Sunday, April 17, 2011

He'll be all right... won't he?

I've been thinking a lot about boys lately. In a motherly kind of way. As opposed to the way I used to think about them when I was, say, 16. Actually, perhaps not that different. I was born 40 after all (just ask my Mum).

A little while ago, a friend handed me Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph to read. I have read it before. In that 'I've got to interview the author in ten minutes, what will I ask him?' kind of frenzy. But I did not have two little boys at the time. This time, I'm having a long hard look at it. I can, for example, vouch for the testosterone boost at four. I have now experienced it twice. It's big.

Being a mother of boys brings its own challenges. I remember once thinking that I'd got off lightly. I knew what I was like as a little girl, and then as a teenager, and figured that if I never had to deal with another me I was doing all right.

What I hadn't factored in was the sheer boyishness of boys. And young men. This has been brought home to me not once, not twice, but three times in the last few days.

I was driving my two out to visit some friends in a nearby town on Thursday. I had pulled left, out of the overtaking lane, and was debating the origins of The Wand of Destiny with Mr7 with one eye on the right lane that I needed to get back into within 50 or so metres. In my side mirror, I watched a car pull out into that lane, and zoom past me at well over 120km an hour - just to get in front of me. Within a whisker of the back of the senior citizen doing 90km.

P plater. Four young men in the car. As we continued on up the highway, me behind them, the guy in the back right-hand seat proceeded to open the back door and pretend to get out. At 100km an hour.


On Saturday night, The Builder and I attended a 50th birthday party. Old friends of The Builder. A tight, close-knit circle of people who'd all grown up in the same suburb. He was the little brother who was drawn into the circle as he got older.

The 21-year-old son of the birthday boy pulled his Bieber-esque fringe back to reveal the huge, right-angled scar that went from the middle of his forehead, right back up along his hairline. He had dived into the shallow end of a pool after a few drinks and smashed his head into the tiles. We both agreed that he wouldn't be doing that again. We both agreed that he was lucky.


I had a long chat with another of the circle. His son was injured 18 months ago. Lighting the firework that he was holding in his own hand. He will never be the same again, but his father spoke with obvious pride of his progress. He is back at work. He is driving. He is closer to his parents than he has ever been. All of them wish that one moment, that one decision, had never happened.


"Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems." That has been the sage advice that the Birthday Boy has given The Builder and I every time we get together and discuss our kids. He and his mates, all a bit wild in their youth, are also firm believers in allowing boys the freedom to learn their lessons. Some of those lessons are hard. Harder than I can bear to think about. Particularly given that 'No', 'Stop', 'Don't', and 'You'll hurt yourself' are among my favourite phrases.

This afternoon, my two boys wrapped themselves in cellophane strips and proceeded to 'Cowabunga, Dude' a path of destruction around the Fibro. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the heroes du jour. Noisy, messy, physical.


They'll be all right... Won't they?


  1. My God! My Mr6 made me Google the meaning of 'cowabunga' today...because clearly I didn't know the correct meaning in my own brain!

    Once again...parallel universes. That is why I love it here. Your words resonate....I only have one boy, but *gulp*.

  2. It amazes and terrifies me all at once. And you have double. I think that is probably a good thing? They will look out for one another?

    Charlie has a close cousin - close in age and close geographically. They are like brothers. My sister in law and I encourage it, in the hope that two gives protection?

    I am not sure.

  3. One of the most interesting phases of parenthood for me has been the past few years. As my eldest boys grow up & leave home, I also have just one pre-school boy at home. Perspective.

    My eldest boy now has his licence. Two of my boys are officially "adults" - this means I now get to freak out on New Year's Eve. This past NYE we got the dreaded phone call from the police. The one that sees you pulling trackies on over your jammies and grabbing your keys before you even know the full extent of the damage.

    Fortunately, it wasn't my boy in trouble. It was my boy who said "ring my mum" - because at 19, when all the other kids were scared shitless, he knew that there was nothing I couldn't fix or wouldn't do.

    If we were sensible, we'd never have any children... especially boys...cause we know how much pain they will cause their mothers.
    But when my only daughter has stars in her eyes and her heart is full of love for her new husband, I know my boys will still have a great portion of their hearts securely petitioned off, just for me.

