Are there gender rules for children?

Are there gender rules for children?

There is a sort of unwritten code when raising children. A list of gender rules which we are all aware of and wonder (and sometimes worry) if they will be true for our kids. As a mother of three boys will I be subject to a house full of bad smells and occasional grunt responses or maybe just maybe will things be different?

Help me out. What is your experience? Here are some of these rules for you to think about.

Little boys love their mothers the most
Little girls are more independent
Boys are rowdy, dirty and loud
Girls scream and have tantrums
Boys don’t like public affection
Girls are more thoughtful
Boys don’t communicate
Girls are ‘Daddy’s girls’
Teenage boys are easier
Teenage girls are a nightmare
Grown boys leave home and rarely call
Grown girls are always in contact
A son is a son until he meets a wife
A daughters a daughter for the rest of her life

But here’s the thing. I know of young girls who love both parents but are clearly closer to their mothers. I know of grown sons who, with their own families, remain closest to their parents. And, formally being a teenage girl myself I don’t think I was too horrendous!

I know the response will be that these rules are generalisations and don’t apply to all so, problem solved. But, who made them up? And, do they really apply to the majority of children or, by repeatedly saying them, do we give them more validity in real terms? They may be dismissed as harmless comments but to the father of all girls I bet it grates just a bit to hear for the millionth time ‘I pity you when they are teenagers!’. Perhaps it would be better for all if we just let our individual children dictate their own course. They may surprise us!

My children are still young so whether or not these rules will actually be true for them is yet to pan out. But, I do know that each of my boys has his own unique personality and is therefore unlikely to follow the same path, like the same things or act in the same way. Therefore, instead of worrying I look forward to watching how each of them develops and inevitably how our relationship will evolve (not to say that I don’t at times wish I could keep them as little ones forever!).

So, don’t tell me that my son is destined to become distant, moody and rarely call me in my old age. Ok, it might happen but that will be down to my son’s individual choices not because he is following a predetermined code. In truth, I hope that they all make good choices and remain thoughtful, caring and confident boys. If this means breaking the rules – they’ve got my blessing to go for it!
Boy and girl smiling
Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Great List of Things I Can’t Do because I Only have Sons

The Great List of Things I Can’t Do because I Only have Sons

I recently read a great blog called ‘The Great List of Things I Can’t Do Because I Only Have Daughters‘. It was by a father of two daughters who has taken a big baseball bat and punted out the park any suggestion that there is a long list of boy-only activities that he and his girls are missing out on. It made me think. As a ‘that’s it, no more’ mother of three young boys what is my list of special things that I will never ever be able to do? Sniff!

So I’ve racked my brain and come up with a list of stereotypically ‘girly’ activities to see where I sit with them. Here goes:

1. Go shopping. We have and the boys love choosing out their own outfits. Admittedly it is not a marathon session but that suits me as I am not a huge fan.
2. Do their hair. Ok there are no clips or pony tails (well, not so far) but there are specific requirements regarding style, straightness and cool spikes which require precise hair drying.
3. Play with ponies, babies, kitchens and not just cars. We have them all. Whoever made the decision in the past that cars were for boys and ponies were for girls has clearly never visited my house. From horse toys, to fancy dress and yes, even ‘My Little Ponies’ we are well stocked!
4. Watch a Disney princess movie together. We haven’t seen them all but in the words of Elsa from Frozen I can ‘Let it Go’ because I have lost count of the times we have watched that princess movie. We know all the songs!
5. Dance. We do, a lot. We love music.
6. Craft and bake. Yes drawing, painting, making, gluing, cakes, pancakes, bread….
7. Go for coffee and chat. We do this already and I look forward to continuing to do so as they grow.
8. Be happy and so proud of my family. I truly am.
9. Teach them to wear high heels. I concede I don’t and (probably!) won’t in the future but they are more than welcome to parade about the hallway in my shoes should it take their fancy!
10. Show them how to pluck, wax, shave every inch of their body hair. To be honest, this is a relief!

There is a difference here though to the list my fellow parent blogger posted. Whereas his list ended on the bright note that, apart from multidirectional peeing, he was not missing out on anything with his family of girls (and I agree), there is a ‘but’ to my story.

