Why you’re all welcome in my exclusive bad boy club

For those of you who don’t keep obsessive tabs on the goings on here (gasp! You don’t?!) I’ll catch you up real quick.

I wrote about a parenting breakthrough I had with Jo who will kick, bite, hit, head-butt and then laugh when angry. The post got lots of attention, and 60 or 70 parents, mostly moms, responded about how their kids, mostly boys, did this same thing. I was so moved by all the comments and struck by this pattern of boys behaving this way that I wrote another post speculating about where all this boy raging was coming from. Then I re-wrote that post due to an insightful comment on my Facebook page about gender. I re-wrote it because I realized that while my experience is about boys and while I see and hear this happening a lot with boys, I’m sure it also happens with some girls too, and I honestly can’t imagine the additional challenges of having a girl behaving this way. So I re-wrote the parts where I generalized about boys into generalizing to kids.

Since I did that, there have been some interesting comments in the vein of “Wait?! I thought we were now in this great raging boys club and now you’re expanding it to all kids, and we’re parents of boys. I liked it when you firmly identified as a mom of a boy. Don’t stop doing that!” I also got a fair number of, “Yes, my girl is like this too, so thank you for including me.”

And I’m left here pondering what I think about all of this—the old “are boys and girls wired differently?” conversation. The old nature vs. nurture conversation. The old “how do you talk about your specific experience and bond with people like you and also keep things open enough for different voices to join in?” conversation.

So here’s what I have to say about all that.

I think boys and girls are wired differently. Boys have penises. Girls have vaginas. They have different hormone combinations coursing through their little bodies. I also think boys and girls are wired very similarly. They both have brains and eyes and hands and are human and tend to prefer macaroni and cheese over most any other food in the world.

Here now, courtesy of my friend Jen with a witty blog that always makes me guffaw, are some examples of boy wiring:




Anyone else appreciate the “nails” theme in this series?!

In terms of inclusion/exclusion, I think something is lost when we try to include everyone in everything because one of my most profound joys in this lifetime is seeking comfort in people who share my experience. I’m talking to you, mom’s of “bad” boys! Also, I think something is lost when we get super exclusive, because one of my other most profound joys is learning from people who are really different than me. And having my mind blown by them. Hello, dads of mild-mannered, craft loving girls.

I want both things, damn it.

I am the mom of a particular breed of boy, and I’m going to talk about that without any apologies. I want you all to write from the hip here too, and not worry about generalizing about patterns you see in boy and girl behavior. I get it. We all see patterns. My big caveat is this: while some of the differences between boys and girls are rooted in biology, the differences between them that we see and talk about are culturally re-enforced to the max. We think boys are like this and girls are like this, we notice what confirms our thoughts (ignore what doesn’t) and make it true.

Also, I want to make room for our boys and girls to surprise us. For the record, when Jo is flinging his limbs wildly about, he’s often wearing one of his favorite shirts–it’s (gasp!) a turquoise “girl” shirt with puffed sleeves and a starfish on it.


He’s also very nurturing of Cal and regularly shouts, “Mom, Cal’s on the stairs again—it’s a safety problem!”

He’s a big, complicated, easy-to-generalize kid.

Probably a lot like yours.

8 thoughts on “Why you’re all welcome in my exclusive bad boy club

  1. You can please some of the people, some of the time. I get what you are saying – I think the danger really comes from when we try to pigeon hole a child what society pins them to be, not what they are on the inside. I don’t see that here at all. I try not to pin my children down either.

  2. I’m always grateful when I see parents who allow their children to grow, develop their own personalities and learn to appreciate who they are, instead of forcing social expectations upon them. I admire the way you’re parenting Jo and Cal. My question now is, from your experience, how open minded are the people in schools–including the teachers and the peers? And how do you teach your boys, for example, to know how to respond when friends ask about the nail polish or the puffy shirt? I agree with you that there shouldn’t be a need to apologize, but how do we avoid bullying or judgments?

  3. I love it! Screw the politically correct. I’m down with the “bad boys” club theme. I love your posts so far and appreciate more than you can imagine being able to relate. It’s awesome how well you wrote this. Boy = penis, girl = vagina. Yes there are girls who behave similarly but the experiences you share are what grab your readers. Moms of girls can chime in with related experiences but why change your writing style. Thank you for another awesome post!

  4. Having both a girl and a boy myself, I couldn’t agree more with your points. I have been astounded by the differences between them due to gender, but I also find myself reinforcing those differences by pointing them out all the time! We tend to notice the things that fit into cultural biases more often, I guess. I’m working on that, too – although the natural differences between my boy and girl still surprise me!

  5. Thank you for a brilliantly written and considered response. I just may not be brave enough to post again after the last vigorous debate but… I like reading your stuff so I will check in regularly.

  6. I totally agree with you, sexes are so generalized and cultured by what society thinks is “right” . I too have two little boys, with a baby on the way (fingers crossed for a girl this time) but they enjoy painting their nails with mommy and playing with dolls. Nothing wrong with that 😉

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