Friday, July 6, 2012

I Love My Boys

I'm not much of a girly girl. Never have been. I like wearing dresses, but then would play in the dirt, climb trees, you name it.

When I was a preschool teacher, I enjoyed building with the (mostly) boys in the block center more than I enjoyed sitting down and drawing pictures of My Little Pony. One of my students, who reminded me a lot of myself, said, "Mrs. Shenk, I like you because you like girl things AND boy things." I considered it one of my biggest compliments.

Truly, I would have been thrilled if we'd had a girl or two or three, but I sure do love my three boys. I love how physical they are and how they're always on the move. I love that there is likely a lower level of drama than if they'd been girls. I love that they don't really care about what they wear (for now) and are covered in dirt just about every day.

On the flip side, I put a lot of effort into helping them discharge their physical energy in a positive way. We spend a LOT of time outside, and we have to go somewhere out of the house twice a day; otherwise, it's not pretty.

This bent towards being more physical (and I know not every boy is like this, but mine sure are) and aggressive is not *bad.* I hear from a lot of friends who have a girl first and then a boy and are shocked by the new "wild child" they have. Who is this boy who is climbing all the furniture at 13 months old? Who is this boy who won't sit down for long art projects? And why is he always getting so DIRTY?

But the trick is taking that boy-ness and teaching appropriate behavior. There are times to sit, times to speak quietly, times to be gentle, times to nurture. While God in the Bible is referred to as Father, much of the imagery describing God is also maternal. So there is a balance. For Cole in particular, this is difficult. He has SO much energy and combined with being an extreme extrovert (no clue where he gets that from...), we're not always sure how to help him channel his behavior. I imagine this will be an ongoing lesson.

I read this article about how to raise boys who are the wild men that God created them to be, and yet know how to act appropriately within society. (I do not subscribe to everything on that website, but I do like the article :))

Love these boys.


Sarah Call said...

Our life is quite the same :) Love my boys too!

Giulia said...

Well, as incredible as it appears, I am quite boyish myself, even if I am a female. If I don't go out at least once a day, it's not pretty.
I need to spend a lot of energy, thanks to Mr ADHD...

Drama, it really depends. I make a drama for serious matters, not for a spot on my clothes when I stay at home. I hardly ever make up, I don't like it.
BTW, I am a 26 years old lady with a Single Sided Deafness and ADHD.

I was exactly like your boys despite being a girl as a toddler. Does it mean that a girl who behaves like your three boys is less a girl than a girl who wants to play with a doll ?
Does it mean that a girl who needs to go outside twice a day is less a girl than a girl who quietly plays at piano ?

If your boys would rather prefer playing with dolls, or cooking, or preparing cosmetics, would they be less "your boys" ? Should I understand that you would consider them as "less boys than the more typical boys" who play soccer, prefer dirty themselves in the wild nature ? Does it mean that a girl who would rather spend her time outdoors is less "a girl" than another who loves cooking, making herself up and such ?

I have been very offended by your post because of its sexism. Yes, its sexism and I weight my words.
So, if I understood your post, it means that a boy can be a lifeguard but a girl must only be a beautician, a teacher, she must not be a surgeon ? Is this what you mean ?
Spreading such sexist clichés are exactly the same problem as saying that "people with Prader-Willi syndrome are unable to think". You would be furious if someone were talking like that in front of you. You would be furious, and it would be logical.
But when you spread up such sexist clichés, you do exactly the same as ignorant know-it-all who say that "people with PWS are unable to think and pretend to suffer". You don't realize it, but in the back end, while spreading such sexist clichés, you reproduce the same patterns.

I don't consider that because I think with intellectual masculine thinking patterns, I am less "a female" than another who considers make-up as a must in her life or cries because she has a spot on her dress !!
I don't want to have children for a ton of reasons (include risks for my heath and the need to fight if I want to adopt. I don't live in the US, I live in a very retarded country regarding ADHD : they consider adults with ADHD as unfit to parent, another unfair cliché !), it does not absolutely make me less "a woman" than a woman who dreams about having romantic relationships, being pregnant and such.

I refuse such clichés. There are too many clichés about disability and special needs, like in my country, an adult with ADHD is considered as unfit to parent/wants to be a junkie. Or that a person who is hearing impaired and learnt four languages (I am in such a situation, sorry) is a fake hearing impaired.
We don't need to add more sexist stereotypes.
I am not less a woman because I have some ways of thinking considered as boyish. And no, we cannot consider that I cannot have ADHD because I am a female "and female don't have ADHD, they have only ADD".
I am not less a woman because I don't want to have children (my health comes first and foremost, even if many told me that girls never think like that).
I am not less a woman because I love computer maintenance and open source software.
I am not less a woman because I love wearing short hair.
I am not less a woman because I prefer being alone than badly accompanied.
I am not less a woman because I prefer washing all my laundry at 30°C instead of having 5 laundry baskets.

Your post offended me. It is so sexist. I am very disappointed that a person who refuses all the clichés and stereotypes about persons with disabilities embrace with such a force sexist stereotypes.

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Hi Giulia,
I appreciate that you had the courage to post your comment even though you did not agree with what I wrote.

I write my experience and my thoughts and feelings about that experience. Unfortunately, in saying these things, there are sometimes inferences about what else I might be saying. This is what usually hurts. I'm sorry that I offended you.

My 3 boys for the most part *do* fit the stereotypes about boys. Had that not been that way, I would have written about that. I'm sorry that you felt that my intent was to promote stereotypes. I talked about the need to help them develop more of a nurturing, maternal sense as well because being the stereotypical "boy" is not everything. Sometimes, they do like playing dress-up, house, playing with baby dolls... and I am completely fine with that. I don't think that implied that we are forcing our boys to act according to stereotypes; if you heard that through my post, then I am sorry.

I mentioned in my post that I am not a girly girl myself, so I can relate to what you wrote and about how you are not any less of a woman for being who you are and liking what you like. At one point in my life, I thought, 'is there something wrong with me that I don't like more girly things?' I tried to fake it, but it just wasn't me. I'm comfortable now with being whoever I am, whether it's more what others would consider "boyish" or "girlish."

Regarding professions, I don't *believe* that I said anything about who should be what for a career. If my boys want to be teachers, caregivers, nurses, stay-at-home dads - who cares! Most important to me is that they have a sense of purpose that they are where God wants them to be.

Also, for what it's worth, I can sympathize with your feelings about being stigmatized for ADHD. I have bipolar, as you might have read on here before, and it's hard. Really, really hard. There is a lot of stigma about it. Do you have others with whom you can talk about that? Because if not, it's incredibly isolating.

I hope you can feel that you have been heard and that I am deeply sorry for (unintentionally) causing you pain. I do hope that you'll continue to read DITW, as I appreciate your comments.


Giulia said...

Thank you for your reply, which clarifies some points easily misunderstood in your post.

About ADHD stigma, I don't have much support apart my mom and my sister. We have a French association for ADHD patients, but they spend more time to fight about who will have the power than they spend time to take real steps in order to help patients with ADHD. They even asked me not to declare my health issues for driving license and when I refused (in case of accident, you can be sure that I will have to pay all the sum out of my pocket), the president said that my psychiatrist must involuntarily commit me !!
I let you imagine the story...

In the meantime, I sympathetize with you regarding stigma about bipolar disorder. Did you think about advocating for it ?
Also here, we have a lot to do to cancel stigma about mental illness.
Fighting to make a law change is a way to do, but it consumes a lot of energy. I just have to be careful that I don't give up my health on the road....

Candice said...

I love how it looks like Cole is yelling in this pic.!