Sunday, July 27, 2014

I'll be what you tell me I am

"Anything boys can do, girls can do better..."

I remember this phrase from when I was a little girl.  I grew up with boy cousins and I liked to play trucks and cars with them.  I tried so hard to make all the truck noises, but I just couldn't get into spit being all over my face just to get the right sound for each different style of truck.  My cousin Nathan, however was a pro.  He is younger than me, and I remember watching in awe as he drove the Tonka trucks, staring at them intently, changing the inflection in his voice.  I wanted to get into it as much as he did, but I never measured up.  To this day, when I try to describe a sound to my hubby, he gets a weird look on his face, and I know that I sound like I'm making a problem up, because he says that there is no way the car would sound like that.
I went out and shot swallows with the boys, and occasionally shot out old car windows.  If my dad or uncles read this... It wasn't my idea!  I made mud pies (and decorated them with flowers!), dug through the junk yard for treasures (stuff to decorate our playhouse with!)  got gravel permanently embedded in my knees from trying dumb things on my bike (I hosed it down later to keep it sparkly!).  I broke my arm playing Tarzan and Jane in the weeping willow tree (I was Jane!), I played with Star Wars, She-Ra, and army men.  I made up dangerous games with my cousins where we threw shovels at each other because we lived out on a farm, and the PC police hadn't caught up with us yet.  Because I grew up on a farm, I was also required to wake up at the unholy hour of 4:30 a.m. to move pipe. I tried really hard to get out of it, but my sister and I went twice a day, worked our guts out and got some pretty big muscles to boot.  When Nathan and I had to go move some lines together, we actually got in a fight over who was going to drive.  He asserted that because he was a boy, it should naturally go to him.  I asserted that since I was older and more responsible, I should be able to.  I was so strong at this point, I think I tried to swing a pipe at his head, but I can't remember for sure.
It was never uncommon at school or anywhere to tell boys how dumb they were and that girls were better at everything boys did.  It infuriated me when the boys got to do something cool, just fueling the desire to prove I was just as good.
I'm ashamed now to admit that in the process, I didn't really have a high opinion of boys or men in general.  I saw them as arrogant, uncaring, they would use anyone they could to get ahead.  I thought most of them were missing the honesty chip, and that they were something to be tolerated instead of loved.  But I was crazy about them at the same time.  Boys, boys, boys were all I thought about.
As I was given the challenge of raising boys, I knew there was something I had to learn from them.  I needed to learn patience, to know that they didn't think and operate the way girls did, and to marvel in the very distinct differences in creation.
I looked at my little boys and knew that they weren't born being manipulative, but instead shaped that way by so many different sources, so if I wanted boys that were different, I needed to figure out how to steer them in a good direction.
I would watch how naturally they were very proud of being naked from the very beginning.  I tried to keep clothes on them, but it's like it wasn't natural for them.  This didn't look good for the future...
  I watched as Aaron, as a 1 year old,  knocked his little friend to the ground and steam rolled her.  She didn't even know what was going on, because she was so mellow and the thought of steam rolling her friend didn't even cross her little mind.
 They liked to climb...and fall.  Then climb it again.  Girls experience something negative so they learn from it.  Boys just think it was bad luck!
They loved slimy, creepy crawlies.  They could take the hook out of a fish's mouth while I was still trying to keep it away from me, and didn't want to make eye contact with it.
 One day, Aaron and Jordan were playing with my sisters' Barbies and James didn't like it.  I told him to watch for just a second...
In no time, a poor, unsuspecting doll was falling from the roof of the playhouse, screaming "Oh Nooooo....." on the way down.  A pile of Barbies lay on the floor.  "See?"  I said.  "Normal."
But before anyone thinks I was trying to raise some psychopaths, you need to know that these same two would lay next to a newborn sibling and rub their perfect faces.  They would talk softly to the baby and sometimes even try to nurse them.  This, by the way, did not work out very well.
Aidan insisted on a baby doll from Target one day, so I bought it for him.  He packed that baby around lovingly, but sometimes by the arm, dragging on the floor, while sucking his thumb.  Sometimes he actually used the baby doll as a weapon to hit his brothers with when they got too close into his space.  I corrected someone when they asked why I let my boy play with a doll.  Because.  I wanted him to grow up to not be afraid of holding babies.  Because he needed to nurture that loving side.  Because he was cuter than heck riding his tricycle with his thumb in his mouth and the baby on his lap.
I watched my little boys with wonder with all the things they were interested in, and how they could forgive me quickly when I was less than stellar.
 I adored (while gagging) when they insisted on feeding me food they already tasted and wanted to share, because they were thoughtful like that.
I secretly laughed when while I would sing a song to them at night, they would add to the ambiance with a fart and hysterical laughing, or even a covered wagon to their sibling.
I laughed so hard I cried when Aaron the Mighty Hunter wanted me to mount a mouse that James killed with a bow and arrow, yet later he would be snuggled up to his dog and best friend, reading him a book.
I realized that although they may not be completely into '80's music... (which begs the question, why not?!) but they had their own unique tastes and likes, and I love that they are all different.

