Wednesday, December 7, 2011

On Raising Boys

Three years ago, I cried when I learned that I was pregnant with a boy.

Not tears of joy. Tears of fear. I was afraid that I would not know how to raise a boy. Afraid that Marie would never be close to her brother and would feel alienated as the only girl among her brother and all-boy cousins. Fear that our family would be divided as the boys went with the boys and the girls went with the girls.

In addition to all these fears swirling around my head, *everyone* was telling me just how challenging raising a boy would be. Family and friends would go on and on and on about how easy I had it with Marie and how hard it was going to be with a boy getting into everything.

After the initial shock, I analyzed each fear and found the root was within my own experiences. I have had a tumultuous relationship with my own brother, and I often felt left out because my boy cousin and brother were so close. In Harrington’s family’s, the boys went to hockey with the boys, and the girls stayed home.

After I wrapped my mind around these fears, I resolved that these experiences, though mine as I was growing up, are not my family’s destiny.

As soon as I laid eyes on my little boy, I fell in love. I felt all those magical, lovey feelings that everyone talks about, but I had never experienced (Marie’s birth was so traumatic). As my son’s personality emerged, I could see that he was both more assertive and more vocal than Marie.

Now at two and a half years of age, his tantrums are Off. The. Charts. My patience has reached its edge, as they say in yoga, and I understand how a parent can become unglued and yell at their toddler.

But I am trying to find the strength to shelve my first reactions so that I can teach him a more positive way to express his emotions. I want to nurture his fiercely independent spirit.

But this route of emotional literacy? Is far from being easy. And sometimes it can be a lonely path. Fortunately, I met The Mother Company this year at BlogHer. I did a review awhile back about their show, Ruby’s Studio, which helps parents teach emotional literacy. I was happy to find a partner in the philosophy of raising good people.

As I struggle to maintain my cool in these intense situations, I try to remember it’s all a series of moments.

Thomas’s last two-minute time out seemed like an eternity. He kept getting off his marker and yelling at me that I was a bad mommy for turning off the TV. There were a lot of moments in those two minutes.

I was angry and hurt. And it took work not to react.

After the time out, I explained it’s OK to be mad. I told him that he can say, “I feel frustrated.” I made sure to say that it’s not OK to say you hate mommy; we practice kindness.

Once we settled down for a story and cuddle time before a nap, I said, “It is hurtful when you say you hate your mommy. Can you tell me what it looks like to practice kindness?”

Thomas said in a serious voice, “I don’t like taking naps.”

I felt the clouds parted and heard a choir of angels burst into song! A year of my practicing kindness mantra may have finally clicked!

I replied that it must be frustrating to have to do something you don’t want to do, but taking naps is part of being healthy and strong. And he seemed OK with that.

I am hoping that he felt heard because it is my belief that teaching emotional literacy means practicing empathy. I believe that people, regardless of age, just want to be heard. I know that when I feel heard in a disagreement, I feel less defensive and more willing to be empathetic.

I am also not going to accept some antiquated standard that “boys will be boys,” implying bad behavior is accepted.

Boys have emotions, and emotional literacy is not gender specific. It is human specific.

It’s my job as his mother, a job both frustrating and infinitely rewarding, to raise this person, tantrums and all.

But after the glimmer of hope that shone through today, I feel that I can move forward with a bit more confidence.

So tell me; what are your thoughts on raising people?

1 comment:

Crissy said...

Very well said. I can totally relate. I agree boys can be a challenge and "boys will be boys" shouldn't be swept under the rug. I feel any negative behavior whether it is a boy or girl is acceptable. Otherwise, children will never learn how to be a respectful, compassionate, empathetic, good nature being. I feel it is up to us to guide the way, even in some of our darkest mommy moments. Some days are such a struggle and I want to pull out all my long luscious locks. But, there are days I feel so proud of what is becoming of my little people. One thing I wish is that my parents would have warned me they didn't come with a manual. I hope these parenthood experiences I encounter over my lifetime will only assist in future endeavors.