Friday, July 31, 2009

Bat Boys (or, How My Eight-Year-Old Saved my Life)

I was just minding my own business last night, quietly catching up on some work on the computer, when I noticed it.

Scratch that. I didn't notice *it* first. I noticed the cats.

We have three cats, and two of them were acting mighty strange. They were thumping around the dining room like they were chasing something. A mouse, I thought. It had happened before and probably will happen again.

Then I noticed that the cats were looking up. Ah, I thought, a fly.

But something just didn't seem right. Flies are usually a momentary diversion, and the cats were intense. So I looked up -- and saw a bat flying laps around my dining room ceiling. I was not happy.

After pondering my alternatives, I made what I now consider a genius decision: I called my eight-year-old.

He was sleeping over at the neighbor's house, and when I explained the situation, the boys were more than happy to come home to help. They arrived with butterfly nets in hand.

The bad news is that by the time the boys got here, the bat was nowhere to be seen. They traipsed through the house, looking for said bat, but came up empty handed. (Or is that empty netted?)

Knowing that bats like to hang up high, I suggested they check the curtains. They did -- and found the bat hanging in my bedroom. We promptly closed the door.

Then I went to lay with Boy #4 (who was still awake) in his room (with the door closed!) while Boy #3 and his friend voluntarily entered the room with the bat.

The sounds of their efforts were precious. The boys laughed, plotted, planned and goaded each other on. Clearly, they were enjoying their mission and role as my rescuer.

And you know what? They caught the bat! Fifteen minutes, two butterfly nets and one fishing net later, they released the bat, unharmed, in the backyard. This morning, both were still glowing from the excitement of their adventure.

Lesson learned: If you have brave, adventurous boys around the house, take advantage!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Falling Through the Cracks

Last month I wrote a post about a 15-year-old boy who was found with 53 baby birds in his bedroom.

Today I received an anonymous comment from a reader claiming to be the boy's mother. I have no way of verifying her identity, but since her comments are interesting -- and at least one news report does indicate that the boy was in counseling -- I'm reprinting her comments her in their entirety.

Dear reader's....I happen to to be this boy's mother... I am so tired of people passing judgement on me as a mother.I have had trouble with my child since he was a toddler. I have taken him to doctor's his whole life. The most they came up with was ADHD. The meds never seem to help him.He was removed from my home for a yr. to live in a therapy residental setting and was released too soon because it was costly for the state. In that year my son was out of my home his father and I attended every function. We as a family drove down to denver every weekend with out fail for family therapy. I have taken every parenting class available. I worked with my son in therapy else where for six years. I have tried everything. Yes even spanking him and that ended me up as a child abuser. So thats just a brief on what I have been dealing with. He has a long line of theft that I myself have even called the cops on him. He has been slapped on the hand his whole life. I love my son and have tried everything to make him see how he is ruining his life. I am a single mother now of 2yrs and do what I can. I dont want to see him in jail because he will only come out worse but he does need to learn from this and I hope that he does. This whole thing happened in 45 mins. A lapse of me going to work at 145 and my sister getting home at 220. So world please dont think that i dont observe my child or that im outta touch with him. The truth be told their are alot of children like mine who are over looked and failed by the system. Even more so parents like me begging for help and exhausted trying to just get them through life with what we have available to us as parents.

What do you think? Whether or not she's the mother of the bird boy, do you think that society allows too many boys to fall through the cracks? Do you know any parents who are exhausted and frustrated from trying to get their sons the help they need?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kid Power

“It’s only really in America that parents have no expectation of their kids until age 18. Then they expect them to get into a good college and if they do that, they can live off their parents’ money for another four years.”

-- Zac Sunderland

Have you heard of Zac Sunderland? He made news a few weeks ago when he became the youngest person to sail around the world, solo. At age 17, Zac has completed a mission few adults ever attempt.

I had the opportunity to talk to Zac today and asked him how he responded to adults who wrote off his dreams, simply because he was a kid. His response, in part, is above.