  4. I bloody well hope so! I still remember the anger I felt when my then 3 yo launched himself off his new big boy bed onto the floor, barely missing the bed itself and hurting himself only the carpeted floor. The anger at the futility of trying to keep them safe. The anger at their stupidity. No matter how much I protect them, teach them, warn them, there is always the stupid factor.

    I have two too. They terrify me...

  5. Just cross your fingers really, really hard. x

  6. I have four boys aged 13, 10, 5 and 3. Being responsible for raising these boys to men is a privilege I treasure. I have no qualms getting them to the end of their schooling. It's the following, oh, 7-10 years I think will be the hardest.

    I've got a post in my head about raising boys, I think I better get it down.

  7. Oh the testosterone! I have 2 boys and 2 girls and the 17 yr old boy thing scares the crappola out of me (much more than 17 yr old girls). Loved this post and REALLY loved the comments. Kirsty

  8. Your words are EXACTLY the worries that have been going through my head the last few months! My 15 yr old boy has always excelled at being a boy--lots of testosterone. :) I worry every time he heads out with driving friends, heck, I worry every time he's just out goofing around. It's so true, as the boys get bigger so do the worries. Great post!

  9. I have one boy and one girl! The best of both worlds?!
    Its always such a worry...
    Great post!

  10. I have 3 boys. The youngest is only 18 months so too difficult to judge at the moment.

    My eldest boy is about to turn 8. He's very much a boyish boy. I've also read Raising Boys. The part where it says that boys have a testosterone boost at 4... Yeah well, my eldest son was on a constant high.

    Later found out he's a bright spark so it's not uncharacteristic for him to be bouncing all over the place.

    My second son had that testosterone boost. It was quite obvious. He's very much like my daughter. Very thoughtful, colours in for hours, quiet. Very much a mummy's boy. In fact I don't think he'll every move out. He is exactly like my daughter...only a boy.

    And just for the record I hate that saying, can't remember it verbatim, but the message is that if you have a daughter you have her life for but you only have a son until he finds a wife.

    I hate generalisations like that.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M

  11. Great insight in this post. I have four grown up boys. I can see in them the fearlessness that makes them warriors, protectors,leaders and creative entrepreneurs and also makes them foolhardy, dangerous to others and dive into danger themselves. Boys! The importance of building good character traits in them..infinite.

  12. I have only the one child so far. He's now 7. Reading all of the stupidness those boys have got up up to has made me a little scared shitless for my boy.

    Pushing those thoughts aside, though, I certainly recall the testosterone surge at 4. Oh, my god. That was when i decided I would never be having another child. Clearly it actually made me insane since I'm considering another one in the not-too-distant future.

    I'm hanging onto the hope from the supposed truth that girls are easier earlier & boys are harder, while as they grow older, it's the reverse.

    It is true, right? Tell me it's true? If not, maybe you can just lie to me, instead. :-P

  13. Like you've read my mind with this post Allison. I am forever wondering how I'll get through the next... Ooo 25 years with my two boys... because they've gotta be past all that boyish rubbish by their thirties, right, RIGHT??
    At 3 years and 9 months, they are already exhibiting some wildly erratic tendencies... on their own and with each other. Hold me!
    I also grew up with 6 older brothers and the antics they got up to were enough to make your toes curl... and they're just the stories that made it into circulation! I guess the ones we don't know about, won't hurt us :o/

  14. I LOVED this post. I have 4 boys (3 grown)and they drive/drove me mad at times, with fart jokes and collecting spiders in jars and the constant war-wounds - but it's also a privilege to be raising boys who'll step up and take their place as men I can be proud of.

  15. I wrote an entry similar to this called 100 ways to die. I reread it and realised I was writing it so very angrily. It's not just boys these days.

  16. Reading through the comments to this great post I realised that I actually started worrying about my first boy and cars before he was even born. I now have three boys and 1 girl and they all give me myriad things to worry about.
    And I also, like you, believe that I must have been far easier to raise!

  17. I will be exhaling very deeply when my boys are 30. Or 40? A little segment of my mind takes note of all the things teenage boys are at risk of. Thanks for sharing your version.

