Thursday, July 11, 2013

Coming Soon! BuildingBoys

I've been pretty quiet here lately, but that's because I'm building something much bigger and better. (I know: I sound like an infomercial, don't I?)

I've been blogging 'bout boys here for 4 years now, and while I've thoroughly enjoyed the adventure, I think it's time to expand the conversation. I can write about boys all day long, but I will never truly know what it's like to be a boy. I can tell you what I think boys need and want, based on my experience and research, but I can't tell you what it's like to be a boy today. I can't honestly tell you what boys need, because 1) I'm not a boy and 2) every boy is different. There is no blueprint for raising boys! 

That's why I'm getting ready to launch The site, which will launch on July 22, will be a one-stop resource for anyone who's interested in helping build boys into happy, healthy human beings. It will include information and strategies that parents, educators and concerned citizens can use to help boys learn, grow and stay healthy. And it will include the voices of boys! BuildingBoys will include regular input from a panel of regular boys who will answer questions such as Why do boys enjoy fart jokes? (Got a question of your own? You'll be able to enter it on the site, and hear a real explanation from real boys.) The boys will also occasionally post their thought and opinions about boys' issues, education and life.

The new site will include video too, and expert input from educators, healthcare providers and fellow parents. It'll include a lot of great content from Blogging 'Bout Boys too; looking back, I realized that we've generated some useful conversations here, so I'll be migrating a lot of content from here to BuidlingBoys.

I hope you'll follow me. I hope you'll tell your friends. I'm excited about this new venture, and I hope you are too.

Got some ideas for my new site? Leave a comment below! I'd love to hear about what kind of features and information you'd like to see on a site about boys. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Boys & Birth Control

Photo by robertelyov via Flickr
1 out of 5 sexually active teenage boys does not receive info regarding condom usage or birth control from their parents, doctors or teachers.

That's according to a report by the Center for Advancing Health. The report, which looked at sexually active teens between the ages of 13 and 19, found that parents were the most likely source of  information regarding birth control and sexual health. 43 percent of the males said that their parents shared info with them regarding birth control, and 66 percent of the males said their parents shared information about sexually transmitted diseases. Only 1/3 said they got similar information from their healthcare providers. 

Think about those numbers for a minute. 43 percent of the sexually active boys said that they'd received info about birth control from their parents or teachers. That means that 57 percent of sexually active teenage boys had not gotten any info about birth control from a parent or teacher, and the odds are good that that didn't hear anything from their doctor either. 44 percent of sexually active teenage boys didn't have info about sexually transmitted diseases, at least not from a reliable source such as a parent, teacher or healthcare provider.

Those numbers are terrible. Those numbers are shameful. 

Our boys NEED information about sex and sexual health. They need to know how to protect themselves and a partner from sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy. And they need that information whether or not they are sexually active at the moment, because the odds are extremely, very,very good that they will become sexually active at some point.

As a nurse, as a health writer and as an advocate for boys, I strongly believe that 100 percent of teenage boys should not only have information about sexual health, birth control and STD prevention, but that they should also have easy access to condoms  -- not because I want to encourage teen boys to have sex, but because I'm a realist. At some point, those boys-becoming-men will have sex, and I want them to have all of the tools and knowledge they need to keep themselves (and their partners) safe.

As a parent, though, I realize it's not easy. It is much easier for me, as a nurse, health writer and advocate, to say that all boys should have that info -- and much harder for me to actually sit down and talk to my boys about these topics. Much harder to discern when I should make condoms available. Much harder to decide how much information to share, and when. 

So know this: It's OK to be uncomfortable. It's OK to stumble through these questions and discussions, and OK to veer from too little to too much info and back again. Talking to kids about sex is hard because all kids, all parents and all families are different. As a blogger, I have the luxury of talking in generalities: You should talk to your boys about sex. As a parent, you have the difficult job of tailoring the information to your child, of figuring out what to say when and how to present the info in such a way that your kid might actually take it in. 

