Why Raising Boys is Harder
People always say raising a boy is easier than a girl. I’ve never been sure why.
From the moment I realized I had grown a male infant inside my decidedly female body, I was impressed to the point of being intimidated. Fortunately my son was sweet and gentle and uncomplicated. His early years were a cakewalk - in marked contrast to the way my head spun from his sisters, one of whom, pre-language skills, once bit me on my right butt cheek in lieu of asking me to move, and then a few months later toilet-trained herself.
But my son is 15 now. I always had a hard time understanding teenage boys. Even when I was a teenager myself.
I get teenage girls, despite their complexities. I speak their language. Teaching them how to do their hair, to handle girl drama, to evaluate the pros of tampons vs. pads - it’s like slipping on a favorite old t-shirt.
Boy issues baffle me. I try to stay close to him, to help him navigate the weirdness of adolescence, to talk football as much as I’m able. Yet I fail more than I succeed.
I’ve had a few memorable victories recently.
For years now, I’ve been trying to teach my son to cook a few essentials. Just so he could survive in the wilderness of college on his own, or simply make his own lunch when I’m away on a business trip. I set the bar low. Frozen pizza, hot dogs, lemon poppyseed muffins from a mix.
It was excruciating. His questions went like this: “Where is the butter? Why do I need that kind of pan? It tastes fine frozen. Will you intercom me when it’s done?”
Finally I realized that he was not scared, in the slightest, by my prediction that one day he would starve to death if he didn’t learn to boil water for spaghetti or wash the dirt off strawberries.
It took months to figure out how to get his attention. The trick surprised even me.
“You know, one day…”
He turned to walk out of the kitchen, already tuning out. He thought he’d heard my speech one million times before. I kept talking to his backside.
“One day, you are going to be a dad yourself. And you are going to want to cook meals for you own kids. You need to practice now.”
He spun around and made eye contact for almost five seconds, which has not happened since his 13th birthday. Then he proceeded to carefully prepare hot dogs wrapped in Pillsbury crescent rolls - requiring use of tin foil, the microwave defrost setting, and the oven -- without another word. The next day I caught him using the blender to whip up an ice cream shake for his younger sister. He makes a meal a day for himself now.
In our house, this ranks as a miracle.
In the loss column, we have to list his laundry skills. Two years ago, I taught him another life skill: to shop by himself at T.J. Maxx. He loves the clothes, the prices, the whole shopping experience. Last week, with his Christmas money, he bought himself a gorgeous baby blue v-neck merino wool sweater guaranteed to charm the ladies.