  18. Al, from what I can see, your boys are not unlike their parents, so I don't think you will have too much to worry about.
    I have a tomboy and she is scary enough for me. I'm looking forward to the emotional roller coaster that for girls apparently begins at 13...

  19. Before I was a mummy I was a 20-something high school teacher - and I saw these antics every day. And it didn't bother me that much, which I now realise is because I was mildly stupid.
    Now that Jack is five years and three days old, the testosterone bullet train is becoming more obvious by the day...and my control-freak tendencies are having a meltdown as a result!! I love love love having a son. But I know there will be times in the next decade or so when I don't love being a son's mother. You know what I mean. I'm crossing my fingers, too!!!!

  20. To be quite honest when me and hubby talk about what we dud in our youth we wonder why we are still alive but we are and odds are most people live through the stupidity of youth. The boy that opened the door will probably have enough money in a few years time to do what older men do to find new and exciting ways to kill themselves like buy a motorbike or speedboat or or or :) they'll be fine, honestly.

  21. How many times have I thought that with my 2 boys! And they're still really little.
    Even when I heard I was having boys I was a little scared, coming from a family of 3 girls.
    My 3 year old is fearless, rough, loud, crazy. I'm sure he's had his testosterone surge already!

  22. Cate - your comment was just lovely.

    Alison - in another coincidence, I just said to my husband last night that I need to re-read 'Raising Boys' which has been extremely useful in the past.

    But I read it when my boy was about 6 months old... long before I needed to! He's 6 now and, as predicted, his parental worship has moved from mum to dad. The catch? His dad is just as much of a boy... I make the pointless attempt to look after them both. Ha!

    PS - Mr 6 has a broken wrist at the moment.

  23. So many great comments here. So good to know I'm not alone!

  24. I think with boys you have to be prepared to pick them up when they leap off the top bunk.
    The thing I worry about is making them strong individuals without being hard and insensitive. I want them to be good people, caring, thoughtful and aware. Yes, they will do dumb stuff and they will hurt themselves, but if they can get through adolescence in one piece, hopefully one day they'll make great fathers and leaders.

  25. Phew... I'm pleased I have daughters... I think... gxo

  26. I have to admit right now? My kids are easy. There are problems yes, but i am very very afraid of teenage boys, of adult boys who leave my nest and don't come back.
    Girls? They will always turn to my arms eventually, but boys don't do that. And yes they are more physically dangerous!

    Screw the baby manual. I need a "raising teenage boys" one.

  27. It is almost 2 years since our town lost 3 boys and 4 more young lives were ruined due to the careless supidity of youth.

    I have a boy, he is 17 now and it scares me. He is sensible, his mates are good kids but I bet every one of those 7 kids parents said the same thing.

    He has always been a real boy, given the choice played with cars and trucks, loved rough and tumble, played in the mud.

    At the moment we are negotiating drivers licenses, drinking alcohol, life after school...

    But he loves his Mum and while we have had our ups and downs I think he will make a fine man.

    Glad to read all the comments here, mostly you could be talking about my;s nice to know I have company!!!

  28. I have an unnatural fear of something "happening" to my daughter, but that all stems from my past history, not from her being a danger to herself or others.

    I must admit, I don't have to do much more than wince or catch my breath in my chest when I observe what the little boys around us get up to. Reading this post (and the comments) extends my compassion and takes it beyond "boys being boys", causing me to consider the families - esp. the mums! - who have the worries you have outlined. I can't imagine what the stress must be like.

  29. With 3 boys, I ask myself the same question constantly. And what is strange is that, even as little boys, I can guess already which boy is going to be ok and which boy is going to take the kind of risks that cause me to be hospitalised with stress related illnesses.

    I love boys. How can I feel otherwise? But I am wary of the pack mentality. Boys in groups are menacing and potentially dangerous. This is at 7 or at 18. The kinds of things they egg each other on to do get more serious with age but that dynamic, the 'egging-each-other-on' thing is there from such a young age. THAT worries me.