It is cool for girls to like Spider-Man. It is trendy for them to wear blue. Parents love watching girls try out for traditionally male sports. But, while I don’t think it is right, there seems to be a short list of activities for my boys that, as yet, are not so socially acceptable.

1. To dress up too ‘girly’. I use this term very loosely but I suppose I mean to dress as a fairy, a princess or top to toe in pink – a little ‘salmon pink’ seems to be fine!
2. To paint their nails. Even if they think a colour would be cool what would their friends think?
3. To try out for traditionally ‘female’ sports. There are a few boys doing it but, for example, girls still dominate activities like ballet, netball and and even some elements of gymnastics.
4. To show too much emotion or their soft side and risk being called a ‘wimp’. This one I have a real fundamental issue with and will defend to the end my boy’s rights to be able to talk openly and display their emotions. However there are many parents who hold quite different views in relation to raising boys.

So if a father of girls risks his daughters never wearing a dress as they grow up because they played with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – unlikely! – I suppose I run the risk of my boys skipping through fields armed with a basket of baked buns on their way to a tea party, and what is wrong with that? More fundamentally the worry with regards to boys seems to be that by allowing them to partake in all that girls do I will somehow diminish their masculinity and make them gay. Surely we have come far enough to know that this is not a matter of choice. Ultimately I know my boys will be who they are meant to be and I hope that having a rounded upbringing will make them confident and strong individuals who are also emotionally connected and great fun to be with.

So, as to the great list of things I can or can’t do….I really do believe that if it is your choice and you are blessed to have a family then the experiences it will bring will be perfect for you. Differences are not dictated by the sex of the child but rather by the unique personality of the child themselves. It would seem I have proven what I already knew – I am indeed lucky to be a mother of boys!

As seen on the Huffington Post

Why it is so important that we shout about being ‘lucky mothers of boys’

Why it is so important that we shout about being ‘lucky mothers of boys’

Because we are best placed to do so. We love and support our boys and know how truly wonderful they are. And, because times have changed. No longer do western families seem to yearn for a son as an heir or the head of the family. As many of Henry VIII’s wives heads would testify, having sons used to be everything! Until relatively recently it remained a source of great pride and standing. However, quite rightly there has been a shift in attitude and boys do not appear to be the stand-out favoured gender anymore.

But have things gone too far? I speak to mothers of all-girl families and they don’t seem to get nearly as many negative comments about their brood as their all-boy counterparts. Girls are associated with better behaviour, concentration and manners than boys. Girls are supposedly quicker to speak and write and even easier to potty train than boys! Girls are performing better in schools and universities than boys. Girls are less likely to be diagnosed with learning difficulties than boys. Girls are less likely to commit suicide than boys. Worryingly, the list goes on.

Campaigns for equality for women and girls have worked pretty successfully so far. Why? Because they have been championed and supported by women and men who have witnessed the gross inequalities that women have faced in the past, and have resolved to ensure that girls of the future are not subjected to the same unfairness.

It would seem that men of today, who are in their 30s and beyond, have not yet really felt a change to their circumstances. It is the younger male generations that are affected and who need our support. They are competing with girls on an unequal playing field where educational systems and environments are not so suited to their learning, where girls with better grades are getting the better paid jobs and, where the male role and what it means is evolving but attitudes are not catching up. Neither men or women will win-out overall if one sex retains a skewed advantage over the other.

If we want the best for our boys we need to redress the balance. For boys and girls to be equal and have access to the same opportunities we need to provide more support for boys – at the same level that we do for girls. We have to shout about being lucky to have boys so that people listen, believe us and demand the fair treatment of both sexes. Tell people how amazing it is to have boys. Talk about how loving, thoughtful, kind and fun they are. Let your boys choose to be and do what they want to and be proud of them. Insist that they are given the same opportunities as girls. Insist that they are afforded the same choices as girls. Insist that educational standards change to ensure boys needs are also fully addressed. Prove that ‘bad behaviour’ is not ‘boy behaviour’ – they are completely different. Don’t tell them to ‘man-up’! Love and cherish every minute with them. Resolutely refuse to let them be overlooked or overshadowed.

