Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Boys Will Be Boys

The other day, P. and a friend turned the little pool into a sludge of mud and assorted yard debris. Bo loved it. Everything about it. He was doing his fair share of splashing but was also perfectly content to sit back and let the girls splash him right in the face.

Pretty gnarly, right? And it got worse. Thank goodness little boys are washable!

I run with a pretty progressive crowd so when I saw some of the comments on the above photo I was surprised. But of course you can probably guess the tone of the comments. He's ALL boy! Boys love dirt. Boys are so hard to keep clean. Boys will be boys.

Have you ever thought about "boys will be boys"?

Not so much about how it's casually thrown around by people interacting with baby boys and the toddlers they grown into but how it's used later. It's a strange continuum that starts early - benignly - and ends badly. Someone loves the mud... boys will be boys. He knocks over block towers instead of building them... boys will be boys. Someone's sandcastle gets knocked down on the beach... boys will be boys. Someone gets into a knock-down brawl at recess... boys will be boys.

And like my baby in the mud pool, it only gets worse. A sporting event gets violent... boys will be boys. Somebody gets sexually assaulted... boys will be boys!

There's nothing wrong with being boyish or being a boy or liking trucks and mud more than drawing and dolls. There's nothing wrong with having plenty of energy and being always on the go. But there's definitely something wrong with excusing destructive behavior or uncaring behavior or bullying behavior or ill mannered behavior or sexually inappropriate behavior because the assumption is that it's just how boys are.

Out of control. Discourteous. Yucky. Violent.

Every time I read those four seemingly harmless words I cringe a little because they're just so limiting. So negative, too. And here's my tiny son who loves the mud and all things that go vroom and wrestling with his papa. But he also loves reading book after book and playing gently with animals and hugging his big sister.

Yes, boys will be boys. But society, along with the boys themselves, gets to decide what that means. Out of control or full of inner strength. Discourteous or respectful. Yucky or curious. Violent or smart.

Boys will be boys. Sweet and giving and strong and vulnerable and respectful of others and rambunctious and thoughtful - if we teach them that boys can be all those things instead of just snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Maybe then we when we hear someone say "boys will be boys" we won't immediately assume something somewhere has been broken or someone has gotten knocked down or hurt or worse.

Maybe then we'll think good things about boys instead of just limiting them to the worst humanity has to offer. 


  1. I agree. I think the same thing when I hear "boys will be boys". I also cringe when people start rattling off how "boys are slower than girls" "girls learn X faster than boys" etc. Because now you are placing a burned of presumed "less than" on the boys. It sucks. "Oh, boys develop language later than girls." If fewer people listened to that more boys would get into speech therapy or other necessary therapies to help them at earlier ages and they might not feel so behind once school begins. Not that schools aren't pushing the kids to do more too soon. They totally are. I can't believe my 5 year old is already learning addition in Kindergarten.

    1. Reading your comment it suddenly occurred to me that at least - and this is a very small at least - the way boys are pigeonholed is super evident. Whereas with girls it's more like "Oh she's so sweet and quiet just like a girl awwwww" which is just as limiting but framed in a way that's harder to break free from. How about kids are kids are individuals, ya know?


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