Mar 23, 2012

Boys will be Boys

It happens all the time.
I’m walking into a store or restaurant and someone will comment on my kids.
“Wow, all yours, huh!” they might say.
“Four boys and you finally got your girl.”

Just sweet and fun comments I take as compliments; verbal hugs from total strangers.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were out with all the kids when a woman with 4 young girls and 1 baby boy of her own passed by me.  We eyed each other's little families, quickly realizing we had opposite genders.  I thought it was sweet and commented on how cute her girls were.  Her expression changed and she said in a somewhat discouraging voice, “You have four boys, huh.  I wouldn’t trade places with you for anything.”
And I smiled at first, thinking it was like the rest of the comments I get, like it was some sort of a compliment, only to realize it was more an insult.
That's not very nice to say, I thought and I wondered what she could possibly have meant.  Was she implying boys were more of a challenge to raise then girls? How would she know that?  Her boy was a baby in her arms.

And I got to thinking . . . 
Yes, I have 4 boys in a row.
Yes, they’re rowdy and wrestly (is that a word, let’s just say it is).
Yes, they like to tease each other and poke and have fun and be obnoxious.
Yes, they’re boys! 
Yes, they eat a lot! 
Yes, they can drive me crazy if I’m really tired and have too much to do.

Honestly, having 4 boys has it challenges, but most days it’s manageable at least I try to convince myself it is. 
But really, despite the food fights, the lessons on lifting the toilet lid and constant out-growing of shoes, I know these 4 boys are gifts from God.  They are my gift to cherish and teach and love.

Last weekend, we all went out.
I tried to dress up a bit.
At the restaurant the boys started playing tag.
Then, it turned competitive.
Running, tagging, “You’re it!” and the other one is crying because he didn’t win.
I’m wondering what I can do to just keep my boys still for a little while, with no fighting or trying to win or be stronger then the other.  
And the counselor says “They’re just boys and that’s what boys do.”  And he shrugs his shoulders like this is how it is, this is how it always has been; like a cave man dad once said to his wife as their boys rough-housed in their cave "Boys will be boys."

I’m starting to question the idea that "boys will be boys" because it’s taken over my life.
Is this really what boys do? 

The expression "Boys will be boys" offers no consolation prize; it provides no fuzzy feelings only the idea that one should give up.  What I think this expression really means is boys are going to do what they want when they want how they want unless their mother stays on top of them every single minute.  
Because I don’t like "boys being boys" all the time – teasing in the car, wresting in the house, pestering each other at the restaurant.

Later, we walked across the street to the City of Gilbert water tower.
And the water kept my kids occupied for the rest of the afternoon with no fighting on their part.  I watched them play and it occurred to me that my boys always need to be engaged, conquering something, entertained by a challenge, an obstacle that empowers them, they want to feel strong and if they don’t have an opportunity like that, they take it out on each other, find it in each other through wrestling, fighting, teasing, etc.

How is it I just realized this?  4 boys and I'm still trying to figure it out.  Parenting has a way of teaching, humbling, keeping me on my toes.  I know this realization doesn’t fix my certain dilemma, but if "boys have to be boys" it is some sort of consolation prize for years of additional parenting.

Take the time to read blogger Glennan Melton’s post on parenting “Don’t Carpe Diem”.  It’s a hoot.  She says it all in a nice compact little blog post.


  1. I have two boys and one girl sandwiched in the middle. She often instigates the fights, teasing, chaos, whatever. I don't think it's about gender. It's about their personalities.

    For the woman who had four girls? I grew up in a family with four girls and one boy. Four girls with PMS - and usually at the same time. Four girls going through emotional trauma. Four girls going out with boys my parents didn't know. Oh, and one boy who spent a lot of time at his friend's houses.

  2. We have four girls and two boys. The boys are NUTS. But they're sweet, and I wouldn't dream of trading around the numbers or order for anything.

    My oldest hasn't had a single day of PMS and she wasn't the typical teenager either. Not a lick of trouble from her and she's now almost 19. But the next two girls in line - oh boy! The hormones are a-flyin'!

  3. I remember the day my husband came home to our 4 teens (2 girls, 2 boys), 4 younger children (3 girls, 1 boy) and a pregnant wife. He announced he was going to hang a sign over the front door that said, "Hormone Hotel."

    Great post, Laura. Thanks!

  4. What I'd really like to know is, Laura, do you think that woman intentionally meant what she said as an insult? I'm just curious. I think you have a perfectly lovely family. You should be happy your boys are so, um, rambunctious. If they weren't, something would be wrong with them. Right? Be glad, rejoice, and take a nap when you can.


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