For the past year, we’ve nicknamed the boys the Rowdy boys. The nickname has stuck, and I can’t ever see us referring to them as anything else, at least not for another couple decades. But there’s a reason we call them rowdy. They’re boys through and through. They’re loud and rambunctious and active and physical–and even more so when they are together; their energy feeds off one another.
Winters are hard for the Rowdy boys. Being stuck inside because of cold and dreary weather is much like a prison sentence for them. I felt like I was constantly telling them not to jump on the couch, hit each other, throw toys across the room, scream at the top of their lungs inside…and the list goes on and on.
I don’t think that being boys excuses them from proper behavior, but I do think that boys are created differently. They’re not meant to be quiet and timid and slow-moving and stationary (not that all girls fall into this category either). Using their imagination doesn’t result in serving tea from tiny cups to stuffed animals. When my boys use their imagination (typically JM takes the lead and Beau just takes orders), they flip their picnic table upside down and pretend it’s a spaceship, then pack it full of every stray toy they can find. They play pirates and hit each other with foam swords at first, then find other harder objects to serve as weapons. They use their race cars (aka riding toys) to race down small hills and crash into one another and every object within sight. Any confrontation with water, be it the pool, bath tub or a bucket of rainwater, requires immediate splashing with disregard for others nearby.
There’s a recent blog post from Scary Mommy that’s gone viral, probably because it is so on point. It’s a refreshing read for moms of boys, not because it’s enlightening, but simply because someone else understands. Of her own son, author Celeste Brinson writes, “And, he’s a rough and tumble little boy. He likes to play with sticks and rocks and throw things and splash water and push and be pushed and chase and tag and flip and flop. He’s loud. Sometimes his dinosaur roar even scares the little ones. And I know how people feel about his behavior because I see the way they look at him and me: as though we are wild criminals who have fled from an asylum just to come bother their perfectly-behaved child. Like it or not, those perfectly-behaved children are most often little girls. Comparing a girl to a boy is like comparing an orange to a shoe. Just don’t. Save your time; there is absolutely no point.”
Every single day, I find myself fighting the mental battle of reining my boys in versus letting them run free. No, I’m not trying to raise heathens, but these boys need to be boys. They need to explore and touch and tinker with the world around them; they need to fight and get physical and figure out how to solve their problems without me always intervening; they need to dig in the dirt with no regard to how it’s ruining their clothes; they need to wrestle with Daddy and each other at least once daily; they need to test their own bodies to see how far they can jump and how fast they can run and just how crazy they can be.
As Celeste writes, “I can’t help but wonder if rough and unrestricted play is simply inconvenient for adults. It’s true, it can be messy. And rough and tumble does need to be monitored to some degree. But are we restricting our children because of real beliefs about what good behavior should be, or because other kinds of behavior don’t fit neatly into our schedules? I studied Gender Studies and Child Development in college, and I’m concerned that our boys are suffering, because it’s in their nature to get loud and fast and messy.”
There are times when I don’t want to take the Rowdy boys to play in the front yard, or to a nearby park or on a hike. Sometimes, I just want to stay home so that I can get some things done around the house. But almost every time that I do this, I regret it. No indoor activity–coloring, playdoh, puzzles, cutting and glueing–keeps their attention for more than 5 minutes. They long to be in the open outdoors, and most of the time, the behave better outdoors as well.
The Hike It Baby group I recently joined is the perfect activity for my Rowdy boys. They get outside and explore; they discover nature; they push their physical limits; they run free. Sure, I still have to parent them as I call out to JM not to run too far ahead of the group or discipline Beau for throwing rocks at another kid, but on the whole, they are free to be boys. Rowdy doesn’t feel nearly as rowdy with the fresh air, streaming sunlight, shaded rock paths and green growth all around.