As any parent can tell you, raising kids is a challenge regardless of their sex. While there are plenty of books out there that can prepare you, in the end you have to use your best judgment and, in a sense, learn as you go. And no matter how ready you feel, you'll inevitable face multiple surprises along your mom journey. Still, it doesn't hurt to prep for your future as a parent, so I asked some moms to share the most unexpected aspect about raising boys. Turns out, they had a lot to say.
I’m raising a son myself. Well, I’m raising a child who was assigned male at birth. Gender is a social construct so I am well aware that, one day, my son might tell his father and I that we got it wrong and he identifies as a woman. But, for now, our son is our son until he tells us otherwise. And because I approached motherhood knowing that gender stereotypes are, for the most part, BS, I have done what I can to ensure my son gets to make his own choices about things that are often gendered, like what clothing he wears or what toys he plays with or what books he reads. I never say no if he wants something that’s “technically for girls.”
So my biggest surprise has been that, despite my best efforts, my son is still learning some problematic gender stereotypes. He once tried to tell me that certain toys weren’t for girls, and I had to explain that toys are for all children. I also showed him a video of kids talking to a drag queen and had to explain to him that just because the person was wearing a dress didn’t automatically mean they were a girl, that boys can wear dresses too, and that there are people of other genders, too. I also know my experience as a mom to a boy isn't universal, so here's what surprised other moms who are raising sons:
“I never knew boys get boners since birth.”
“I have a son (2.5 years old) and I don’t feel like boys are very different than girls, aside from what we project onto them. My son loves all colors, including pink, cries when he sees a bee die, loves to dance, has an attitude sometimes (people are constantly saying these things about girls). I don’t have a daughter yet, but I’ve taught dance my whole adult life and spent lots of time with toddler girls. I thought my job would be so different when I found out I was pregnant with a boy, but I was so wrong.”
“The most unexpected thing I encountered is how ridiculously sweet little boys are. Because of our society, I had no idea most boys were born super sweet and kind (sounds dumb, right)? Now that I have a son, and know other moms who have sons, I realize boys are kind and calm and sweet. That is, until society tells them being those things is unmanly.”
“Most surprising? How much my 8-year-old son cares about his ‘style.’ Clothes, hair, trends... he styles his hair every morning. He's so picky with clothes, and it’s all his friends, too! I didn’t think he’d care until high school.”
“How much my boys need their mom. I thought they would be over me now, but I am still their best friend, dance partner, board game player, person who calls them out for lying, and loves them when they need extra snuggles. They are 6 and 5.”
“Picking one thing is hard, but I have to go with how mushy he is. He is the snuggliest, kissiest, sweetest little thing. He loves babies and baby dolls and taking care of others. It is so cool to see.”
“I have three boys (6, 4, and 2). There are plenty of little boy stereotypes, but I've been surprised that they are even louder, even hungrier, even more accident prone that I thought they would be... especially this young. They are also every bit as dramatic and sensitive as any girls I've ever known.”
“Emotionally and mentally I don’t notice anything too different between my boys and their peers who are girls. However, both my sons have been obsessed with their penises since about 6 months old. Touching it, taking about it, joking about it. The force is strong. I’m not sure if there is a girl equivalent for that.”
“The only real difference I’ve noticed since birth is that my son is more physically agile and stronger than my girls. He was trying to hold his head up literally right after birth, planking by 6 months, climbing, jumping, throwing and hitting balls, using scooters etc. with such ease for him compared to my girls. I don’t worry about him hurting himself because he has better coordination too. He was stronger than my oldest by two and my oldest was 6. If he could wrestle and fight all day he would. The girls were way more advanced verbally, but it seems he was busy building up his physical strengths the first three years instead.”
“I have three boys and they wrestle and roll around with each other like cartoon characters where they just become a indiscernible blurry rolling ball. It’s always lively.”
“For me it was how, no matter how we didn’t foster it in any way, the stereotypical ‘boy’ stuff just showed up. He was even around all girls at his daycare and yet really surprised us with being so stereotypically boy-like.”
“That boys wanting to pee outside is not some innate thing that they are born thinking is OK.”
“So, before becoming a parent I was a big proponent of the idea that gender roles are almost entirely the result of socialization. I have two boys, and parenting them has definitely been an eye opener. I would say that the vast majority of differences that mark men and women in our society do seem to be 100 percent socialization, based on my observations. Things like clothing and color and hairstyle preference seem, to me, to be taught. I also think that boys and girls seem to be equally confident, loving, affectionate and kind, and assertive at very young ages.
Having said that, I do think there are a few areas where boys naturally tend toward one side of the spectrum and girls tend toward the other (with many many outliers). The firsts area is in terms of activity and physicality. My boys will not sit still for a long time and they have been like this since they were capable of movement, like basically the day they were born. I have seen many little girls who will sit still for a very long time and this is very alien to me.
Another thing is a love of weapons, fighting, and a general pugilist attitude. We shielded them from these things for as long as we could, but once they found out about them, they have been obsessed and do not go a day without pretending to shoot things. They even did it before they know the actual word for gun. I also see a lot of girls who are into crafts or chatting for a long time, or more sedentary activities that my kids don’t have the attention span for. Again, I think it’s a spectrum with boys and girls on both sides but I do believe there are general differences.
There are two more things I’m not sure about. My boys rarely cry when they hurt themselves (and they hurt themselves a lot), unless it’s pretty serious. They are also both pretty fearless about new and challenging physical activities, like climbing or jumping. I am not sure if these might be more the result of socialization though, because I feel like I always see parents teaching little girls to be afraid on the playground, or making a big deal when they fall. But again, I’m not sure if that is parents reacting to kids or the other way around.”
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.