The trials and rewards of raising boys

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

Opinion: Boys seemed to me an alien species, maybe that's why I like them.

The oldest of four daughters, at school I would seek out the company of boys, namely the class clowns and theatrical types, with whom I could really be myself.

There's a goofiness, an ability to not take one's self too seriously, an infectious energy and routine calmness about the men in my life which helps centre me when I feel chaotic.

Now as a mother of sons, I'm providing the calm amidst the chaos.

When planning on becoming a mother, I hoped for a son.

I imagined I would be parenting a sweet little man. I'd be captain of the family ship and he would be my first little mate.

I got my boy, two in fact. But things haven't always been that simple.

Sometimes it's like I've been speaking another language.

While reading Steve Biddulph's Raising Boys, and Maggie Dent's Mothering Our Sons, I'm discovering the role testosterone plays in the wiring of the male brain. 

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It's insightful reading when relating to the grown-up males in my life, too.

We live in a world where traditionally men have ruled over everything. But in childhood, males tend to trail behind. 

Boys are generally slower to learn to speak, to toilet train, to hold a pen.

I'm glad I know all of this. Now.

It stops me fretting when I see other children's detailed artwork adorning the kindergarten walls while my son holds fort in the sandpit, covered in dirt, his shoes nowhere to be seen.

In a conversation with him it is evident he has a bright mind, but he's on his own trajectory.

Interestingly, boys tend to need longer to successfully 'detach' from their mothers and caregivers and venture into the world.

This is where society has done men a disservice. Contrary to cultural expectations on male toughness, the thing boys need most is love. 

My son may blow raspberries at me and wipe off my kisses, but he still needs me to give them.

It's in quiet conversations that I can draw him out. Behind the 'I don't know's' and 'I forgot's' is a treasure trove of observations, ideas, feelings – thoughtful insights into what makes this lovely boy tick.

It's better than the response I get when I shout in exasperation about pyjamas left on the floor and shoes not being put on fast enough.

To organise two preschool males can be a pedantic parent's nightmare and distraction from my calm parenting goals. 

"Mum! Where's my …?" is my sons' most overused phrase.

For someone who prides herself in arranging toys in their sets so they will be more enticing to play with, it turns out my sons will eventually move on if they can't find a certain Paw Patrol or PJ Masks figurine.

It's me who winds up frustrated.

For someone who set out to buy only wooden toys because they are more attractive and are better for the environment, we sure ended up with a lot of plastic.

Here's where the sustainable concept of borrowing from a Toy Library came in handy.

I was attracted to the Taranaki Toy Library by its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) toys. There are puzzles which can teach young children the basics of coding. I wanted to see if my boys would be interested in such a thing. 

It's helpful to try a variety of toys to discover what my kids will actually play with.

I chose for them a variety of coding toys but the one puzzle they enjoyed most was a simple wooden bunny which went inside a box.

It's widely known that kids learn through play and so my job is to make sure they have lots of opportunities to play.

This is a huge comfort to me as I watch my boys make yet another beeline for the sandpit.

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