What do you think? Do you think Americans expect too little of our sons?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Top 10 Signs You Might Be a Boy Mom

10. You're as excited as your boys are when a bouncy ball rolls into the street -- and is promptly exploded in two by an oncoming car

9. You've had bugs (or reptiles) on your kitchen counter

8. Your laundry piles are predominantly "dark"

7. You know what a skid loader, backhoe and bulldozer are

6. Your bathtub resembles a beach at low tide after the children bathe

5. You laugh at bathroom humor

4. You've ever utttered the words "point down!" while potty training

3. You no longer freak out (completely) when you see your children waving sticks at each other

2. You have at least two of the following toys in your house right now: Legos, blocks, plastic dinosaurs, trucks, light sabers

1. You know there's absolutely nothing in the world like little boy hugs (except, maybe, big boy hugs)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Good Grooming = Good Grades?

Well-groomed boys get better grades.

That's the result of a new study that examined the relationship between students' personality, attractiveness, grooming and grades. Yet another reason to be glad my boys have short hair! Just wake up and go.

Unless, of course, good grooming also means matching clothes and washed faces. I can't always guarantee either one. Most of the time, I'm just happy they get themselves dressed; I couldn't care less about what they're actually wearing. And as for faces...well, let's just say I try to make sure they have clean faces (and hands) before heading out in public. The key word there is "try." I do not always succeed.

Before you start screaming foul, though, note that even the researchers of the study realize that this may be a chicken-and-egg question. More research will be needed, it seems, to determine whether well-organized boys -- who get good grades -- are more likely to comb their hair.

I wonder what Einstein would have to say about this?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Snapshot Sunday: Monarchs!

Remember our monarch chrysalises from last Sunday? Look what we found this morning!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Where Do Boys Come From?

I bet you think you know the answer to that question, don't you? And you probably do, sort of -- I mean, if any of you are still seriously wondering how those male creatures in your house came to be, shoot me an email. I used to be a nurse, after all. I can explain these things.

But it turns out there's more to the process. A study published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology suggests that some men are prone to making boys. This may explain why I have four sons.

According to the study, all men have a gene that influences their ability to father sons, daughters or both. If a man has the mm version of the gene, he produces more Y sperm and is therefore more likely to father sons. If he has the mf version, he produces roughly equal numbers of X and Y sperm and will likely father both sons and daughters. A man with the ff version, however, will produce more X sperm and more daughters.

Other theories also abound. One says that stressed-out moms are more likely to have a girl than a boy. (The stress hormones may make it difficult for male embryos to implant in the womb.) Another study says that richer moms have more sons.

What do you think? Do you think some women/men are more prone to producing boys?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Potty Training Trials

Four boys into parenting, I'm convinced that you can't teach a child to go on the potty. Of course, if you've been around awhile, you probably already know that I don't think you can teach a child anything.

You can facilitate a child's learning. You can provide materials and answer questions. You can even show him how something is done. But to say you can teach him something -- which many people seem to define as getting a child to do what you want him to do, when you want him to do it -- seems to ignore the basic fact that the child is part of the equation as well.

I can throw all the information and knowledge in the world at a kid, but if he's not developmentally, emotionally, cognitively or physically ready to receive it, he's not going to "learn" a darn thing.

Which brings me to potty training.

There are a million sites and books out there that will tell you how potty train your son. (OK, maybe not a milllion -- but I'm willing to get it's a million dollar business!). How to potty train in one day. How to potty train in three days. How to potty train the resistant child. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

But none of them, my friend, can tell you how to potty train your son.

I'd like to tell you that I have potty training boys all figured out. And if I'd stopped at Boy #3, I could make a pretty good case for it. After all, Boy #3 was completely trained -- day and night -- before he was two years old.

Fortunately, by Boy #3, I was already experienced enough in the ways of boys to know that his success had absolutely nothing to do with me. When, at the age of one-and-a-half, he showed an interest in sitting on the potty, my first instinct was, No, I am not doing this now. My oldest son had shown an early interest in potty training -- which fizzled out after we pushed too hard and turned into a three year battle of the wills. I waited longer with Boy #2 and had better results. I did not plan to start down that disastrous road again.

But what are you going to do when your eighteen-month old son asks to sit on the potty? Say no? Of course not. So I let him try. He peed. And that was about the end of that.

