I just read yet another one of those articles that talks about raising boys vs. raising girls. This one was refreshingly different, though, because it talked about the similarities in raising children of different genders, rather than the differences.
A disclaimer about my expertise: I have two boys. And no girls. So I’m really no expert here.
That said, I’ve always thought that boys get a bad rap. I’ve written about this a little bit before. For me, it started when Matthew was a toddler. I’ve always said that my kids were pretty impossible babies (colicky and sick, and neither slept through the night for a full year, but more about that another time, because it’s really so much fun to reminisce about). But they were great toddlers. I’d heard about how boys were so “tough” and “active.” I’m not saying that Matthew wasn’t energetic, but he was often happy to sit and color, watch Sesame Street or do puzzles. So I just figured that maybe we got lucky (or that there was something horribly wrong with him, depending on who I spoke with).
By the time Matthew was in kindergarten, Michael was a toddler, content to sit in his stroller and watch the world go by. And I had a conversation with Matthew’s teacher, which to this day confounds me. I can’t remember what exactly we were talking about, but she ended the conversation by looking at me and exclaiming, “Well, you know how boys are!”
No, I didn’t.
Much later, after I thought about it, I knew what she meant. “Well, you know how boys are, if they follow the exact stereotype. They don’t listen, they don’t sit still, and they don’t do as well in school as girls, at least at this age.”
On behalf of my kids, and all boys, I’m still kind of pissed about that comment. I’d also like to add here that Michael had this same kindergarten teacher four years later, and she made the exact same comment to me again.
So, what did I take from those conversations? First, I don’t think that anyone who has obvious disdain for one gender or the other should be teaching, unless it’s at a single-sex school, where they will be less inclined to play favorites (another disclaimer here: at another point after this, Matthew had a teacher who seemed to prefer boys. While that wasn’t fair either, given that my kids are boys, it did bother me less, because Matthew was one of her favorites).
I also think that as parents (and teachers), we frustrate ourselves when we expect children (or adults, for that matter) to conform to gender or other stereotypes. And I’d love to know if you agree, but I think that nonconformance to stereotypes can be tougher for boys. What I mean by this – we have a word for girls who don’t follow gender stereotypes – tomboy. What do we call these boys?
How about we just call them boys?