I dedicate this post to all the Mommies out there that have questioned where their sweet, gentle boy went when he turned 9? Others might be thinking their son is not gentle, sweet maybe, but not gentle. The intent isn’t that my son isn’t sweet anymore or that the changes he is experiencing make him less lovable. I just know at some point one switch turned off and another came on.
As I read, Real Boys by Dr. William Pollack, I am challenged not to write off my son’s changes with a: “that’s how boys are, deal with it” response. Dr. Pollack refers to such attitudes as the “Boy Code” or, the way we as a society shuts a boy’s real self down. (Pollack, p. 6) When I think of all the ways that I subconsciously stereotype my sons I am alarmed! I’ve caught myself many times going along with the Boy Code – emasculating my son through unchecked attitudes and stripping him of his right to be a child because I need to teach him how to be a man!
Boys have a way of doing something to the mother’s heart. I love it when he runs to give me a little peck on the cheek for no reason, you know, “compulsively”. They’re absolutely unashamed to show love when given the safe place to do so. The stereotype that boys are not as affectionate as girls is another example unstated in the Boy Code. Abram’s father is far more affectionate than me. However, I don’t believe it is good to dismiss the differences between girls and boys despite a society that tries to but that’s another post. In The Way of the Wild Heart, by John Eldridge, a book about the roles fathers play in raising their sons, he states: “A mother plays a crucial role in a boy’s life. From her a boy learns mercy, tenderness, and unconditional love.” Surely, all of us women want husbands to be tender and love us unconditionally so why would we not raise our sons accordingly.
I believe there are clear lines across the board that apply to all children but are often stereotyped by gender. Dr. Pollack gives many examples! To mention one, the epidemic of medicine given to little boys, wrongly diagnosed, with attention deficit disorder (ADD). All under the guise of lacking self-control from sitting in a boring classroom for 7 hours a day (Pollack, p. 36). However when a girl misbehaves in the classroom she is upset (notice emotions here – typically labeled as an expression for females). Or take a moment I recall when Abram compulsively decided he would smash his birthday cupcake in his face. We might say, a girl would never do that! Boys are often labeled (and mostly in a classroom setting) as misbehaving, out of control, and disobedient (and there is something to be said about this but not the point of this post).
I am challenged to break free from the boy code and dive into the code of adventure, spontaneity and freedom. I want to say yes more often to eating lots of sugar, running around barefoot outside, and using the “expensive” tools to build something – you fill in the blank. I am ready to get rid of the fears, rigidity, and shame about how I love and raise my son
A boy’s heart is never too old to bring back to life. As I watch, Xaviar become an adult, I can trace back through his life where he was challenged by an adult besides me. I am hopeful that he will continue to be challenged, and allow, perhaps any place in his heart where I ignorantly quenched his boyhood, in keeping with the “Boy Code”. I am also so very grateful for those around him that believe in him, and cheer him on.
I leave you with my rendition of a part in the recent movie entitled, Red Tales, maybe you remember, it’s about the first group of black pilots allowed to fly in combat. Lightning, one of the pilots, is known for his adventurous, rebellious spirit, who challenges most orders. He gets into a fight because he was called a racial name by a white pilot and has to report to his commander after spending a day in jail. The commander basically tells him he is better than that! And to address his anger and man up because he knows that Lightning has what it takes to be an excellent pilot. Later in the movie, he would die a very noble death for his bravery. I want to believe in my sons just like the Commander believed in Lightning!