Boyz to Men

by Louise

My experience prior to having a boy has been around girls and women. I had male cousins but still women dominated. Then, I became the mother of a boy. It was a different experience. There is lots of energy that has to be channeled or burnt off.

Band Aids fly out of the medicine cabinet. The learning process is different. The color blue was with us for many years. Now, it is a gradual transition from a boy to a man. Socks, shoes and athletic wear are a riot of colors. The brighter the better. Unkept hair is giving way to a more groomed look. The one male teacher is the leader of the pack.

What are your experiences around boys and boyhood? How about the transition from a boy to a man? Three cheers for boyhood!

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88 thoughts on “Boyz to Men

  1. I grew up with a bunch of brothers and no sisters, so maybe that is why I find my boys so.much.easier than my girl. They are mischievous and active, but so sweet and easy going. My daughter is a fire cracker and has not been easy going one day in her life. Glad she came last!

  2. I think what I liked about having a boy after two girls was the lack of drama. We didn’t have melt downs with him over the right blouse, hair, etc. So nice!

    I saw my son transition to manhood when he started his sophomore year of high school. I was picking him up from football practice when he had me stop the car and went back to the school and told another sophomore to stop harassing/bullying another player. He did it with a quiet authority and the other boy backed down and walked away. I was so proud of him.

    My son has always been respected by his peers and people a lot older than him. He works hard, doesn’t complain and pitches in wherever. Great attitude.

  3. We have only boys. They happen(ed) to go to an all-boys 7-12th grade school. And there everyone really sees the progression from boys to men and how guys move at dramatically different paces. In some, their (early) progression to manhood by evincing leadership is clear by even 8th grade. By graduation, there may be a few who are not there yet, but 90%+ are. They all can hold a conversation with adults, including eye contact, starting pretty early on. Few uhs, ums, etc, (unless it’s your own kid, of course, and especially when you’ve caught them on something). Probably somehow related to little things like teachers always calling them “men” or “gentlemen” and reminding them of what’s expected of the ones who bear who merit being called that from Day 1 of 7th grade.

  4. No boy children in this house, though my DD#1 has more of a boy personality – doesn’t care much about clothes, no drama, very limited eye rolling, etc. – but can be a bit whiny. So, I’m cutting my teeth on DD#2 and the girl MS stuff.

  5. I have 4 boys-one is an adult; boys have been much easier than my one daughter, but not sure that is due to gender or personality; My eldest son is married and still comes to see me every weekend, stays in touch by text throughout the week to update me on his job, activities, etc. He is a wonderful person and was an easy child to raise. I always said I would have 3 more boys before having another girl, and I did. My youngest 3 are ES age, toddler, and infant, and I have no shortage of “boy stuff” around, and will for a long time. I find them fun, energetic, and cute as hell. Sometimes I get a little longing for girly things-then my 24 year old daughter comes around and that vanishes quickly :). She is a good person, I see her all the time as well (and she is helpful with the little ones), but personality clashes happen – something I just don’t get from the boys (well, not the younger ones yet at least). I am just grateful I got to experience both-so no complaints here-but I love being the mom of boys!!

  6. Here’s a boys to men moment. My son has always loved to sleep in and was always hard to rouse out of bed in the morning. In college he rarely scheduled any class before 11 am. Dare say he’s always been a bit of a slacker. But his first job out of college required him to be out of the house at 6:45 am for a 12-hour day, and he was diligently up and on his way every day. He never complained about it. When I remarked to him that I was a pleasantly surprised about his new early morning habit, he simply responded with, “but mom, they pay me for it”.

