Let me just get it out there: Every bub is a gift—no matter whether they’re a boy or a girl. Certainly, when I was pregnant with my two little ones I opted not to find out what sex I was having and spent plenty of time getting my head around both options. But, I have to confess, when I stumbled on Rita Templeton’s brilliantly funny treatise called 10 Things Mums of Boys Must Do, I couldn’t help but…cringe.
After my labour when the midwife announced my little bubs were girls some teensy, tiny part of me let out a sigh of relief. So it was funny this week that I read about other girl mums talking smack about little boys — clearly I’m not the only one uneasy with gender relations for under-fives. But for me it’s no sanctimonious “boys are dirty!” diatribe. (Hell, there’s only one thing more fun than being clean and that’s being gloriously, spectacularly filthy). In fact, on the eve of three of my close girlfriends all giving birth to their own little men, I’m forced to stop and really consider: just what am I afraid of?
Here, my completely personal and utterly unscientific explanation of why I’d hate to be a mum of boys.
- They think farts are funny. You know what’s funny? Stephen Colbert. Broad City. Spider Dog. You know what’s not funny? Body functions. And that’s not being prudish, that’s being truthful. At best farts are as exciting as breathing; at worst they’re warning shots before the friendly fire really hits the fan. And no matter how I talk about them, it still comes out prudish. Sigh.
- They struggle with the toilet. In my books toilet training starts and ends in the toddler years. So what’s with the flush/lid/seat confusion lasting waaaay beyond that? Hell, my 14-year-old brother still struggles with this one, and I’ll be damned if there isn’t still discussion going on amongst grown men. WTF?
- They’re not allowed to like girlie things. Trucks. Tutus. LEGO. Dolls. Why should anyone have to choose between them when they’re clearly all AWESOME? Truly, this one is definitely not the fault of little boys themselves, but any rug rat curious about Barbies or high heeled shoes is more than likely to find themselves on the pointy end of a disparaging look—from a brother, friend, or dad—quicker than you can say “gender stereotypes.” Unfair.
- Cool boys’ clothes are so hard to find. I love boys’ clothes. The simplicity (no ruffles here!). The colours (hello, hard-wearing khaki, navy, and grey!). The price (ten bucks cheaper, at least!). If I could deck my whole family out in Saturdays NYC, I would. But duds for little dudes are so often wrong. For starters, it couldn’t hurt to think outside the dinosaur-monster-skate box. And, I don’t know how they do it, but the red is always too red, the green too green. That cute thing some hipster parents do with the skinny jeans, suspenders, and bow ties? Adorable! But waaaay too high maintenance for me.
- They’re obsessed with their bits. Pee-pee. Wiener. One-eyed monster. Whatever you call it, apparently little boys are obsessed with it. According to girlfriends, aunties, and my mum, they all go through a phase of automatically, absent-mindedly, unrelentingly fiddling with it. In fact, Miss Templeton recalls asking one of her brood to “Stop wrapping your penis around your fork.” Can you imagine saying something similar to a little girl??
- They can grow up to be violent. I don’t mean to get heavy on you, but when it comes to crime against women the statistics are frightening. According to the Personal Safety Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “more than a million women in Australia had experienced physical or sexual assault by their male current or ex-partner since the age of 15.” My question is: What do the mums of these boys think? In what world is it acceptable to inflict violence on the women closest to you?
Truly, writing lists about ‘hating this’ and ‘hating that’ can get pretty narky. At the end of the day, beyond the superficial and trivial, what I look I hope to see in my kids and tiny tackers around me is patience, empathy and heartfelt consideration of others. No boys or girls are born with these qualities (well, none that I’ve met anyway) and it’s our job as parents to cultivate and encourage this behaviour.
But what I see when I look at the boys around me, is often the opposite. I see aggression (an obsession with hitting and tearing things down), I see a narrow set of interests (that same dinosaur-truck-skate thing), and I see ultra-competitiveness (pushing others out of the way to get what they want). And yeah – girls can definitely be like this too. But when you take a step back and you look at the grown men in our country – and across the US and UK – the same characteristics are at play.
In Australia, right here right now, the pay gap between men and women is at its highest level in history – almost 20 per cent. Women are earning $1 million less than men over a lifetime and one in three women are subject to physical assault. More than half of elderly single women are living below the poverty line.
So, like I said, it’s not that girls don’t come with their own charms (read: problems), it’s just that little boys seem this confusing mix of weird/annoying/aggressive that I don’t understand. And while I’m super happy to be a kickass friend and loving auntie to all my friends’ bib-wearing blokes, I’m also happy to head right back to my girls.
Do you have little boys? Are they really that different? Are my fears justified or have I got it all wrong?
image: Getty/JGI/Jamie Grill
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