Raising Boys vs. Raising Girls

Since I put it out there, that whole thing about Kevin getting punched in the arm at school, I feel that I owe some follow-up.

This is several days old; it was quite purple a couple days ago.

It’s not something I’ve taken lightly, and I’ve agonized a little over whether to do anything about it or not – namely, contact the principal and/or the teacher of the class in which this happened.  Bullying is not something we, as a family, are unfamiliar with.  I was bullied pretty much all through school, and we dealt with a pretty serious situation in which Kevin was being bullied back when he was in fifth grade.  He even took part in a radio program a year or two ago that discussed the topic of bullying.

The thing is, as Kevin gets older (and being my first-born, he is, unfortunately, sort of the guinea pig in our parenting adventures), I am discovering that it becomes a slippery slope, this inclination of mine to want to step in and take charge of situations.  As Michael has pointed out to me, Kevin is at an age where he needs – and wants – to figure out who he is, as a separate person from his parents.  He needs – and wants – to be given room to deal with situations on his own, in his own way.  And as much as it hurts me as his mother – who wants more than anything to protect him and keep him safe – I am realizing that if we don’t give him the chance to deal, he’s never going to learn how to deal.  We are his safety net at this point, but he’s starting to spread his wings a little and find his way in the world.  Hopefully we’ve given him the tools to do just that.

So, in the end, after much discussion between me and Michael, Michael and Kevin, and me and Kevin, I decided to do nothing because that’s what Kevin wanted.  Although Kevin admits that this other kid “got carried away,” Kevin does not seem to be afraid of this kid, or of going to school.  He’s had an extremely positive experience overall at this school, and given all the information about the situation, it seems pretty clear that my going to the teacher and/or principal would rock the boat unnecessarily for Kevin and probably cause him more harm than good.  He says that’s why he lied to me about the bruises to begin with – because he knew I’d make a big deal about it and he didn’t want me to intervene.  (And although this does not justify his lying to me – which I emphasized to him – I do get what he’s saying.)

All that being said, I of course still don’t like what happened.  At all.  Michael insists that this is a boy thing – boys of a certain age begin rough-housing in this manner, it’s pretty harmless, yada yada yada.  As I said to Michael, it’s all about testosterone and who can piss the farthest, and it seems to carry over well into adulthood for a lot of guys, this whole ego-tough-guy-machismo thing.  I don’t like it.  I don’t like “play” that involves violence or inflicting injury to someone else, and I’m not going to condone it – I don’t care if it’s “typical” boy behavior.

This led to some friendly but heated discussion last night.  I asked Michael, “What if it was your daughter who came home with bruises like that?  Would you be okay with that?”  “That’s different,” he said.

Now that our kids are getting a little older, and we have a bona fide teenager on our hands, differences in child-rearing are crystallizing not only based on the kids’ genders, but on the parents’ genders – moms tend to see things differently than dads do and to approach certain parenting issues differently, and expectations of the children themselves seem to be different based on whether we’re talking about a daughter or a son:

~ Rough-housing among peers, even to the point of resultant visible bruising, is apparently viewed as typical, harmless behavior by dads when the subjects are boys.  Not so with girls.  I, as a mom, however, don’t like it or approve of it for either boys or girls.

~ A fourteen-year-old son might be cheered on to some degree by his dad with regard to pursuing a girl he liked.  If that fourteen-year-old boy actually kissed a girl (totally hypothetical; as far as we know, it hasn’t happened); Dad would be mighty proud.  What if it were his fourteen-year-old daughter?  Would Dad be cheering her on to pursue a boy she liked?  Nah, that’s different.  (Don’t forget, I reminded my husband, that the girl you might be cheering your son on to pursue is somebody’s fourteen-year-old daughter.)  How would Dad feel if his fourteen-year-old daughter was kissed by a boy?  Well, he seems resigned to it.  Me?  I think fourteen seems awfully young now that I have the perspective of a lot of years behind me.  I honestly don’t want to see my fourteen-year-old son or daughter pursuing or kissing members of the opposite sex.

These are just a couple of examples, but it’s certainly food for thought.  And clearly, dads have double standards and I am way more fair-minded than my husband!

Things are promising to get very interesting around here.

4 Comments on “Raising Boys vs. Raising Girls”

  1. tiny
    March 18, 2011 at 4:46 am #

    Did you see the little bully get bodyslammed on youtube/the news?

  2. starrlife
    March 18, 2011 at 11:29 am #

    That’s different is exactly the point. Exploring why is important I think. Boys are vulnerable too and it’s okay for them to know it? And show it? While I understand that they are different in many ways I tend to believe it is mostly by degree. But what do I know I only have a girl, a girl that is entering puberty and that’s freaking me out 🙂

  3. mom of 2
    March 19, 2011 at 1:15 am #

    Hi Lisa
    I have 2 sons- 16 and 19.

    I am preparing you in advance…16 is the worst age for boys! They dislike their moms.
    He will ignore you and refuse to talk to you. I have been through it twice- my 19 yr old laughs now and says he has no idea why he acted that way. My current 16 yr old is turning the corner and realizing I am a person that has feelings. This is a big step for a 16 yr old. My friends went through it too. They are great sons but have an intense need to separate at 16. This is my best advice- Do not take it personally- it’s not your parenting- it’s a developmental stage. They will come back to you at 17-18. I wish someone had told me this before I went through it!!!
    So all this stuff your 14 yr old is going through- peer pressure- rough housing- is preparing him to deal with the world on his own. As a mom I agree with you that it is wrong- but I learned to listen when my husband explains how boys think- because I can’t figure it out!!

  4. Addie
    March 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    I didnt post on the original post, but I will on this one…

    When I was 16, I think, I played this game with the boys – insisting that they hit me just as hard as they hit the other guys playing… Im only 4’8″ and was probably 70 pounds at the time… so Im just going to assume you can tell what my arm looked like… my mom also freaked out when she saw my whole upper arm was black and blue. I respected my mom b/c she didnt take any further action… although she wanted to.

    But I felt that I was old enough to make my own decisions… knowing what the consequences would be. But I also wanted to prove myself that I wasnt this dainty little girl that would break if you touched her… I wanted to be known as not just another girly-girl, that I could take whatever the boys could.

    Now, Im not saying that Kevin should have bruises if he didnt want them (who “wants” bruises, but you get what Im saying)… if he was hit against his will, thats different… but I know as a teenager you are defining who you are and learning what you want to be… I think this is a good opportunity for Kevin to figure out for himself (with or without his mom’s approval) what is right for him and how best he can handle the situation… he will remember the lesson a lot longer if he is the one who makes the decision and has to stick with it.

    Again… just my 2 cents

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