  7. Boys are “easier” than girls for a Mom. Not so sure for a Dad.

    1. When a boy acts up, talks loud, gets physical, gets dirty, etc., he is cut a lot of slack and is allowed a lot of missteps as he matures. Some adults don’t like boys or come down hard on them, but it nothing like what happens to a girl who pushes the behavioral envelope in the ways more typical of boys.
    2. The ways in which middle class white boys can mess up in early life are, in general, much more easily overcome than the ways in which their sisters mess up. They don’t end up single young moms, for one thing. They can have a lengthy misspent youth, “find” themselves in their mid-late 30s, and embark on a full family and professional life. As the saying goes, if you have a boy you have to worry about him; if you have a girl you have to worry about every boy in town.
    3. If on the other hand you have a girl who conforms culturally and doesn’t cause trouble, you are fighting an uphill battle to get her learning or mental health help if she needs it, to encourage her to reach if she is limiting herself, to train her to stand up for herself in the little ways so that she will do so later on when the stakes really matter.
    4. Teenaged girls are often drama queens and can say incredibly hateful stuff to their moms. It is tough sometimes to remember that this is a phase and that you need to be the adult in the room.

    I have two pair and am close to all of them. I was very tough on my girls, less so on my boys, with the result that the boys were not the academic superstars that their sisters were at 18, but they clearly have grown up well rounded individuals. Their father freely admits he did not play enough of a role in the kids’ day to day lives, and that lack is much more acutely felt by the boys than the girls.

  8. “but mom, they pay me for it”.

    Smart boy!

    Which brings me back to my question the other day. There seems to be a theory that you need assign tons of busy work, get them up at 7am on Saturday for XYZ, etc. so when they are out in the “real world” they will be able to get to work on time, put the new cover sheets on their TPS reports and such.

    Is that really necessary? Is it possible that most people can do, what they need to do, when they need to do it and there is really no value in scheduling 8am classes if you don’t want to just to “train” yourself to get up early. You have 40 years of getting up at the ass crack of dawn, so why rush it?

  9. @Meme – do you wish you were equally as tough with your boys or do you feel that everyone pretty much landed where they wanted/were destined to land.

  10. I only have sisters, so having a boy was interesting and fun. We definitely did not have the girl drama that my daughter went through, but I still wonder what “stuff” he was working through during junior high and high school – I heard all of the details of her life from my daughter, but very little from my son. He was sometimes taciturn (and still is), but can be charming, affectionate and very lovable when he wants to be!

    I remember going in to an interview with him to go to the National Scout Jamboree, and the panel of adults asked him some open-ended question about his experiences or plans, and I waited with bated (sp?) breath for him to give a one or two word answer…….he launched into a long explanation while I watched in amazement.

  11. Well, I have two boys and then a girl, but I think we didn’t really experience boyhood until my daughter came along. She is the only one of my kids who conforms to the boy stereotype. I have to go in on Monday for a meeting with her teacher, who is already going nuts with her high activity level, total disorganization, and just general challengingness.

  12. My oldest boy is the drama queen in the family. Even when he was little, he could turn any little battle into an hours long discussion of his feelings and how they were being disrespected, yada, yada. Getting him to shut up was impossible – he has always had this ability to keep needling and “discussing” until everyone is crawling the walls.

  13. thanks RMS and whoever posted the link about housework being cheaper than divorce!

    DH found a house cleaner and they are starting next week!

  14. I have 2 boys and agree with all the comments.

    I have 2 nieces and really enjoy spending time with them. Finally, I get to discuss clothes, hair bows, Frozen, and finger nail polish. However, I am happy with my boys. So much drama with my nieces! And crying!

  15. I am not as tough on my boy as I should be, but I’m focused on him learning to manage life, emotions, etc for life, and finding the balance that’s right for him. He is much less chatty about his life than his sister, so I know fewer details. He was always less concerned about safety and more rough and tumble. He is charmingly uncomfortable around cute girls, and he described himself as “gallant”, which makes me happy. Manners matter to me, so we’ve put a lot of effort into civilizing him. He is more tender-hearted than a lot of people, male or female, and it terrifies me that some beautiful girl is going to crush his soul. As he continues to gain more confidence, I think the future is bright. And I feel confident he’ll stay in touch as he ages. He likes to discuss politics, and I’m his go-to person.

  16. I love having boys. I think what has surprised me the most is their sheer physicality. When they were young this was just back-breakingly exhausting for me – always on the go, always climbing, running, up and down…I want to close my eyes just remembering it. Now that they are older it’s more focused energy but still intense physicalness. They don’t just hug, they hurl themselves at me. When they want to sit next to me, they drape themselves all over me. When they’re mad at each other, they think nothing of expressing that through a few punches. One cannot go by the other one through a door way without shoving his brother out of the way. They are constantly bouncing balls or wrestling or making up random games that involve running into each other or the walls or the ground. They are hard on the house.