I can't tell you how to do that. I can't tell you exactly when or how to bring up birth control with your boys. (Though I'm happy to field any questions, and will share some suggestions in a future post.) What I can tell you is that discomfort is no excuse. It is simply irresponsible to send our sons out into the world without solid knowledge of sexual health and birth control.

So be uncomfortable. Stumble through the presentation. Be willing to be awkward and presumptuous. TALK TO YOUR BOYS about sex, and make sure they understand the mechanics of sex and conception and birth control and STD prevention. (They need to know about the emotional and ethical components of sex too, but I'll save that for another post.) 

Before your boys leave your house -- hopefully, well before -- your boys need to know how to protect their sexual health. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Big Boy Trouble, Little Boy Trouble

It's summer here, and that means baseball.

Three of my four boys play baseball -- on four different teams. How can that be?, you may wonder. Well, Boy #2 actually plays on two different teams, his regular team (which plays during the week) and a travel team that plays in occasional weekend tourneys.

All of that baseball means that I spend most of my evenings at the ballpark. And last night at the ballpark, as the kids unwound by playing yet another game of baseball (yes, you read that correctly: the kids who had just finished playing segued into a pick up game with their friends/opponents, siblings and any other kids who happened to be around), the parents talked parenting around the concession stand.

Another mom of boys (she has three vs. my four) shared that her middle son recently got a speeding ticket. The consequences were pretty severe because he still has a probationary driver's license and had one more passenger than allowed under our state's graduated licensing program. But of course, the consequences could have been worse. The state trooper that showed up at the door to inform the parents of their child's driving infraction could have been carrying far worse news.

We chatted some more. The conversation turned to summer school, and I shared that we've already gotten a call from a teacher regarding our seven-year old's behavior. On day 3 of summer school. (For the record, he is taking exactly two classes, Phy Ed Fun and Math Munchies.) Our son, it seems, is being disruptive and not listening in class.

"See?" the other mom-of-boy said. "Little boy problems, big boy problems!" Her boy is in trouble for an offense including  a thousands-of-pounds moving vehicle; he could have died. My son is in trouble for talking during class; he could have landed in the principal's office.

It's true: as our kids grow, the consequences of their actions become much bigger. An older child who makes a poor decision may not be able to find a job, or may run afoul of the law. An older child who makes a poor decision might kill himself or others. Younger kids who make poor decisions often end up in timeout.

But really, isn't it all the same? I want my sons to learn to respect others. To respect themselves. And to live peacefully in society. What my son learns now -- at age 7 -- will affect his behavior at age 17. So while I'm glad that his actions still have relatively tiny consequences, I don't think his problems are any less significant or worthy of attention.

We lay the foundation for our kids in the early years, and spend the next many years shoring up that foundation. What we do now matters, whether our boys are big or little.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Homework Can Be Fun

I'm not generally a big fan of homework. If your boys are in school, you know that are only so many precious hours between the end of the school day and bedtime, time that must be divvied up between relaxing, eating, spending time with family, personal interests, family responsibilities and, uh, homework.

But every now and then, a homework project comes along that feeds my boys' interests -- one that enhances, rather than detracts, from their lives. Those are the homework projects I love. And luckily, we had not one but two of them here in the last 24 hours.

This is Boy #3. He's been studying lumberjacks in 4th grade, and today is the annual Lumberjack Breakfast. So this morning, I got to draw a beard on my 10-year-old.

Boy #2, meanwhile, has been working on an English project. The kids have been learning about similes and metaphors and other literacy devices, and had to dream up an imaginary product and use those literary devices in a commercial to "sell" the product. My son imagined a product, wrote a script and made this commercial:

This kind of homework, I love.

Have your boys done any creative projects lately? Tell me about them!

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Do Boys Think?

I can talk and write about boys until the proverbial cows come home. But I will never be able to tell you exactly what boys think and feel and wonder. That's why I'd like your sons help.