Boy #4, on the other hand, turns three-and-a-half this week. He's not yet potty trained. He can pee on the potty, and will on occassion, but generally speaking, he's not interested, and that's quite OK with me.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most boys (and girls) are daytime potty trained between the ages of three and four. (Which, for the record, clearly means that some are not.) After age five, most girls and 75% of the boys stay dry at night.

Not surprising, really, when you consider that boys' brains mature at a different rate than girls'. And when you consider individual variation -- which the books and experts never seem to address -- it's not surprising that Boy #3 was potty trained early while Boy #4 is still working on it. Boy #3 has always and forever mastered physical skills at an early age. He walked early, ran early and learned to ride a training wheel-less bike by age four. Boy #4, on the other hand, has always been a little late as far as physical milestones. They're both on track -- just different people.

So throw away the books and forget about the experts. Look at your son and follow his cues. He'll teach you everything you need to know.

As for me -- I'm going to go change a diaper.

What do you think? Can potty training be taught? What worked for you and your sons?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mr. Personality

My eleven-year-old son came down from his bath last night and announced that he wanted to take a personality test.

He'd just finished reading Trouble Don't Last, an award-winning book about a young slave escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The book, he said, got him thinking about the question, "Who am I?"

We headed to the computer (never mind that it was past 10 pm), where I typed in "myers briggs online personality test." I'd done a Myers-Brigss test years ago (I'm an INFJ, BTW) and was amazed by how well it captured my personality. I wasn't sure how well an online test would work, or if the test would be accurate with an eleven-year-old boy, but I figured what the heck?

Boy #1 was fascinated. He eagerly answered the questions, pausing occasionally to ask for my input. Seventy-two questions later, we pressed "Score It" -- and learned that Boy #1 is an ENFP.

The descriptions were dead on. An ENFP is an extremly outgoing, interesting, vivacious person. ENFPs feel things deeply and have a knack for sensing the emotional temperature in any room. (I've said this about Boy #1 forever!) They're big picture learners and often ponder the deep questions of life. Among other things, they often make excellent salespeople, politicians and actors.


If I was stunned at how accurately the test nailed his personality, Boy #1 was downright giddy. For the first time in his life, he saw in black-and-white that he is not some kook, some strange kid who's just messed up and confused. He saw that all these things he thinks are "wrong" or "different" about him are simply personality traits -- personality traits that add up to a pretty great person.

He saw his intensity not as a liability, but as part of who he is. He saw his tendency to dream about the future as fully typical of his personality, not as an abnormality.

His personality type is rare; only about 2-3 % of the population are ENFP. Even that made him feel better. No wonder he doesn't know many kids "like him!"

It was a beautiful, wonderful evening. My son learned more about himself, my gut feelings about my son were confirmed and we learned more about how and why different people get along (or not).

I never would have thought of administering a personality test to my eleven-year-old, but I'm so glad I did. Why don't you try it with your own boys? Let me know what you find out!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Snapshot Sunday: Metamorphosis

I could get all symbolic on you. But those two green things hanging down from the twigs are monarch caterpillar chrysalises. Son #1 and I found the first caterpillar on our hike a week ago; Son #3 brought home the second one the next day. Both pupated on Friday. Incredible! We've seen this process before (Boy #2 went through a two-year butterfly phase a few years ago), but never like this. This time, we literally sat and watched as the second caterpillar formed its hard, pale green pupa and shed its caterpillar skin for the very last time.

Now, we wait anxiously for the emergence of our monarch butterflies -- and for our third caterpillar, hidden under a milkweed leaf, to grow, change and fly like with others.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This is News?

According to a new study, "impulsive boys with inadequate supervision, poor families and deviant friends are more likely to commit criminal acts that land them in juvenile court."

Raise your hand if you're surprised. No one? I thought not.

As anyone with boys can tell you, poorly supervised boys + troublemaker friends = trouble. And the longer they're unsupervised and in the company of other boys who are not, uh, on the right track, the more likely it is that they will cause some real trouble.

