Monday, December 28, 2009

Thank You!

Thanks to your votes and support, Blogging 'Bout Boys has been named a...

Thank you, Alasandra, for hosting the contest. Please head to Alasandra's Homeschool Blog to check out the other winners!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Boys and Cell Phones

Does your son have a cell phone? What are his favorite features?

According to a new study, boys are more likely than girls to use their cell phones for purposes other than communication. Boys are more likely to play music, share pictures, check email and play video games on their cellular phones.

The researchers worry, though, that those differences in usage are based less on personal interest -- and more on social conditioning. "Boys are often taught to explore and be more creative with technology and not to be afraid to take things apart. So it leads to more advanced cell phone uses among boys," said study author Sheila Cotten, a sociologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

I'm not sure she can get all that from one study, but I think she might be right. I'm very hesitant with new technology, in part because I don't understand it. I don't push any more buttons than absolutely necessary for fear I'll "mess something up." The boys' dad, on the other hand, is far more proficient on the computer than I, largely because he has no problem whatsoever exploring technology. Whatever happens, he's confident he can find a way to get back to start.

Is that why he's an engineer and I'm not? The study researchers might think so: ""If [girls] are not as interested in exploring or taking apart technology, they may be less likely to take computer science, science and math courses."

Personally, I think that's a lot of inference, based on a cell phone study. Still, I'd like to hear your experiences. Are your boys more adventurous on the cell phone and computer than your girls? What do you think of the researchers' conclusions?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Boys and Bedwetting

Did you know that Michael Landon, Vince Vaughn and Mark McGwire were all bedwetters?

I didn't, until I read, "Bedwetting: Here's Help," by fellow parenting writer Kathy Sena. I did, however, know -- from personal experience -- that bedwetting can be a frustrating situation for both child and parent.

One of my sons wet the bed until he was almost eight. It wasn't an every night kind of thing, but it was often enough to be annoying. Realistically, I knew the bedwetting was beyond his control. Realistically, I knew he felt embarrassed and ashamed, and I know he didn't enjoy waking up in cold, wet jammies. Practically speaking, though, I got awfully tired of washing sheets.

But somehow, my mommy intuition knew that the bedwetting, too, would pass. The research seems to back me up on this one. According to a study published in the British Journal of Urology, if your 7-year-old is wetting the bed one to two nights per week, he has a 96% of outgrowing it by the time he's 15. Obviously, if the bedwetting continues -- or if you have any other concerns about your child's health -- you should take him to see a healthcare provider.

For whatever reason, boys are twice as likely to wet to the bed as girls. As Dr. Howard Bennett, a clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University Medical Center and author of Waking Up Dry: A Guide to Help Children Overcome Bedwetting, says, bedwetting, "happens because a child’s brain and bladder are not communicating with each other at night.”

Remember that bedwetting is likely to become a problem if you make it a problem. If you handle it in a business-like manner instead, with dignity and respect, your son will view you as a ally, someone he can count on in times of need.

Did your son wet the bed? What advice would you give to other parents?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Should Long Hair Keep a Boy Out of School?

The Mesquite Independent School District in Texas thinks so.

By now, you may have heard the story of four-year-old Taylor Pugh, a pre-kindergartener whose hair covers his eyes and sweeps his collar, in direct violation of the school district's dress code.

Of course, Taylor didn't grow his hair long simply to piss off the school. Taylor is 4 and acts of teenage rebellion aren't even on his radar. Heck, he's barely passed out of his toddler rebellion stage.

According to some reports, Taylor plans to eventually donate his hair to a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients. Other reports say that he has Native American ancestors. If either (or both) reports are true, I'd say the boy has a pretty strong case for letting his hair grow.

Not that he needs an excuse. As far as I'm concerned, what he does with his hair is his business. (Unless, of course, he's shaking it directly in someone else's face, or depositing it in his teacher's food. Then, he's clearly crossed the line.)

But the Mesquite Independent School District believes that "students who dress and groom themselves neatly, and in an acceptable and appropriate manner, are more likely to become constructive members of the society in which we live."

I'm not sure I buy that argument, but in this case, my opinion doesn't count. Because of the school district's stance, 4-year-old Taylor has been in in-school suspension for the last month. He receives his 2 1/2 hours of instruction a day in the library, with an aide, instead of in the classroom with his peers.

Some will argue that 4 is a perfectly acceptable age to learn that there are rules in the world, and that we all must follow rules. Some will argue that his parents are doing more harm than good by supporting their son, instead of the school.

Others think it's much ado about nothing. After all, it's just hair. It's not like he drew a picture of Jesus on the cross.

What do you think? Why?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Positive Parenting

I'd had it with my boys' bickering.

At lunch, after we lit the Advent candles, I read a passage from Matthew 5:
"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother is subject to judgement...Anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fires of hell."

I was hoping the passage would spark a conversation. I was hoping it would spark some inner reflection and repentance. Instead, it sparked anger. Boys #1 and 2 immediately clammed up and refused to answer any questions. They wouldn't even tell me why they were mad.

An hour or so later, with the help of Boy#1, I figured it out. Yes, they fight, but overall, they think they're doing pretty good. And my constant harping about what they're doing wrong is making them feel pretty darn bad.

Talk about a moment of inner reflection and repentance.

The message was brought home tonight, as we read a chapter of Farmer Boy. Almanzo's little oxen did not want to work after a summer of rest, but "Almanzo had to be patient and gentle. He petted the yearlings (when he sometimes wanted to hit them) and he fed them carrots and talked to them soothingly."

Boy #1 interrupted. "See?"

I saw the comparison immediately, but asked him to explain. He continued, "In a lot of ways, animals and kids are the same. They don't know very much and they're high energy. But do they get it from from hitting and yelling? No, they get it from patience and gentleness and that kind of stuff."