    But I still love, love, love being the mom of boys. I do get wistful sometimes because it seems like girls are closer to their mothers when they’re adults, but perhaps I just don’t have enough anecdotal examples.

  17. “They are constantly bouncing balls or wrestling or making up random games that involve running into each other or the walls or the ground. They are hard on the house.”
    This describes my daughter to a tee. We have ripped curtains, holes in the decorative pillows, and scratches all over the floor. And there are Nerf bullets everywhere. She bonks her brothers over and over with her toy swords. She climbs everything. Once we found her on top of the shed outside. When she was a baby and toddler, it was completely exhausting, but even now, she requires a level of oversight that my sons never needed. They are usually to be found laying on their beds, reading.

  18. We have already had 1 ER visit and 2 close calls that could have had stitches (but my DH thought no) for our son at age 5. I just hope he will make it to maturity without any more serious injuries!

  19. “You have 40 years of getting up at the ass crack of dawn, so why rush it?” Rhett, I agree. We spend so much time saying “well, they have to learn how to do this that or the other” and yet those who aren’t taught that way do somehow adapt.

    I have one of each and both of them are a little different than the stereotype for their gender. I am wholly enjoying each of them for their unique personalities. It is easier to “hang” with my daughter since we both kind of naturally like the same kinds of things but she is more independent and secretive than my son. He talks a lot to me. Doesn’t share a ton but more I think than a lot of boys his age and he will come up to me in the kitchen and ask for a hug. Wouldn’t change a thing.

  20. My DD is only 8 and there is already So. Much. Drama. She came home on Monday and told me she wants to change her personality so that more people will like her. My heart is breaking for her, and I’m trying to find out if there is real bullying (she mentioned some specific name-calling), mean girls, low self-esteem because of her dad & me separating, or some combination of it all. Still, I wouldn’t know what to do with a boy. I don’t have the energy or patience for what some of you are describing. It remains to be seen if I have the emotional stamina to survive my daughter!

  21. “They are constantly bouncing balls or wrestling or making up random games that involve running into each other or the walls or the ground. They are hard on the house.”

    YES. Very much so. And I only have one!

    I love being the mom of a pretty traditional boy, but I am a bit of a tomboy myself being into sports, being a math/logic brained persion, and having a strong competitive spirit. Where my kid & I are more different is that he is extremely cautious (while also being crazy energetic and loving anything athletic – he is not one to jump right in to anything and he is not a risk taker), and he hates public attention and large gatherings more than anything. Being a somewhat extroverted, somewhat impulsive person, I have trouble understanding him sometimes on that level.

    Rhett – I totally agree with your last post. I was the latest-sleeping laziest non-morning person for years when I was in HS and college. Guess what – my very first job out of college required me to be in the office at 7am everyday to run the daily TPS reports before the big wigs came in. I did it because they paid me! It wasn’t that big of a deal after the first few weeks. It was much harder to get used to only having 2 weeks of vacation and the standard holidays than it was to get used to a normal daily office schedule.

  22. Oh, how timely, as I just had a delightful chat via phone w/ my young man, who truly blows me away with his maturity, sensitivity and kindness, all while still being very much ALL BOY.

    Alas, I have a call to jump on and only a phone to type on so can’t say much more than YES! Three cheers for boys indeed!

  23. Louise – My first born had three years out of the regular school system for special needs (behavioral/emotional, mostly), so it is difficult to figure out how I could have emphasized academics more with him at any point, since we were always in reactive mode. The youngest is the one I wish I had spent more time supporting in all ways in middle school at the time of the divorce, but it was just a tough time for all and I changed jobs when he got to high school to pay more attention to him and he caught up quickly, if not enough in the college credential race (he is also the one that is more millennial in cohort than the others who are Gen X). He has some of the happy disposition and family “spoiling” typical of the youngest in any large family. I try not to be too hard on myself, and have apologized to each child for the most notable way in which I wasn’t paying close enough attention at some crucial point.

