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Growing up

Raising boys amid machoism and feminism gone astray

I feel sorry for little guys. And I find it harder to judge men for being emotionally unavailable.

We can all agree on this one – men should feel empathy towards women. But you can’t understand another person and feel for them if you are not allowed to share your own feelings with others.

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Raising a tough guy?

I used to criticize mama’s boys with my friend Bojana. We both ended up with twins – a boy and a girl in each pair. This significantly changed our perspective.

“A diagnosis of being a boy”, that’s what she calls her son’s behavior.

“Other women will judge you and me one day for not making them “real” men”, I tell her.

It’s incredible how much my boy is different from the girl. They are four and a half. He is cognitively above his age. But regarding feelings, he is lagging behind his sister. He is very sensitive and loses emotional balance easily. He doesn’t watch his step. He bumps into things. He is fidgety and reckless.

He has a big heart. While his sister stands aside, he approaches unknown children ready to play and calls them friends. What a wrong way to behave on the playground.

One time he ran to a kid with a smile, the little guy bent my son’s arm behind his back. Because boys are supposed to be fighters.

Another boy came up to him with a toy gun:

“Let’s play war”, he said offering my son a rifle.

“Boom, boom”, my son said pointing the barrel towards himself. He doesn’t even know how to hold it. Boys are supposed to be warriors.

Many people still see a boy’s dominance as desirable. Some kid didn’t let my daughter pass by for several minutes – with his arms spread wide, he moved to the left and right as she tried to approach me. His mother was silent, my daughter – astounded.

Expect a preschooler to be mature enough?

Somehow 4-year-old boys should be as cautious as girls are. Sometimes they are, usually they are not.

Recently, my son was riding a scooter on the playground. Near the see-saws, there was a baby walking.

“Watch your step!” her grandfather screamed at him for moving too close to her. The baby fell. My son stopped.

“Sorry, he is still small”, I said.

“No, he isn’t. Look how big he is”, the old man was fuming.

“Well, how old is he?”, I asked him irritated. “He is four.”

If he can ride a scooter, he is “mature enough”. And I find it hard not to think of wrapping him up in large blocks of sponge before we leave the house. Just to keep him in one piece.

Boys watching football | © Bruno Kelzer, Unsplash

Misinterpreted feminism and chivalry harm little guys

Boys should also chivalrously take no. For some reason, many girls (the more attentive sex) don’t accept them in their game.

Not long ago my little guy ran up to several pink princesses. They didn’t want him around so they started pushing him to go away. He pushed back. By the time I arrived, there was an exchange of fire.

“You are a boy, you are not supposed to push girls”, one grandma said.

“They don’t want to play with him and he is reacting”, I explained leading him away from the group.

His lips were quivering, he had tears in his eyes. He was rejected and couldn’t understand why. He couldn’t take it that the children didn’t want to play with him although he had good intentions.

I tried to make him pull himself together. But he is freakin’ four and a half. Would those moms tell their girls to get a grip because of this? Girls are allowed to feel and react. Boys are supposed to suck it up.

After the incident, he hesitated to approach anyone on the playground.

Disappointments are a part of growing up. But boys have to learn earlier than girls how to cope with negative emotions. How do you raise a boy to express his feelings freely if he cannot act the same way a girl does? Is he supposed to be a preschooler gentleman and overcome his negative feelings rationally and all by himself? Boys aren’t any less sensitive than girls. And we teach them to control and not show their emotions from their early days.

Of course, men should not punch women. I tell my son not to hit girls. But how do I teach him to cope with physical violence? To laugh it off casually before he turns 5? What should he do if a girl grabs his toy away from him again? Could you be calm if a similar thing happened to you?

In her book When Boys Become Boys: Development, Relationships, and Masculinity Stanford professor Judy Chu argues that boys’ emotions and their capacity for empathy are not any different from girls’. However, somewhere between the age of 6 and 7 culture starts changing their emotional and social skills. The focus on being a stoic and self-sufficient often creates full grown men unable to feel and connect the same way women can. I don’t want this to happen to my son. Women complain about emotionally unavailable guys all the time. Hellooo, Carrie Bradshaw’s Mr. Big!

“You see now what it’s like for boys”, my partner tells me.

And I’m starting to.

“Am I a real boy?”
Pinokio, I bet many boys ask themselves that question

“Don’t play with children who don’t want to play with you. A child who can’t play with everyone is not a good friend”, I told another little guy when a girl wanted to get him out of the play.

Girls’ violence is more tolerated than boys’. A girl has to learn how to stand up for herself and not be a victim. However, when the line is crossed, her parents don’t interfere much for her being aggressive. It used to be a taboo for girls to show dominance. Nowadays we should teach them their bad behavior isn’t more acceptable than boys’.

Once a missy in a dress kicked a boy because he called her tights “leggings”.

Her grandma reacted: “Oh, don’t worry, he doesn’t know the difference.”

A girl can get a seat on the swing even if she gets to it second. She can just push her backside against a boy and start wailing: “Noooo, it’s mine.”

Girls are taught manipulation is ok from a very young age. They are cute, irresistible, and the weaker sex. No one should hurt them. But we should also teach them not to hurt others.

I remember an acquaintance of mine telling her 5-year-old girl:

“If a boy touches you, kick him between the legs.”

What can a kid her age do to her to deserve such a reaction?

Help little boys out

It’s a hard knock life for little guys. Their immature brains have to grasp what’s going on, not express the feeling, and react with chivalry to injustice from a very early age.

How do we expect our sons to grow into better men if we teach our girls to treat them with manipulation and aggression? How do we teach boys what they should and shouldn’t do? How to raise a boy correctly to become an emotionally available man?

This is the only thing I could think of telling my son:

“If a girl hits you, don’t hit back. Shout at her: “Don’t hit me! You are being rude.” Then turn around and leave. She doesn’t deserve your company.”

Is there anything else a four-and-a-half-year-old boy can do to express his emotions and be civil? Please, tell me there is.

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