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January 20, 2019

Of boys and roughhousing

My son had an accident about two weeks ago. Both my sons love soccer and take every opportunity to play the game. Tj in particular is an ardent soccer fan. One evening after a soccer match, he, together with his friends, decided to try walk across the goal post swinging from end to end. Because the post was a bit high, Tj decided to use a little platform that stood on the side to jump and get hold of the top of the post. He swung from the post as a pendulum before falling flat on his back and injuring it. His dad and I were not home when this happened and he was carried home by his friends amidst much panic. We received a phone call that Tj was hurt and rushed home. At first we assumed it was a simple muscle injury and gave him a pain killer and also rubbed on some muscle gel. We had walked this path before. However after an hour or so with the pain not abating we took him to hospital where he stayed for ten days, before regaining full use of his extremities.

This incident brought home to me the reality that I am a mother of boys. Some of my friends who visited him wanted to know if we punished him for playing rough. I wanted to laugh. Clearly most of the people who asked those questions were either not parents or were not parents to boys. If they were, they would know the simple truth that boys are attracted to dangerous games much as a firefly is attracted to light. I understood the need to experience life for oneself and the singleness of purpose to the exclusion of all related dangers. Like I said, I am a mother of boys. I remember a friend mistakenly trying to console me, “Don’t worry, I am sure he has learnt his lesson and will never try that again.” I could not believe she seriously believed that and I told her so. She was adamant Tj had learnt his lesson and would avoid great heights. I laughed, I held no such illusions. As another male friend said, the only lessons learnt were about the need to consider gravity and velocity while making such leaps. I wouldn’t agree more. To prove me right, the first day we got home from hospital, he took off in his bike, his legs had not even regained full strength.

As a child and being a girl, I was more bookish and did not enjoy the more vigorous activities. As a new mother when my boys were young, I was appalled and terrified of their roughhousing, I was sure that they would cause each other permanent damage in their fights and rough games. My husband used to laugh at me as I tried hard to make my boys play safer games or engage in less physical activities. “These are boys Carole”, he would continuously remind me “They need to exhaust their energy”. Dr James Dobson, in his book ‘Raising Boys’ reiterates this idea that male children generally have more energy and are more prone to activities that are more physical in nature. They also don’t do well in confined spaces or in inertia for long periods of time. Reading the book set me free. I understood why my boys would rather be spanked than have time out or worse still use that time out facing a blank wall or confined in a seat. It just never seemed to work. They would be sitting perfectly still for a moment or so and as soon as my eyes moved, they would try kick each other on the shin or do something. It was like there were ants in their pants. No matter how much I spanked them, they just did not seem able to stop.

These and more experiences are some of the reasons I find parenting so fulfilling. I begin to understand better the male species as I watch my own children. Better still I learn to appreciate the wonderful differences between men and women and not only to appreciate these differences but to also embrace and celebrate them. Something I would no doubt been unable to do without my sons.


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