If enough of us speak up then maybe the negative stereotypes will change and the comments regarding all-boy families will become ‘How lovely’, ‘You must be so proud’ or ‘They will be such great friends as brothers’. Wouldn’t that be nice? More importantly, if enough of us speak up we can raise the profile of our boys and give them the best future possible.

We are all so lucky to be mothers of boys and we want the very best for them. Nothing less will do. Let’s make sure everyone knows it.

I surely can’t be alone in believing that boys are not rowdy all the time?!

I surely can’t be alone in believing that boys are not rowdy all the time?!

Hours of my boys’ days can be spent colouring in, making something, playing with play dough, baking, watching a movie, playing with toys. These activities involve chatting, laughing (and sometimes disagreements!) but do not include shouting, running about, fighting each other, pulling out every toy we have in the house, or the inability to sit still for more than 5 minutes. There are of course other times of the day when it is great to see the boys tear around (preferably in the garden), climb things, jump, shout to each other and yes toy fight with their dad, it is great for them.

But here’s the thing. Rowdy time is not all the time! I wouldn’t allow it. It would drive me mad and not do them any favours either. It is good for them to be able to play calmly, concentrate on something and simply get on with each other. Surely these are really important life skills.

The thing is. There are many stories out there, even from mothers of boys, depicting a scene of almost carnage – their sons charging about everywhere, untameable, exhausting their parents and unable to communicate without their fists. This is not my experience. In fact it is far from it. Having grown up in a predominantly female household I have been so pleasantly surprised by how gentle, considerate, inquisitive and yes, calm boys can be. Again I stress this is not all the time. They love all the fast paced things that boys do but, the having a mix of calm and crazy is what I love.

What is your experience? Please say you agree with me!

Boys and guns

Boys and guns

So what are your thoughts on this? Are guns for boys acceptable or not?

This has become more and more of an issue in recent times. Boys who run around playing with guns or shooting with anything from sticks to a hairbrush are often viewed as unruly, violent and aggressive. But is it or is it not really harmful?

Here’s where I stand on the whole toy weapon issue. Knights’ and pirates’ swords – we have. Lightsabers – check. Water pistols and blasters (we call them) – yes got them. Even a cowboy gun (gasp!) and a small nerf gun (my son was desperate for one – but strictly not for use against people!) we have here. Most of the games associated with these toys have an element of goodies versus baddies, be the baddies the ‘enemy’, dragons or more often their dad! The boys love it. The games are exciting for them, a ‘safe’ element of danger coupled with the chase, courage and skill. It is great to see this side of the character exposed. They are little boys and throughout history many little boys have delighted in this type of role play. For, after all, it is a game.

Where the lines become blurred for me is when these games get a little too close to mimicking reality. Guns that look identical to army rifles make me uneasy. The news is full of stories of brave soldiers who have lost their lives at the hands of such weapons and to me it feels wrong for children to view it in a light hearted way. Of course some boys will play at armies, setting up their ranks with tanks and soldiers and there is a wealth of army based toys out there. But to actually mimic soldiers shooting at each other … it doesn’t sit right with me.

I suppose the difference for me is that goodies versus baddies games stay within the realms of fictional fantasy play. That way the boys (and girls) get the thrill and fun whilst learning about good versus bad. They appreciate that these games are just that, not practice that they should imitate in real life to solve their problems. They can develop their tactical skills by trying to outwit their opponent, their courage by enduring the suspense and their legs by making a run for it!

And of course there is a time and place for it. Boys shooting, chopping, bombing etc anytime, anywhere I do not like. When out for dinner – no way, but in a back garden or the woods – well that sounds like fun. Pass me a water blaster!

Tips for getting your baby to sleep through the night

Tips for getting your baby to sleep through the night

This following is a list borne out of a number of nights’ sleep deprived experience rather than professional advice.

Anyone who has a baby that won’t sleep or is going through a ‘bad phase’ will know that a lack of sleep is down-right painful and any tips that might make a difference are invaluable. Here are a few pointers that may help (apologies if they are obvious – but at 2am nothing is obvious!). If you have any more please add them in the comments section below.