Starting now, I resolve to concentrate on patience and gentleness. Instead of focusing on the bad, I will focus on the good. I will catch my boys doing good and tell them how much I love them. Most of all, I will live each day in such a way that they can SEE the happiness they bring into my life. They have enhanced my life in immeasurable ways, and yet all too often, I fear, they only hear about the mess, the inconvenience and my long list of to-dos.

Thank you, boys, for once again showing me the way.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Our oldest cat, Dusty, is dying.

Not in some theoretical, we're-all-going-to-die-someday kind of way, but actively dying. Dusty is currently laying on his side on the bathroom rug, laboring to breathe. Beside him is a nine-year-old boy who brought his pillow and blanket into the bathroom to keep Dusty company, a nine-year-old boy who is stroking Dusty's fur and crooning, "Silent Night."

Dusty was diagnosed with feline leukemia, the cat version of AIDS, a few months ago. At that time, an XRay also revealed what is likely a cancerous tumor in Dusty's chest.

Faced with the reality of limited healthcare dollars and an incurable disease, we decided against aggressive treatment. We brought Dusty home with a prescription for prednisone, which the vet said would ease his symptoms for awhile, and told the kids the uncomfortable truth: that their favorite cat was dying.

At first, Dusty seemed fine. Then, about a month ago, his breathing became labored to the point that I called the kids to say, "I think this is it." The kids came home, cuddled with Dusty -- and the cat lived another few weeks. He survived 'til Thanksgiving. He survived 'til his birthday (the day after Thanksgiving, aka the day we found him in our garage attic). He survived til the birthday of Boy #1. He even made it to St. Nick's. But despite the frequent prayers of Boy #3, I don't think Dusty's going to make it til Christmas.

I realize our choice -- to bring Dusty home, rather than to put him to sleep -- is a controversial one. The boys, though, were dead set against the idea of taking their cat in to be euthanized. And, to be honest, Dusty showed moments of startling improvement. After that phone call a month ago, Dusty revived enough to eat, drink and, slowly, wander the house. So we spent our time catering to the cat. We petted him. We fed him tuna. Boy #1 even took him outside; Dusty never did shed his love of the outside after all the years he spent on his own.

And secretly, I am glad, because I know that someday I will die. Like it or not, death will be part of my boys' life, and like it or not, death, more often than not, is a process. Very few people just keel over. Many more linger for weeks or months or years. My boys are learning, now, how to be there. My boys are learning that love lasts til the end. They're learning the physical process of death too, but most importantly, they're learning how to care.

Watching my nine-year-old sing to the cat, I know it's a lesson they've learned well.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Do Your Boys Know About Sex?

According to a recent survey, the answer most likely is "not enough."

Researchers from Rand Corp., Virginia Commonwealth University and Children's Hospital Boston surveyed 141 parents and their teens, ages 13 - 17. Sadly, many of teens -- and most of the boys -- had sex before their parents talked to them about STDs, birth control, or how to say no.

It's a topic that hits near and dear to me. I've blogged about the importance of The Talk before, but now that my oldest is 12, the topic has taken on some additional urgency. Apparently (and I should have known this), it's not enough just to know the basics about puberty and reproduction. It's also absolutely important that teens understand the potential consequences of sex, both physical and emotional, and ways to prevent those consequences. Abstinence is ideal, but count me in with those parents who think it's not enough. I want to make absolutely sure that my sons know how they can prevent disease and pregnancy if/when they choose to engage in sex. The consequences are simply too life-altering to take a chance.

Unfortunately, 2/3 of the boys surveyed said their parents had not talked to them about using condoms before they became sexually active. Over half of the teens said they'd engaged in genital touching before talking to their parents about birth control effectiveness or ways to resist sexual pressure. More than 40 percent had intercourse before their parents talked to them about STDs.

I'll be honest: I thought I was doing a good job. I've always answered my sons' questions and my oldest, at least, knows about sex. I never really imagined that I'd need to sit down and talk to him about how to use a condom or what a STD is and how to prevent them. I realize now that I should.

I'm not going to push it, though. Despite the article's warning that "kids need to be up to speed on STDs, birth control, and other health-protective measures by middle school," I'm going to wait a little longer. My son just turned 12. He's homeschooled, so he doesn't face quite as much social pressure to keep up with the scene. And he doesn't have a girlfriend; he doesn't even spend any time alone with girls.

I realize I may be naive. My guess is that many boys manage to have sex before they have girlfriends, and that many children have sex at places and times their parents can't even imagine. We will talk. We will. But for now, I'm going to do as I've always done and follow his lead.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Does Physical Fitness Make You Smarter?

Maybe, says a new Swedish study.

The study examined 1.2 million Swedish men born between 1950 and 1976. It tracked the boys (then men) over time, looking at physical fitness, intellectual ability and life success, while controlling for things like heredity and family influences. Researchers found a positive link between cardiovascular physical fitness and intellect.

The question, of course, is which came first. Are smart boys more likely to exercise, or does exercise create smart boys?

More research is needed, but if you ask me, the results make sense. Cardiovascular exercise improves blood flow. Blood carries oxygen. The brain, like any other organ in the body, needs blood and oxygen. Stands to reason, then, that a healthy blood supply might improve brain function.

At least, that's what I think. What do you think?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Tag Jr. Winner Is....

Owen's Mom! Owen, I believe you might be getting a Tag Jr. Reading bundle this holiday season.

Owen and his mom enjoy reading The Little Red Caboose, which is one of my favorite books too. My boys love it, and so did my brothers, especially Brother #2. I think of him each and every time I pick up the book.

What books bring back memories for you? Do you sons enjoy any books that you loved as a child?