Raising boys – a dad’s advice for moms

I absolutely ADORE this article, written by Thomas Matlack, founder of The Good Men Project. Thanks to my husband, the most amazing father of my two boys, for sharing this with me.

Let’s get one thing clear from the get go: moms are generally better parents than dads. And that goes double for me. I’ve had three kids across two marriages and I am undoubtedly the weak link. My 17-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son trust their step-mom more than they trust me, which proves that I married well but am still getting the hang of being a dad. Most of us are.

That said, there are a few subtle nuances that I have picked up along the way as a dad that might come in handy for moms raising boys.

Ladies, here are some things to think about with your boys:

Think caveman. Adult women have thousands of emotional states, as do girls like my daughter. Boys, on the other hand, tend to feel one of three: mad, sad, happy. Don’t project your complex emotional life on your son. His issue of the moment might not be that complicated. He wants to eat, poop, or run. On a really bad day he wants his toy back after some other kid took it from him. He doesn’t want to stare out the window and have lengthy discussions about the meaning of life, as my eight-year-old daughter often did.

Watch his body not his mouth. Again, like adult men, the clues to how your son is doing will show up first in his body language. Jumping up and down with six-inch vertical leaps is the natural state of being and is good. Slumped shoulders are bad. Yelling is good. Quiet needs attention.

When in doubt, hug. Boys will often have a much harder time than girls verbalizing their problems. My 5-year-old son will sometimes burst out into tears after seemingly trivial events. I know there is something deeper going on, but I am not going to get it out of him, at least not at that moment (whereas my daughter would not only tell me what went wrong but in no uncertain terms why it was my fault, which was generally true enough). So the solution is physical not verbal. I spend a lot of time just hugging my boys. I usually have no idea why. But as a default cure-all, it seems to work wonders. A minute later they are all patched up and ready to rumble again. This even works pretty well with my 14-year-old, who is a 6-foot-tall linebacker at Boston College High School.

Yes, it really is all about poop. Girls potty train 6 to 9 months before boys, but once boys make it onto the throne, there is no stopping them. Moving their bowels is pretty much the highlight of their day (true confession: it still is for me, too), and they are going to want to talk about it. Bathroom time is a participatory sport. My five-year-old likes to head to the bathroom just as the family is sitting down to dinner, sometimesduring dinner. It’s the first time he has been still long enough to realize he has to go. And he wants me to come with him, not just to assist in the wipe but to have a leisurely conversation about the status of his poop. As much as I found this inconvenient at first, now I just go with it. Quality time is quality time.

Batman lives forever. Boys, even at a young age, realize the importance of super powers. They want to be good and believe in the existence of ultimate good in the world. Boys sort out their identities in relation to the mythical characters they hear about. My son is obsessed with Batman. He wears a full costume, even through the airport and down Madison Avenue. What amazes me even more than his dedication to the superhero is how the guard at LaGuardia or the guy hanging off the back of a garbage truck sees him and shouts, “Batman!” My boy nods his head just slightly, acknowledging his public before moving onto the important work at hand, like going to kindergarten.

Pointless physical activity is perfect. My brother and I once convinced his two sons and my older boy, when they were all around the age of 10, that they really needed to build a structure out of rocks. The rocks were on one side of a beach, but the perfect spot where the structure had to be built, according to our sage advice, was on the other side of the beach. Each stone weighed between ten and thirty pounds. The boys started moving the boulders one by one, working together to lift the heaviest ones. My brother and I set up our beach chairs midway from the rock pile to building site. We read the paper most of the morning while the boys tired themselves out moving rocks and then assembling a tremendous cathedral. By lunch they were tired and happy, and my brother and I had enjoyed a peaceful morning.

Winning does matter, but less than you think. Boys — perhaps even more than girls — put themselves under extreme pressure to perform in school, in sports, and in social situations. They talk about it less, so the sting of failure can run even more deeply than with girls. With boys it’s important to emphasize the lessons to be gained from failure, instead of trying to win at all costs, and to emphasize the development of the whole boy. Too often in our culture, boys are pushed to become one-dimensional robots. Goodness isn’t about winning at youth soccer or having the most friends or being the smartest kid in class; it’s also about being kind. That’s something as a mom that you can particularly help your son understand.

