Monday, November 21, 2011

Living With Four Y Chromosomes

Boys are different.  Growing up with brothers and being friends with a lot of girls who had brothers, I kind of had a jump start into this different world and reality of what it means to be a boy.  Boys are loud and tough.  They love to wrestle.  Good hygiene is optional.  Cleanliness in general is relative.  They will turn anything into weapons, and follow the beat of an entirely different drummer than girls do. 

And this is a good thing.  A very good thing, as a matter of fact.

I love being the mom to boys.  I can still remember the moment I realized that life in our home would always be different and that I was in the minority.  It wasn’t when we say the ultrasound for boy #1 that it hit, or even when he was born.  It was about a year later and I was sitting on the floor folding clean clothes.  Before he came along, there had been only three piles—one for me, one for my husband, and one for the towels.  Now, there were four piles, and the new one looked very much like my husband’s pile, just with smaller dimensions.  Over the years, we’ve added two more boy piles, and the dream of ever having all of the clothes washed at one time has become just that – a dream.

Like a lot of parents, I have read a lot of books and articles over the years about boys.  I have listed to radio broadcasts from Focus on the Family and Family Life Today.  And, of course, there has been the on the job training.  I have used and stored away some good information.  There have been books that I have skimmed over, and some that I have kept for future reference.  So, when I got the opportunity to review the book Raising Real Men, by Hal and Melanie Young, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The subtitle was Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys (good subtitle--and philosophy).  I figured there would be some good information, but didn’t know how much would be recycled from other sources.

I began reading it a couple of months ago, and was immediately struck by how different this book is.  It is part informational, part guidebook, and part resource materials.  But, it goes beyond that.  Covering topics such as discipline, games and warfare, the Youngs address these areas in extremely practical and boy specific ways (and yes, boy specific ways do matter).  Here are just a few of the hundreds of nuggets of wisdom that stood out for me:

"Without question, we have an absolute responsibility to give our children physical protection; they are dependent on our care to provide their food, clothing, and shelter, and to shield them from those who would exploit or abuse them in some way.

That protection shouldn't become the unmanning of our sons, though.  Boys need to have the freedom to take reasonable risks.  You don't let them play in traffic, but you shouldn't cringe in horror as they climb the jungle gym.  If they grow up fearful of risk, they are missing an important part of being a man.  A carefully considered risk, prayerfully undertaken, is not recklessness."  (page 51)

On Racing to Win:

"Mothers are made to nurture.  They want everyone to be happy.  They want everyone to win.  They try to rewrite the rules of our board games so no one loses, and delight to find toys that feature "cooperative play." It extends into the schoolroom, too:  the idea of cooperative learning where students work together in groups and everyone shares the same work and same grade was definitely invented by women.

Boys just don't think that way.  They love to try their strength, whether physical, intellectual, or emotional, against others.  They want to see where they stack up.  They love to compete; they love to win, and sometimes they would rather lose than not try.  Maybe some boys seem to avoid competitions, but they probably just haven't had a chance to compete on their strengths.  It's deep seated in the male psyche."  (pages 101-102)

On Love and War (and by extension, sex):

This is plainly an area where parents aren't talking with one another.  Mothers we've met, particularly homeschooling mothers, seem to be in denial about their children's sexuality.  It's as if the kids never quite leave the baby stage -- you know, when you dress the little girls in pink and the little boys in blue because, frankly, they still look identical any place but the bath tub.  Moms worry that talking to their children about sex will destroy their innocence and expose them to a Pandora's box of temptations.

Fathers know better, if they're honest about it.  They know that temptation is an ongoing battle for nearly every man, and it starts much earlier than most women realize.  Boys don't need exposure to anything to find sexual temptation; all the pleasure points are easily accessible, and they discover that fact before they can talk about it.  Parents will correct outward behavior that might be embarrassing ("Get you finder out of your nose! Keep your hands out of your pants!") but without some broader principle of why and how to avoid that temptation, curiosity will hatch into fascination and progress to real problems later on.  Peeking at risque magazines when they're ten years old is way down the road from the starting point."  (Page 199)

Good, good stuff.  If good information was already out there, they didn't reinvent the wheel.  Useful ideas were included and referenced on almost every page.  Topics included chores, stewardship, money, weapons and respecting women, among many others.  I can not recommend this book enough.  If it seems like you have all of the boy raising info that you need, you don’t.  You really should consider checking this book out as well.  I have learned so many new strategies and ways of looking at situations, and I have always considered myself well read on the subject.  I think that is why it has taken me so long to read the entire book.  It isn’t the ‘read and digest in one setting’ kind of book.  I’ve had to ponder it and apply it on a regular basis.  As I read Raising Real Men, I was reminded of the importance of what it is that I am called to do.

I am raising leaders.  Maybe not of ‘big’ things like companies or governments (but maybe I am), but they will most definitely be leaders of their families.  The question is—will they be strong, confident leaders, or weak-kneed, hen pecked leaders?  While I am not the final determiner in that outcome, I do have a very important role in their preparation.  And this book certainly helps provide a battle plan for me.  This one is definitely a keeper.  You can even read a sample chapter (the one about wrestling and physical assertion) here.

You can find more information about Raising Real Men here. You can also find additional parenting helps and boy friendly outdoor learning activities at Timberdoodle.  They also have one of the best homeschool catalogs that I have seen in a very long time.  You can request a free catalog here.

Disclaimer:  As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free copy of Raising Real Men in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

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