allowed to have a different relationship with each of our children because they are different people. Each one unique and full of different genetic matter than the other, even if they share the same gender.
A few months ago my daughter had her first dentist appointment. While I was filling out paperwork, my husband was attempting to corral her as she ran through the lobby and climbed on chairs. She screamed and kicked her way through the entire appointment. I watched in pure embarrassment as the other children in the waiting room sat quietly with their parents. As the receptionists politely averted their eyes. I was so embarrassed. Because this being a parent stuff is damn hard. And what feels worse than the feeling like you can’t control your child is the feeling that others are judging you for it.
I fully believed I would love-and-logic my way to a perfectly behaved two-year-old who never throws a public tantrum and is always sweet, polite, and well-behaved. HA! My child didn’t get that memo. And I don’t blame myself. At least, I try not to blame myself.
The authors title “In Defense of my Son” says it all. If I could sit down with this mama, I would tell her this: You do not need to be in defense of your son. Please don’t fall in the trap of believing he needs defending. Please accept him as is, parent him to the best of your abilities, and let the rest go. Please don’t feel the need to compare him to little girls or your daughter or older boys or really ANYONE. Please give him the freedom to grow into the person he is, and please give yourself the freedom to know not every characteristic or behavior of your child is reflective of your parenting. Please don’t feel like you have to lean heavy on the tired excuse of gender to explain away all of your son’s “shortcomings”. Please don’t feel like gender can explain away all of his “good” qualities either. Because the more we focus on gender rather than individuals, the more polarizing it becomes.
“Oh, I just hope you have a boy next” – A sentiment I have heard sighed tenderly into the air. “Boys are so special. Boys just love their mamas so much.” – A line I read so many times in pregnancy forums that it began to get more than slightly stale. I think that girls love their mamas. I think girls are special. I think that if I have a boy next, I will very likely have a completely different experience than I did with my daughter. I think that if I have another daughter, I will very likely have a completely different experience than I did with my first. Because I am a different person now. No experience will be like the first. In some ways that is relieving, in some ways it is sad, in some ways it is exciting.
We fall to gender because it is the easy answer. It is the simplest explanation because you can clearly see the difference between a boy and girl physically, so our brain is quick to follow that there must be other differences as well. But the easiest answer is not always the right answer, or the best answer. I’m not sure why we need an answer at all. I think the “answer” is the permission we need not to blame ourselves. The answer gives us permission to see things on the surface and not dive any deeper.
Mama – you are doing a good job. Whether it is with a house full of boys, a car full of girls, or some mixture of the two. You don’t need to write that “in defense” letter to me. Your child is an individual, you are loving on him/her and doing the best you can. No excuses necessary.