This is not rocket science, people. This is common sense.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, does have a surprising conclusion, though. It turns out that boys who went through the juvenille justice system were MORE likely to commit adult crimes. SEVEN TIMES more likely.

The theory is that the juvenille justice system concentrates the troublemakers in one place. Surround boys with bad influences and, well, expect bad outcomes.

It's disturbing news, and news which should make us rethink our approach to juvenilles and crime. Millions of dollars are poured into the juvenille justice system each year -- to increase adult crime?

Dr. Richard Trembly, a co-author of the study, calls for action. "Two solutions exist for this problem," Dr Tremblay says. "The first is to implement prevention programs before adolescence when problem children are more responsive. The second is to minimize the concentration of problem youths in juvenile justice programs, thereby reducing the risk of peer contagion."

Let's go back to the beginning. Impulsive boys with inadequate supervision, poor families and deviant friends are more likely to commit criminal acts. So let's start there! "Programs" may be helpful, but programs will never replace a family. Let's re-emphasize the importance of the family, and let's provide support for families. When our current policies push single mothers out into the workforce, are we supporting families? Or are we contributing to a situation of inadequate supervision?

Let's talk about the importance of the family, the role of the family. If we must provide programs, let's provide positive parenting programs and support groups. Let's help our children -- our boys especially -- find meaningful activity. Let's support their hopes, dreams and desires and show them how to get there.

We can reform our juvenille justice sytem, but if we're going to get anywhere, we need to start in the community and in the home. We need to start with the family.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Review: 100 Things Guys Need to Know

To state the obvious: I'm a gal. And always will be. So while I'll do my best to prepare my sons for the world, there are some things I just don't know.

That's why I was thrilled to find 100 Things Guys Need to Know, a thin, accessible book aimed at tween and teen boys. Covering topics such as You, Body and Mind, Family, School, Relationships and Future, this seemingly simple book by Bill Zimmerman touches on a little bit of everything.

The best part about the book is that it's based on the input of over 500 boys. Over 500 boys answered the author's Guy Survey, and their responses and concerns form the backbone of the book. Short, snappy sections and Guy Comix hold boys' attention and a recurring section called Check These Out suggests additional sources for more in depth study.

Here's an excerpt from the Intro:

"Outside of school, there are a lot of messages about what it means to be a guy. Movies, TV, music, magazines, and other media often hype guys who are buff, tough, and always in control. Sometimes the message is that guys should keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves -- that 'real guys' don't cry, show emotion, or ask for help -- even when they're struggling.

Some guys feel like they have to live up to these images. But you don't have to."

Of course, just because I loved the book doesn't mean your son will. So I asked my eleven-year-old son -- who promptly whisked the book away from me when it arrived and has since read it three times -- what he thought.

How would you describe this book to another boy?

(shrugging) It’s about 100 Things a Guy Need to Know.

What did you think of the format of the book?

It was good. I liked the Take Action, Check These Out, Guy Comix and surveys.

Which section did you find the most helpful?

Everything could have been helpful, but nothing’s covered enough to give you anything. The book covers a broad variety of important things, but it covers them for about one paragraph and then goes to something else.

Least helpful?

The Social Scene part of the relationship section, because I’ve sort of been in some of the situations, and it just doesn’t work like that. There’s not always someone in the group that’s nice. Cliques, you can’t do a thing against. If they don’t want you in, you’re not going to get in. If someone’s bullying you, no matter who you tell or how many times you tell, it’s only going to get worse, the more times you tell.

Any questions you wish were addressed?

I was kind of hoping the whole social scene and relationships would be covered more. I wanted more stuff that you can actually do to solve your problems.

Would you recommend this book to other boys? Why or why not?

I would, but just so they could read the Check These Out, for other books to check out.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I'm a Ripe Tomato

Meet my latest (OK, my 2nd) blogging award: Blog Salad's Ripe Tomato Award, presented by the generous, talented man otherwise known as Ron Doyle.

If you've been around awhile, you probably remember Ron's hilarious guest post during the May blogathon. (Does a hairy Tom Selleck ring a bell?) If not, you need to go check out his stuff. Immediately. Ron's an incredible writer.