I'd like to collect (and post) some short videos of boys, talking about topics and interests of concern to them. Got a boy who's interested in participating? Email me at I'll send you more info.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Business of Baby

I'm thinking 'bout babies today. Could be because my extended family just welcomed a new baby boy to the family. (Yesterday!) Could be because Jennifer Margulis' new book, The Business of Baby, came out yesterday. Or because I'm passionate about pregnancy and birth. Most likely, it's because it all goes together.

My brother and sister-in-law did not have the birth experience of their dreams yesterday. My brother, like most modern dads, imagined being in the room at the moment of his baby's birth. He wanted to support his wife. And he wanted to see and hold his baby as soon as humanly possible.

That didn't happen. Instead, he waited, alone and distraught in a waiting room while his wife underwent a C-section under general anesthesia.

Baby and Mom and Dad are fine -- and I'm thankful for that! But the whole thing got me thinking, once again, about the importance of information. Because these are the facts about birth in America, circa 2013:

  • At least 1/3 of births are via Cesearan. Rates vary from hospital to hospital, with some hospitals having C-section rates of less than 10%, while other deliver nearly 70% of their babies via C-section. 
  • Almost 1 in 4 women have their labor artificially induced. The rate of labor induction increased 140% between 1990 and 2007 (the most recent year for which I could find data).
  • Labor inductions and C-sections contribute to infant prematurity and health problems. As the number of C-sections and inductions has increased, so have NICU admissions. The link is so stark and startling that medical experts recommend avoiding labor induction or a C-section before 39 weeks of gestation unless absolutely necessary. 
  • More women die of childbirth-related complications now than in 1987. In 1987, the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. was 6.6 per 100,000 live births. In 2006 (the last year for which data is available), the maternal mortality rate was 12.7 per 100,000 live births. 

Expectant parents today have to navigate their way through a birth climate and industry that is infinitely more complex than it was in the past. There are SO many more options, ranging from prenatal tests to delivery choices, and parents-to-be are regularly asked to make decisions that affect the health of their baby and family.

Information is key, I think, to informed choices, and that's where The Business of Baby comes in. Margulis' book explores some of the not-often-talked about facts of pregnancy and birth and baby care. She covers everything from prenatal care options to birthing practices, infant feeding, diapering, vaccinations and well-child care, and she does it by analyzing the available evidence to support (or not support) what have become routine American practices. She finds that many routine practices are not grounded in science at all.

That's a startling statement, in and of itself.

But Margulis goes further. The evidence she finds strongly suggests that profit motives -- not science -- underlie what have become routine recommendations.

Whether or not you agree with or ultimately accept all of Margulis' conclusions, I believe that all expectant parents (and anyone who cares about birth in the United States) should read The Business of Baby. The only way to make informed decisions is to gather knowledge, and The Business of Baby brings to light a lot of important information.

Have a question for Business of Baby author Jennifer Margulis? Leave it in the comment section below. She'll be visiting Blogging 'Bout Boys in the near future to answer your questions.

Full disclosure: Jennifer Margulis and I are both members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. I'm also quoted in Chapter 7 of The Business of Baby. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tips on Dealing with Anger -- from a 7-yr-old Boy

If you have kids, you've gotten angry. Felt frustrated. And quite probably yelled at your kids. (More than once.)
Photo by isforinsects via Flickr

If you're an enlightened parent, the kind who is always striving to do better, who is working hard to raise kids who are kind and compassionate, you're probably felt guilty about yelling. Probably vowed not to do it so much in the future. With mixed success. Because what, after all, do you do with all of that anger and frustration?

Listen to Alissa Marquess' 7-year-old son. The insights he shares in "How to Get Ride of Your Anger" are startling in their simplicity and honesty.

Seriously -- click over and read her post. It's quite possibly the most fantastic and important parenting advice I've ever read on the 'Net.