  30. We never managed to make babies, which for many years was a great source of grief. When I'm trying to be positive and find things that are good about my child-free life, I tell myself that I would have been a terrible, over-anxious, conflicted Mum: wanting them to be free to explore and experiment (as I was) but in a constant state of terror about what might happen. I would probably have had to build a big moat and razor-wire fence and not let them out. I know this probably doesn't help, but I guess I'm saying that your dual ability to love with all your heart while letting go, must be intrinsic to being a good parent (but then what would I know!).

  31. Not being a mum...all I can say is 'I hope so, I am sure they will'

    ...unless they are american kids in j-crew adds wearing pink toe nail polish. Then apparently (ready heavy heavy sarcasm), if you believe the craptabloids all hell will break loose and the world will fall apart.

  32. i am mum to two very young boys, i have read Raising Boys, and used to teach in an all boys school. I think about this stuff ALL the time, too much probably. Tough roads ahead, I guess, but all I can do is give them the best skills I have for life and then hope with all my heart!

    great great post by they way

    Gill xo

  33. Yep, of course they will! I like Steve Biddulph but I like pam Leo even more. She wrote Connected Parenting and I love what she has to say about the need for all kids, boys and girls, to feel connected with the people around them (especially their parents). I'm so hoping that connectedness will get us through the teenage years, coming up in the not too distant future (YIKES!)and that it'll be without too many freaky boyish daredevil, rebellious ,pushing the boundaries, sorts of things.

    Great topic, Allison x

  34. Great Post! I have 2 boys - 3 & 6. For now I laugh & say they are putting the BOY in Boistrous, but I have this sick scared feeling inside of what will happen when they are older. Maxabella is right, fingers crossed indeed.

  35. All you can do is lay down guide lines and show them the common sense way of things. then hope. My boys are now 30 and 36, so I worry about the grandsons instead. The 15 year old is very sensible, but the other two, of different parents, well, I'll worry.

  36. I hope so.

    A friend told me about that book, and I loved when she told me that as teens you have to let them go and they'll eventually come back to you.

    How hard that 'letting go' must be.

    Especially when they feel compelled to do such silly things as you've described above. x

  37. My Bear is 5 in 3 weeks. We've been having the testosterone surge like crazy. My Beanie is 10mths at least now I figure I know what to expect. Bear is having some behavioural challenges at kinder. He is exuberant full of love, a natural mimic and plays out these wonderful stories in his head. But he takes things too far, gets rough, doesn't listen too. I look at the road ahead and worry about keeping him safe, about helping him grow up to be the intelligent, respectful, successful, creative young man I can see in my little boy. I look at his brother and will him to stay a baby as he boldly starts cruising round the house. Will they be OK? I really, really hope so.

  38. Terrifying! But the things that we fear/despair of in boys are also the things we admire in men: fearlessness, risk-taking, adventure, moving forward, building things and achieving much.
    I am often glad I have girls (but know I would be glad whatever I had!) but the comfort and relief watching little girls play tea parties now will be replaced by other fears as they get older.

  39. Oh God! I have these same fears. Even though I am raising a bunch of 'scaredy-cats' I feel I will be intimate with the local ED. Sigh.

  40. I've got an 8 yr old boy and 3 yr old daughter. My daughter is more like a boy than her brother, hence this week she has a broken collarbone.

    My husband as a 'grown up'does silly boy things all the time - like the time he fell off a car roof (not moving) while drunk at the age of 36 and when he decided that rollerblading to the office a couple of hours before I was due to go to the hospital to be induced with my first born was a good idea. He fell over and broke his collarbone.

    I've always been sensible, which some might deem as boring but hey Virgos rule!!

  41. Such a great post. And as a mother of two boys, all those things do scare the life out of me. We just have to hope that we do our best, and they do their best too.

    Fingers crossed. And praying like mad. xx

  42. Boys, sigh.. I have three of them and I really, really hope they will be alright. My sister read that book, she only has 1 boy and she found it terrifying - Now Im too scared to read it!

  43. I love that book. I re-read it regularly, about once a year. I have three boys...and I love their boy-ness, the rocks and lizards in the pockets but oh they are like whirling cyclones moving through the house. A couple of months ago my eldest broke his arm as he was trying to see if he could back flip off the trampoline and land on his feet. You said it exactly...."They'll be all right...Won't they?"


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