Apparently, he thinks I'm not so bad either. Blogging 'Bout Boys was one of 15 blogs to win the Ripe Tomato award, which recognizes "fifteen of the greatest blogs ever written on bicycling, parenting, technology, frugal living and freelance writing." I know that's only Ron's opinion, but hey -- I already told you the man's a genius!

According to Ron, "there’s a social poignancy beneath Fink's blog—it chronicles the developmental stages of the dominant world of men—and her attempts to raise them differently than generations past."

I'm honored. But I'd like to say that this blog is bigger than just me. This blog is a community of concerned parents, helping each other raise boys to become responsible, fulfilled men. This blog is a community of citizens who know that our country can do better for its boys. This blog is a place where we share information and experiences, in hopes of changing the world for the better a little bit each day.

This is a place where we're silly and serious -- but beneath it all lies a deep undercurrent of love for our boys.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Real Life with Boys

A snippet from an actual conversation I had before 8 am this morning:

Boy #4: "Do you want to hear my poo song? This is hilarious. You might laugh!"

"I love poo!
I love poo!
I love poo!
I love poo!


(more singing)
"I love poo
I love poo poo

"Keep laughing!"


"I have a pee song too

(Singing again)
"I love pee-pee! I love..."

Monday, July 13, 2009

Into the Woods

Boy #1 and I took a marvelous hike last night.

There's an old railroad track in town, used on occasion but infrequently at best. Boy #1 wondered aloud where it left town -- and I, who have lived in this town for 30 of my 37 years, had no idea.

We decided to follow the track.

At first, it meandered in the typical places, overgrown but still very visible. Then, we found the trestle.

It was an old, decaying train trestle, spanning the river. Despite some signs of wear, it still looked safe, so we ventured across. On the other side, we found a wonderland.

Just feet away from civilization, we were surrounded in a jungle. Shrubs and vines grew up between and around the railroad track; black raspberry bushes bore fruit where trains once barreled past. A faint path wandered through the overgrowth, suggesting some human (or animal?) presence, but we felt like explorers breaking ground, perhaps the only people alive in town who knew this railway still existed.

We followed the track almost out of town, eventually climbing out at the industrial park. (Some factory employees were very surprised to see us!) The wonders, though, didn't cease. At the end of our trail, we found a monarch caterpillar, which we brought home on two milkweed leaves and saw crayfish, frogs and a school of minnows swimming in a creak.

Our hike was a miraculous moment, a shared experience that we will both remember. And I couldn't help but notice the symbolism.

This weekend, we dropped a bombshell on our children. With the deceptively simple words, "Your mom and I are going to be living in separate houses," we shattered their worlds. That's why we went on the walk. Boy #1 had been withdrawn, depressed, and I knew he needed to talk.

We started on familiar ground, then headed into the woods. At first, we were somber and uncertain, with neither of us sure where we were going to go. We ended up in a place of amazement, feeling light, happy and closer to each other than before.

I'm hoping this experience will be a little bit the same. We are heading into the unknown, and the woods are all around us. But like Boy #1 said, as long as we stick to the track, we can't get lost. The surroundings may be unfamiliar, but if we stick to the track -- our love for each other; our determination to keep our kids' lives as unchanged as possible, despite this massive shock -- I think we'll be OK.

And I hope that someday, we'll look up in amazement and realize we're in a whole new, wonderful place, one we never even knew existed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Skipping School

I would make a horrible school parent.

My boys are homeschooled during the school year, but this summer, my oldest three are all taking summer school. It seems a bit funny to set alarm clocks and pack backpacks in the summer -- especially when you don't all year -- but hey, I'm a homeschooler. We do things a little bit differently.

Boy #1 wanted to take summer school. He enjoyed Chess and Harry Potter last year, and looked forward to revisiting both. Boy #2 has never taken summer school (or attended "regular" school, beyond one year of preschool), preferring instead to "play outside with friends" in the summer. One problem -- all the friends are at summer school. The program is so popular that there are literally no kids in the neighborhood on summer mornings.