One day when I was giving a lesson in YW about the girls holding up standards for the boys they would date, I realized that for as much time as people spent hammering to girls the message that she was too good for most boys, I was deeply committed to the fact that I wanted my boys to feel that they too deserved the best girls.  Girls that respected them.  Girls that helped them to uphold standards.  Girls that didn't let them run wild with their natural instincts, and act like the boys don't have emotions too.
Boys may not sit around and discuss their feelings with all their friends, but anyone that has ever had prolonged interaction with a boy knows that they are sometimes harder on themselves than anyone else ever could be.  They are disappointed, ecstatic, scared, unsure, self-conscious, and yes, they cry.

I knew that I was raising men.  Men that I wanted to be hard working, considerate, loving, honest, brave, sure.  But how do they achieve that when the world tells them that their successes aren't as valid as a girls?  When they tell them that girls are victims and because he was born a male, he is naturally mean?   What does this do to our girls?  To teach them that males are the enemy?  To teach them that they have to scratch, claw and fight dirty to get  respect or equality?  How does it teach them to have good judgement when dating boys when everything we tell them is that boys are dumb, lazy, undisciplined, and privileged?  And how does this help our boys to not objectify or use girls?  How do they become better people if girls don't expect them to have values or morals?  How does this help them to take care of girls' feelings and understand their sacrifices?
Now we have a society of people that have very little respect for each other.  Men that think achievement is wrong or undeserved, and I think when anyone, male or female, has to hold back their potential, it's wrong.

I'm also raising a woman.  Someone I hope knows her worth, and settles for nothing less than someone else recognizing it too.  I want HER to be hard working, considerate, loving, honest, brave, and sure.  I want her to realize her full potential and work at lifting those around her up, instead of demanding they be less so she can get ahead.  I want her to see the beautiful differences in the opposite sex and see that they are meant to be complimentary, not competition.

My grandma taught me a great deal about dealing with boys.  She taught me that they needed to work and be busy to feel respect for themselves.  Even when they wanted to be lazy and let someone else do the work, when you expected more of them, they usually rose to meet that expectation.  Of course, it's a long process, but as they get older, you see how wise that philosophy is.
They need to feel needed.  It's absolutely amazing how different someone acts when they feel valued and necessary.  And this just isn't for boys.  Girls need it too.  Not false puffing up self esteem, but genuinely, sincerely letting them know how important they are in life.
The only problem is... I wish I had known this so many years earlier.  It's as I watch my kids grow up, move out, and move on that I want to rewind and tell them more. I can know in my heart how vital the other sex is, but once they seek out girlfriends and boyfriends, I hope that other mothers taught them the same thing.  I want my boys to find a girl that holds him to high standards.  That expects him to balance her.  Not dominate, but surely not shrink.  Because no matter how correct we want to get, you can't change biology.  You can't foster respect by belittling.
I can't control whether my kids understand or believe what I think of them, but I can control how much effort I put into it.  My heart has hurt when I think about the times they question, about the times they have denied and rejected my love and affection, but when I see little things that show my efforts aren't all in vain, it gives me hope.  It reminds me of MY worth in someone's life, and I keep going.
I may not have a fancy title, or bring in big money from my job, but I would give up everything else in the world for these people that were sent to me.  I would move Heaven and Earth to help them succeed. but I know I'm not doing it alone, and I know I wouldn't be who I am today if I wasn't teachable, so let's throw the old "better than" saying out the window.
Do a quick search on boy and girl quotes.  There is actually a reference to "Girls better than boys quotes."  It's kind of sad how little value we place on each other.  I find them degrading, and I hope more people stand up and start demanding more from ourselves and each other.
 I for one, know I'm going to try a little harder each day, because before you know it, they're gone, and you just hope the person they find will remind them every day of their worth.
 Plus, you don't get very far when you hit someone with irrigation pipe, so you have to go to Plan B.

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