  • Plain and simple – have a bedtime routine…bath, milk, bed. When they are old enough include reading a book after bath. It is amazing how this routine, when used consistently, will work no matter where you are.
  • If your baby is waking very early try moving their bedtime back a bit. This never works immediately but instead takes 4 or 5 days to change their body clock.
  • Obviously adhere to official guidance about not letting your baby overheat but also make sure they are not too cold. All my babies have woken up in the night when too cold. Baby sleeping bags (Grobags and similar) are a good, easy option and keep babies cosy even if they move about.
  • Try a dream feed. This is when you lift your baby around 11pm without waking them and feed them. It is much easier to do with a bottle but also possible when breast feeding. It is amazing to watch their sucking reflex start when they are not fully awake. This should help you drop the tiring 2am feed.
  • Once your baby has started solid food try rocking him/her or giving them a dummy if they use one, rather than feeding them during the night. They shouldn’t really need a milk feed by this point. This may take a couple of nights of perseverance!
  • Try a monitor that plays music or a Slumber Bear (Prince Lionheart or equivalent) when your baby wakes in the night. Sometimes this is enough to send them back to sleep.
  • If your baby has reflux try putting a pillow under the sheet (so there is no risk of suffocating) to keep them more upright. Use rolled up towels at their sides to stop them slipping down when they are very young.
  • The ideal scenario is a baby that goes to sleep quickly on its own. However it is not a foregone conclusion that your future nights will be forever ruined if you decide to cuddle your little one as they fall asleep. In fact it is trauma free and, in my experience, has not had any negative effect on their ability to fall asleep on their own past 2 years old.
  • Sometimes crying is ok. Sounds harsh but there may be times when, for a short while, your baby will cry and then fall back to sleep. Sometimes you can stay away (after ensuring they are ok), other times just being in the room may help them fall over. However, it is likely that if you pick them up every time, they will continue to wake and want you. Good and bad habits are learnt very quickly by babies! Again a bit of perseverance and strength is essential.
  • When moving your little one into a toddler bed try bed rails (like the ones made by Lindam) and use a full length single duvet spread and tucked horizontally across the bed, rather than length ways. This will not only help stop your child from falling out of bed but will also save money on bigger duvet covers as the grow!
  • Lastly, try and remain calm…but, admittedly, in the middle of the night when you are sleep deprived, arguing about who should get up and desperate to get back to bed, it can be hard!

    Good luck x

  • The best things about boys

    The best things about boys

  • Their thoughtfulness. I’ll never tire of being proudly presented with a hand picked daisy

  • The fact that a ‘kiss to make it better’ more often than not does make it better

  • Their ability to make a game out of anything….chasing leaves, looking for shapes in the clouds, collecting stone ‘crystals’ or going on a mission to the moon!

  • Giggling at anything even slightly rude. It’s infectious!

  • Cuddles, and more cuddles

  • Any arguments are over quickly and friendships can continue

  • Anyone can play, the more the merrier

  • Dirt is good and makes playing more fun

  • They don’t feel the cold!

  • Their courageous spirit. Even the shyest boy will do something that surprises you and come back with a big grin on his face!

    What would you add?

  • Down With ‘Man Up’ – Catchy isn’t it!

    Down With ‘Man Up’ – Catchy isn’t it!

    I recently wrote about how damaging forcing boys to ‘man-up’ from an early age can be. Suppressing their emotions, limiting their choices and distancing them from family. Could this belief in manning-up our boys also be responsible for, at times, frankly bad behaivour? Unruly, disrespectful and rough boys actions being shrugged off as ‘just being boys’!

    But here’s the thing. Telling boys to ‘man-up’ is also damaging to girls and how boys view them. It conveys the message to boys that behaving ‘girly’ is somehow beneath them, embarrassing and to be ashamed about. How can boys and girls grow to mutually respect each other if their sex is used negatively against them?

    I do believe that we should teach our children strength of character, to be able to stand up for themselves and what they believe regardless of what other people say and think. However I also strongly believe that you can’t give liberties and choices to one part of society but deny those freedoms from another.

    If equality amongst the sexes is truly what we are striving for then both boys and girls should be free to be and play with whatever they want. Girls wearing a Spider-Man costume – already accepted. A boy dressed as Cinderella? – rarely seen or approved of. Albeit an extreme example, but the girl in the superhero costume is seen as progressive, a symbol of how far equality has come, the boy in the princess dress is dubbed a ‘failed boy’. Telling boys to ‘man up’ from an early age would seem to limit their choices.