Plus, Boy #2 is a slow-to-warm-up kind of kid. I *knew* there were classes he'd enjoy (isn't Fun & Games just "playing outside with friends?") -- plus I was having babysitter issues and needed a safe place for him to be a couple hours a week while I worked. So I signed him up. While I was there, I noticed that Boy #3, age 6, was eligible as well. I signed him up too.

Despite fighting me the first day, the boys have, all in all, been enjoying summer school. They like seeing their friends each day and push me to get out of the house by 7:35 am so they can arrive before the bell. ("Otherwise all the good computers will be gone, Mom!")


Their enthusiasm is not all encompassing. Summer school is a Monday thru Friday venture, meaning that it includes Wednesdays as well. Wednesdays are Green Market days, and Boy #1 has been selling at the Green Market since he was six. After his mentor died, he was more determined than ever to sell at the Green Market. I let him go. I know my son, and I could tell that selling at the Green Market was an important part of his grieving process. Plus, what's more educational than selling produce to the public? You've got science, math, business, public relations and more, all right there.

That was three weeks -- and three Wednesdays -- ago. He's missed each and every Wednesday (plus a Thursday and Friday, for 4-H camp), and I don't have a problem with that. I know he's doing what he needs to do.

So this morning, when Boy #2 announced in no uncertain terms that he was NOT going to summer school, I decided to let him stay. Something told me that somehow, some way, staying home was more important for him today.

It turns out that he's been feeling overwhelmed by his brothers. With three brothers constantly home, including an older brother who likes to get his own way and two younger brothers who constantly push his buttons, he's been feeling very little peace. What he really wanted (and needed) was some alone time with Mom.

I called and told the school he wouldn't be attending today. We went for a bike ride. We played Qwirkle. And he played for hours on the computer, uninterrupted.

Today, that was more important than school.

Have you ever let your son skip something for something you deemed more important? Tell me about it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Do We Need a National Commission on Boys?

Boys have some problems.

They're more likely to commit suicide, more likely to struggle in school and more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Now a new study from psychologist Judith Kleinfeld is bringing additional attention to the problems of boys.

Kleinfeld has studied boys for a long time and the time has come, she believes, to act. "Boys' issues are being neglected, whereas girls' issues have been addressed for over 20 years, with great success," said Kleinfeld, a professor at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. "Now it's time to turn our attention to boys."

I think the professor has a point. We know what's wrong; the statistics documenting boys' struggles have been well-known for years. And we know what works. Many studies have documented the differences between male and female brains. Numerous research studies -- and years of anecdotal evidence -- have shown that boys learn best when they can get their hands dirty, when they see an immediate application for their learning. We know that boys need role models.

We know all this, yet we have changed little about how we educate and nurture our sons. Kleinfeld believes we need a national commission to tackle the boy problem. She also believes that teachers should "be alerted to the particular problems boys have in writing, and also reading," and that "we can use the mental health professionals and especially school counselors who are on the front lines to identify boys who are at danger of suicide."

What do you think? Do you Kleinfeld is on the right track?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The 4th of July

At this point, the fireworks are iffy.

It rained heavily a couple hours ago, so we're all waiting to see if the pyrotechnics will be shot off as usual. I hope so! There's something magical about snuggling on a blanket with a little boy, long after his bedtime, watching fireworks light up the sky.

The boys did, however, get candy -- and lots of it. A small town near here (and by "small town," I mean small. They've just revised their population sigh to read, "Not many.") that hosts an annual 4th of July parade. It's nothing fancy -- firetrucks, tractors, teenage beauty queens, a couple floats and a band -- but none of that matters to the boys. To the boys, the July 4th parade is all about candy.

By 8 am, they had their candy bags picked out: a paper grocery bag for Boy #4, double-bagged plastic grocery bags for Boy #3 ("in case one gets a hole") and a heavy-duty plastic library bag for Boy #2. Not that I blame them. The July 4th parade was always my favorite too.

Now, the candy has been sorted into little piles. Boy #3 has his candy in multiple plastic containers while Boy #2's bag is heavily guarded and ready to take up to the fireworks tonight. (This child was planning the snack menu by 9 am this morning.)

They boys are currently resting up and keeping their fingers crossed. (Thanks, uncles, for keeping the boys entertained at our afternoon cookout.) With any luck, the fireworks will proceed as scheduled and we'll oooh and aaaah surrounded by family -- and candy.