Clothes matter. I know there are way more options for dressing little girls than little boys, so the tendency might be to just throw jeans and a t-shirt on your son and forget about it. But you better make sure they are the right jeans and the right t-shirt. The only consistent battle I have had with my sons is over what they wear. It matters way more to them than I ever would have imagined. They want to look cool; they want to be comfortable (pants that are tight but not too tight, warm and yet breathable). I do draw the line with clothes that have already been worn two days in a row, but I don’t discount the importance of fashion to my kindergartener.

Crowds, not so much. I have noticed that my daughter lights up when she enters a crowd, whether family or strangers. Mass humanity is something that gives her energy. With my boys, and, frankly, for me too, it’s the opposite. They get shy and tend to hide behind my legs. I try to protect them from these situations and not push them beyond their limitations.

Bedtime is sacred. Because boys are so active, it’s hard to get them to sit still. The best time of day is the ten minutes before they go to sleep. Crawl into bed with them, read books, and hold them while they fall off to sleep. If you don’t believe in God, you will once you have lain next to your overactive son while his body goes limp next to you, and he ever so faintly begins to snore.”

Love it … and so very grateful for such awesome advice on raising my own boys.

I’m so excited!

Thanks so much to Tanya and Saul for hosting this morning’s technical blogging workshop, showing me how to do it all!

Facebook Timelines … I love you.

Facebook Timeline. Seriously. I am going back in time and loving it.

Completely forgot that I’d even made this … and it’s made me feel like we just got married all over again 🙂


Still want TDCC tickets?

I gave Anna the weekend off … and then won Two Door Cinema Club tickets on from 5 Gum SA for this Friday in Jozi. Argh.

You want them?

10th comment gets them!

Aaaaaaand GO!

PS: You need to pick them up from me. I’m a busy working-mom of two, you know 😉

Where do all the geeky girls go?

The Girl Geek Dinners were founded on the 16th August 2005 as a result of one girl geek who got annoyed and frustrated about being one of the only females attending technical events. She was tired of constantly having to prove herself and decided that she just wanted a change and to be treated just the same as any other geek out there, gender and age aside.  After all to be geeky is to be intelligent, have passion for a subject and to know that subject in depth. It’s not at all about being better than others, gender, race, religion or anything else. Those things just detract from the real fun stuff, the technology, the innovation and the spreading of new ideas.

On Tuesday night, I attended my first Girl Geek Dinner, held at one of Joburg’s best kept secrets, Higher Ground. It was the second Joburg event and, in my opinion, a huge success! The event was sold out and the full room on the night proved that.

Once snacks were served and bubbles poured, the formalities started. First up was Lana Strydom, who heads up Digital Marketing and Media for FNB. Obviously, a lot of the talk was centered around the elusive @RBJacobs, who is an online superhero when it comes to banking! Lana also chatted about the bank’s approach to social media and provided great examples of international banks really getting it right online.

Next up, Tiana Cline from Girl Guides chatted about girls in gaming. My first thought was around war games and I started to lose focus … but then she mentioned Words With Friends, Angry Birds and Just Dance 3, which looks like THE most fun EVER! I know we have an Xbox (I think) at home, so I am TOTALLY going to get it and dance like a loony in my lounge. I mean seriously – how much fun does this look!?

I hung out with old friends and new friends from Twitter and it was awesome! Two glasses of wine, a fab gift bag and one chocolate brownie later, I left with a happy tummy and an inspired mind. Thanks so much to Belinda and co at Stilletto Media for having us and I look forward to attending future GGDJHB events!

For more on the Girl Geek Dinners and details of the next event, check out their Twitter profile, Facebook page, the GGJHB blog or drop them an email.

See you at the next one? 😉

Moving forward…

This line, from Kelle Hampton’s most recent blog post, really struck a chord this morning:

You can’t effectively move forward in life unless you have those moments of letting yourself feel the darker side of reality once in a while. I do that, you know. Maybe not publicly every time, but I’m human (if you don’t count the unicorn gene). And even after those moments of pushing the bruise to feel the pain, I smile and think to myself… life is so very rich. Even with the challenges.

Suffering doesn’t have to be displayed publicly for it to be real. Some people suffer in silence, only revealing their hurts to those closest to them. Some choose to share their woes with the world. Either way, let us not judge how others express themselves.

And ALWAYS remember to be nice to people – because EVERYONE is working through some sort of battle and, just because they don’t broadcast it for all the world to see, it’s there and it’s real.