Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Joys of raising boys

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When my husband and I contemplated parenthood in those halcyon, carefree days B.C. (Before Children), we had a sepia-toned image of our girls, who played, quietly, immaculately dressed in matching ensembles, during tea parties with equally sweet-mannered friends.
We would be lounging on the settee, eating bonbons, counting our blessings. (Cue classical background music).
Then Dominic, he who conquers all, boy Number One arrived (cue noise of scratching needle on record).  He had colic, thus no night-time sleep, for 10 weeks. Dominic walked, actually ran, at eight months, and hasn’t stayed still since. He’s had a torn ear (running), slashed brow (running), torn other bits (running), unfortunate disagreement with a wall which cut forehead to the bone, (running), all by four years old.
We loved this so much we thought it was a great idea to have boy Number Two, Alexander the Great. He had breathing challenges from birth but, really, sleeping for more than a few hours at night is so overrated. He was eventually diagnosed with a rare congenital birth defect, and had a hole drilled in his head at 3, but all is well now.
There was a lull in, or we thought, completion of our baby productive capacity for four years, but then we discovered another delivery was imminent.  Obviously we love our boys dearly and feel blessed with whatever the Lord sends us, but thought it would be interesting to experience the difference in raising the other gender. Surely this time it would be a girl – what were the odds?  Great odds for another boy apparently:  Thomas the Sweet mysteriously appeared (the husband is still receiving therapy in this regard).
Clearly the Lord has a plan for us and sent us all boys for a reason.
The irony of it all is that I am the original girly girl. I tend to be the only one in church and on the road in hats and I love dresses and handbags. As a little girl I always wanted a sister (my mother told me we would get one from Woolworth and I waited for years before finally realizing that wasn’t an option).
I thought I had an inkling of that plan when, during one of my first outings with my 3 boys, (ages, 6, 4 and newborn), I was walking proudly on the South Coast, graciously accepting several comments on how handsome the boys are (I do make
pretty babies, she says modestly). One person asked after the baby’s gender. On my response, I received the comment (in the boys’ earshot):  “All boys – poor you.” I have often had that reaction in public since, often accompanied by a pitying look or abject horror (the boys are now 11, nine and five).
Yes, my house is often in constant (though I hope controlled) chaos. Yes, it is loud (apologies to my long-suffering neighbours).
 Yes, I either fall into the toilet at night, due to seat being left up, or sit in a lovely pool left by a somnambulant boy who has left that gift.  Yes, boys believe that the toilet bowl just represents a general guide for the placement of their liquid output, which often ends up in the nearby rubbish bin.
 Yes, we have frequent flyer miles to FMH (I have started to go to Sandy Crest in embarrassment; it’s not good when you are greeted with “Wait, you again” as you enter the ER Clinic) and the orthopaedic surgeon, both of whom often waives their charges, out of sympathy (I am in the process of negotiating share acquisition). Active boys and football apparently equal multiple broken bones, damaged ligaments, lost teeth, concussions, and so on.
 But you know what: I would not change my lot for all the tea in China. Boy babies are easier to clean (those baby girl bits confound me). I don’t have to worry about fashion because stores make choices so much easier as they insist on discriminating against boys and their stock tends to be 90 per cent for girls, ten per cent boys. Ditto book stores.  
 But in all seriousness, though, I would like to start a forum for other members of the M.O. B. Club (mothers of boys).  I have serious concerns about raising my boys in a society (ours and globally), where there are clear indications that our boys appear to be underperforming versus the girls, using academic and employment criteria. The Common Entrance results, CAPE results, the Cave Hill enrolment figures, those lawyers admitted to the bar, the graduating doctors appear to suggest significantly higher percentages of girls in these categories than boys.
Are we as a society setting up our boys for failure by subliminally and overtly, at very early ages, making them to feel that something is wrong with them because they do not act or learn like girls? When they hear comments “Poor you, mother of all boys”  from strangers, family, teachers, what does that do to their self-esteem and confidence?  Are they just giving up?
We know, and science has confirmed, that boys are hardwired differently from girls by nature. Nurture, along with societal and family expectations, trains them differently, too, of course. Should their physical exuberance not be celebrated and channelled? Are we employing boy-specific tools at home and in our learning institutions at primary and secondary level to ensure their management, so there is disciplined learning without demoralization?
   I never agreed with an old friend who was aghast 20 year ago at the co-education of Harrison College and the other secondary schools, but I am starting to wonder if he had a point. Co-education might  work in other cultures, but ours is so highly sexualized – our soca and dance hall lyrics, our dancing (or whatever you want to call it now) and God help those who allow their children to watch BET music videos. Are girls too much of a distraction for boys in secondary school? It has not helped that there is an extreme shortage of male teachers, who played a critical role in the past in helping our boys become men.
   We talk about a lack of male household heads, but traditionally that has always been a factor in many homes here, so I do not think that is the main reason we are having challenges with our boys today. The death of the extended family and  the “village raising a child” approach, change in societal values (pride before industry), the rise of “ghetto-fabulous” materialism – these perhaps have been impacting on the challenges facing our boys (and girls).
   I view this piece as a rallying cry from one M.O.B. to others, to create another forum, to discuss, to share experiences but also more crucially to conclude with specific, practical suggestions/solutions, which are promulgated throughout our entire society – our homes, our schools, our churches, our community centres.  A number of us have acknowledged that a number of our males are in crisis.  Therefore, so is our society.
Paula-Ann Moore is a proud and thankful M.O.B who continually asks God for guidance on how to raise her boys to be the best that they can be.

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