Wednesday, March 5, 2014

big boys don't cry. just kidding.

sometimes i hate the internet. it's too big and too loud and too mean. it sucks my energy and my time. it tells me i'm not that funny. it tells me i have bladder cancer and a brain tumor. it tells me i should be able to work full time, parent full time, have sex with my husband for 30 consecutive days, read award-winning novels, keep up with world news, bake delicious organic meals, pack food diorama bento boxes for my kids' lunches, clean my house per daily schedule, remove any stain (even grass, blood, and ketchup!) from my grubby kids' clothing, clean my grout with a toothbrush, baking soda and vinegar, throw outrageous and expensive themed parties for every occasion, entertain my children with an endless stream of educational activities, and craft handmade gifts for neighbors, teachers, babysitters, coworkers, and friends (with coordinated hand-stamped hemp wrapping paper and locally spun glitter and twine, obv).

but sometimes i love the internet. it tells me i'm not crazy. it tells me my kids aren't crazy. or at least that we're not the only crazy ones. it makes me feel like i'm not alone, despite being surrounded by people in "real life" who gush about the beauty and awe of pregnancy, the ceaseless joy of motherhood, who tell me to enjoy every single precious moment of my children's lives because it'll be gone faster than i can blink an eye... when sometimes all i want is to squeeze my eyes shut and pray the world around me will just disappear for a minute. for every article or post that tells me i'm doing it wrong, there's one in which i find a kindred spirit, a sympathetic soul. yes, the internet reveals the ugly underbelly of human nature, but it also exposes it's big, bleeding heart.

in this particular instance, i am appreciative of the world wide web for its attention to the subject of "sensitive" boys. on the one hand, i read lots of posts from bloggers about "why they're glad they don't have daughters," e.g., this and this. boys are snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, rough and tumble, "a noise with dirt on it." girls are sugar and spice and constant social drama. people in "real life" say it all the time too. "he's all boy," "boys will be boys," etc. i guess this is just an offshoot of my earlier posts about heteronormativity and hegemonic masculinity a.k.a. kids and gender and pink princesses and blue balls... er.. basketballs ;) (if you're so inclined, you can check out those previous posts here: "i wear The Pants but everyone in my family wears pants (sometimes)" and "the bedazzled bulldozer"). but when i read the manly boy posts i'm like, really? not my boy. yes he likes trucks and sports, but he also seems to think dirt is anthrax in disguise, requires 37 napkins to get through a meal, is deathly afraid of winged insects, and literally has "spidey sense," in that he can sense if there is a spider anywhere on our property and will not sleep until the offending arachnid is vanquished. (i don't kill spiders, btw. i guess it's a combination of charlotte's web and an aunt of mine who convinced me that spiders were good luck omens and if you killed them you would end up living in a van down by the river. so instead, i catch them and escort them outside. which adds precious minutes to an already lengthy bedtime routine. which is something my clever dude has probably already figured out ;))

my boy is ten times the crybaby/drama queen that his little sister is, and i would bet big money that, of the two, he will be the primary source of high school theatrics. (we always say we want to protect jack's sweet sensitive soul from the harsh realities of life... colby, on the other hand, we're not too worried about. she'll take life and punch it in the face. she's such a little lover, but if provoked - watch out! you mess with the bull, you get the horns!) anyway. jack's not a "wimpy kid," per se (or, i don't know, maybe he is), but mainly he is just SO sensitive and he gets his feelings hurt quicker than you can say you're sorry. even a perceived slight or an unintended stink eye can send him into hysterics. he just doesn't fit neatly into the "boy box" like so many people would have you believe. he likes pink and blue (though i'm already starting to see society's influences here - a year ago he listed pink as his favorite color. recently i've heard him say "pink is for girls," or, "grills," as he calls them ;)) he likes trucks and jewelry. he likes to have his toenails painted and run around in a superhero costume (dressed as "Flash Man," with a cape, a "Bat Signal," and a "Gween Lanter-in Powah Wing"). he wants glitter shoes and light up spider man shoes. he wants a pony tail and a pirate sword. it's his party and he'll cry if he wants to. and he wants to. oh does he want to. and i'm okay with that. (though i do wish he could work on VOLUME CONTROL!)

yes, i have to fight my own internalization of society's norms here, about who and what and how little boys are allowed to be. DM and i have pow-wows about it all the time. seriously, every time we sit down and try to watch a show or a movie, we end up talking for an hour and a half about our kids, or mainly, our sweet "spirited" child, mr. jackson jay. we go back and forth and up and down. we start out with, this cannot be normal. then we say, well, what is normal, anyway? we don't want to hang our societal and cultural baggage about what's "normal" and "manly" and "not-sociopathic" onto our 3.5 year old son. then we say, but seriously, does there have to be so much crying? then we say, there is no way our parents spent hours upon hours fretting over this shit, and we turned out relatively alright. and then we fret some more.

it's an ongoing struggle. but i will continue to fight that fight. and it makes me feel good to know that there are plenty of thoughtful, intelligent parents who are out there fighting the same fight. maybe, someday, kids will be free just to be themselves.

these just kill me
(photo by jill greenberg)
and this, because it is one of the main catalysts
of our heart-to-hearts about our kids' behavior
selected googliography:

Boys Cry, Too, by Katie Hurley on Dr.

The real boy crisis: 5 ways America tells boys not to be "girly" on

Parenting the Highly Sensitive Boy by "Rebecca" at Positive

The Strong, Sensitive Boy, by Ted Zeff


  1. oh dear, I worry about this all the time. The phrase that makes my skin crawl and is completely banned in my house is, "be a man", or "man up" or any iteration of that phrase. What the heck does that even mean? I've replaced it with "figure it out". I say it to my son, to my husband, and to myself. Seems to fit almost any scenario.

    1. I love that! I think I will start to use that, too! (Also on my son (and daughter) and husband and self ;))