Enjoy your 4th!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Yes -- or No?

Is "No" your default response?

Kids ask a lot of us, from morning until night. "Can I have cheesecake for breakfast?" "Can I play at a friend's house?" "Could you get me some milk?" "Change me!"

(That last one is from my not-yet-potty-trained three-year-old.)

All the requests, frankly, can be a bit exhausting. With four boys, at 1000 questions a piece per day, that's 4000 questions or 166.6666666 questions per hour! Subtract sleep time and the number increases to an amazing 222.22222 questions per hour. No wonder I'm so tired at night!

It's easy to viewt our sons' questions as intrusions. Every little "can I....?" adds something to the day I hadn't planned, and our days are pretty packed as is. Saying no often seems like the easy way out -- "No, we can't go swimming today" or "No, you can't have a friend over."

But what if we viewed our sons' requests as an opportunity to know them better? What if, instead of viewing requests as intrusions or an added burden, we viewed them as their souls, telling us what they need?

Author and blogger Jill Savage is hosting a Yes Mom challenge for the month of July, and I'm taking her up on it. Will you join me?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Independence Day Edition

Want this 4th of July to be about more than food and fireworks? Revisit the very origins of our country with a couple of these books, chosen just for boys. Nothing dry or boring here; just book after book about boys in the midst of history.

  1. The Minute Boys of Bunker Hill by J.W. Kennedy. A fictional book by the original author of the Hardy Boys. If your boys like it, be sure to read The Minute Boys of Lexington as well.
  2. George the Drummer Boy by Nathaniel Benchley. An I-Can-Read book, this book tells the story of a youth serving the British army. Sam the Minuteman is its companion book, is about the experiences of an American patriot.
  3. A Young Patriot: The American Revolution as Experience by One Boy by Jim Murphy. This one is true! Joseph Plumb Martin was a 15-year-old farm boy who enlisted in the Continental Army in 1776.
  4. Paul Revere: Boston Patriot by Augusta Stevenson. Part of the Childhood of Famous Americans series, this book is a fictionalized look at Paul Revere's youth.

Feeling inspired? Play some simple colonial games. Or get your hands on a copy of Great Colonial America Projects You Can Build Yourself. You just might find your Independence Day celebration extending long beyond the 4th.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

9 Things Every Boy Needs

1. Destruction
2. Sports
3. Trading cards
4. Video games
5. TV
6. Forts
7. Junk food
8. Underpants
9. Fun

In case you haven't guessed, that list was 100% boy-generated. Boy #2 and a friend paused their Pokemon game long enough to help me after I decided that my list lacked pizzazz.

Compared to theirs, my list is downright boring:

1. A close friend that "gets" him
2. Access to dirt
3. Freedom to get dirty
4. Time to imagine
5. Hugs & kisses
6. Books
7. An adult to show him the world
8. Space to move and explore
9. Animals

But see? That's the difference between adults and kids. If I give my boys everything on my list, they'll be safe and healthy. But as far as they're concerned, their world will lack pizzazz.

Do I think boys need trading cards, TV and junk food? No. After all, boys lived for hundreds of thousands of millions of years without any of those things. For today's boys, though, a sprinking of trading cards, TV, junk food and video games equals fun. It's a chance to do something that's not inherently good for them.

And yet, a closer reading of their list reveals that the boys are right on track. Destruction is a chance to play with primitive urges while learning how things work. Sports are an excelllent opportunity for movement and competition and trading cards exercise boys' math and organizational skills more than any text book.

Video games develop boys' visual-spatial skills while allowing them to experiment with good and evil, while TV is a window to the wider world. Building forts exercises imagination and places the world (or at least a small piece of it) directly under their control. Junk food appeals to their desire to choose, and underpants -- well, do you know any boy who wants to walk around with his stuff hanging out?

Fun, though, is the key. My list is a great list (if I do say so myself), but if I slog through it with a sense of obligation, my boys will still be lacking. So join me -- take a moment today and figure out how you can inject some fun into your boys' lives.

I guarantee you'll have fun too.