    Boys and girls are different so yes, let’s celebrate their differences as they are special and important. But for those boys and girls who want it, let’s give them freedom to choose, equally. From sports to careers and even clothing, from little girls to women we have campaigned and encouraged for access to partake in everything that boys and men do. Surely boys should be afforded the same luxury.

    So I have teamed up with HighGlossSauce to launch the fully inclusive ‘Down With Man Up’! Supporting boys and respecting girls. If you have a view on this – boy or girl! – comment here blog on your own and tweet using the hashtag #downwithmanup. Whoop whoop lets go for it! After all, it’s working for ‘bossyBan’!

    You can follow us on twitter @luckymothers or @HighGlossSauce and on facebook https://www.facebook.com/LMOBs or https://www.facebook.com/HighGlossSauce

    Ahhh! What will I cook tonight?!

    Ahhhh! What will I cook tonight?!

    Surely other people feel this same sense of dread. What on earth will we eat tonight?! Firstly I’ll admit that I am no Mary Berry but I think I manage to pull together some decent meals. Secondly I am filled with a daily sense of guilt. Are the boys getting their 5-a-day? Is there the right mix of greens, beans and pulses – and em, do baked beans count?! What about the range of required vitamins? Are they getting enough vitamin D or will my kids fall into the rickets danger category? What about calcium? Will they grow any taller….ever!? Thirdly how quick can I make it? and can it be done while helping with homework and weighed down by a toddler holding onto my leg? And finally, will I ever fill them up!

    Meal planning stress

    If someone would give me a menu then actually making the food would not be such an ordeal. And new ideas to add to my repertoire would be welcomed too.

    Believe me when I say that I am so very grateful that we have access to an almost limitless supply and variety of food so please do not think I am being unthinking or callous. But as with most things in life….you get a big house with more storage than you need and within a month you’ve filled it…having too much can cause new problems. And my gripe right now is meal planning. So tonight my son has a friend over followed by football practice so something quick and easy would be good……Any suggestions?!

    Lets make up a menu below. Add your quick, easy and successful dishes in the comments box and share some new ideas.

    Don’t ‘man up’ – be boys!

    Don’t ‘man up’ – be boys!

    I cuddle my boys. Always have and always will. There is nothing better than being sandwiched on the sofa between two of them, with the third sitting on my knee. I tell them I love them. I comfort them when they hurt themselves, I chat with them, we dance together and it is perfectly ok (although it tugs at my heart strings) for them to cry should something upset them. Why? because they are little boys. Will it still be ok when they are older? Absolutely! (though perhaps too much for my knees!).

    I read a great blog recently by High Gloss and Sauce, a mother of three girls who asked her mother in law how she had managed to raise such an amazing son. Her answer was simple. She had never told him to ‘man-up’!

    We definitely need to move away from the out dated attitude that boys need to ‘man-up’ and ‘be a man’ from early age. Let’s be clear, this is a world away from instilling a healthy level of self confidence in our sons which is important. Forcing them to ‘man-up’ encourages them to hide their feelings from an early age and go it alone. How do we expect young boys to turn into the men we want, able to show their emotions, cook, clean, talk, socialise, be empathetic and look after children, if we do not allow them to develop this side of their character when they are young?

    So let’s make a change. Buy your son that toy baby and buggy (they also come in blue if he so desires!) if that’s the toy he wants. Snuggle up in bed and watch a movie for as long as they will let you. Sit and comfort him if he cries. Paint with pink and glitter if it makes him happy. Show him what it means to think of others. Talk, hug, play, laugh and let him be young and carefree. Childhood passes so fast – don’t rush it!

    Some parents worry that doing this will somehow weaken their son, diminish their perceived strength, leadership and man-hood. Rubbish! The strong silent type may seem attractive at a glance but I don’t know many people who would want a future partner who was unable to communicate or embrace life.

    So I will definitely not, never ever, tell my boys to ‘man-up’. Instead I hope my ‘real men’ will turn out to be well rounded individuals who are able to look after themselves and their homes, notice the small things, think of others and truly love and appreciate someone special….that will be one lucky someone!