    My middle granddaughter is the girl who is like a boy. Lark’s description of physicality is spot on. And since she is a girl with two sisters who do not exhibit that behavior, she is considered the troublemaker. Of course I favor her, while simultaneously wanting to lock her in a cage for a few minutes each hour.

  24. Also agree w/ Rhett. People will find a way to do all kinds of things for the right motivation. “In case you have an early HS/college class or work shift years from now” isn’t the right motivation. Its just a veiled attempt to make them do what you want them to. I say let ’em sleep late until the day they’re motivated to get up early.

  25. I have one of each. Neither one conforms to the traditional gender stereotypes. DS is much chattier and open about his feelings than DD. DD is not particularly girly (I wasn’t either so not really a surprise).

  26. My oldest dd has that physicality. Always has. She climbs, jumps, hops, bounces, and is never still. I worry for her because it’s just not accepted the same way at school as even boy bounciness is accepted, but so far so good. My ds is just 3, and honestly, at this point he mostly reminds me of his sister in terms of energy level. He is another one that climbs, jumps, etc. He does more typically boy things in that he will throw himself onto the ground and then giggle about crashing, etc. He is also super-soft-hearted, and he will snuggle constantly, rub my face and tell me he loves me, etc. My middle dd has been described, rather appropriately, as housecat-like. She will be active if it interests her, but generally she likes to hang around the house, snuggle with me, do the things I’m doing. She is not constantly on the move. Just different temperaments, I think. I hope they ALL stay close as they get older, but time will tell.

  27. I don’t have the energy or patience for what some of you are describing.

    +1

    She came home on Monday and told me she wants to change her personality so that more people will like her.

    That would indicate a problem, to me. Have you spoken to her teacher about it?

  28. Tulip said “I worry for her because it’s just not accepted the same way at school as even boy bounciness is accepted, but so far so good. ”

    This has been a huge issue for us and I think it will only get worse. Teachers expect wiggliness and silliness from boys but can’t stand it in girls. Weirdly, it is the reverse problem from the one we had with my oldest boy – he got ignored beacuse he is quiet and sedate and likes to answer the questions correctly in class. So his problems mounted with no one noticing.

  29. Benefits Lawyer– Happy Birthday to him! Big milestone.

    Mooshi– Truly, I’m so grateful for Montessori for that one. They don’t sit at desks, they move from activity to activity. They end up moving all day. Plus her school does PE every day. She piped up and told me this year that she’s so glad she’s not at a school where she has to sit at a desk and listen. (We figured out she was referring to movies, which always seem to show a row of desks with bored-looking kids sitting at them.) I’m guessing when she gets older she’ll be better able to handle it, but for 7 and bouncy? It’s been a lifesaver.

  30. My daughter did Montessori preschool. I think it was really good for her. It was both calm and quiet, which helped her focus, and also let her move about at the same time. We don’t have public Montessori here, and the private Montessori’s cost a minor fortune and stop at 5th grade. Otherwise, I would have put all my kids in Montessori – I think my oldest would not have been overlooked so much in a Montessori.

  31. I remember friends came to visit when we only had our oldest daughter with their two boys and I was blown away with the jumping on and off my couches. Then I had DS and I cannot get him to understand that furniture is for sitting. It’s lucky he’s incredibly agile because (knock on wood) we have not been to the ER yet with him. He’s my only child that asks me how my day was every single night and the only one that’s willing to give you a bite of his ice cream. I grew up with only sisters and have about 20 cousins but only two of them are male so I was nervous about having a boy but he’s so funny. I feel very lucky to have both girls and a boy.

  32. “She came home on Monday and told me she wants to change her personality so that more people will like her. My heart is breaking for her”
    This. I’m going through the exact same thing with my DD. Lots of tears between the two of us. My DH, bless his heart, just does not understand.

    Lark, here is my anecdotal example – My DH and his brother are very close to their mother. Not suffocating momma’s boys, but they look our for her. After my fil passed away they have become even closer.

  33. Both my kids are quiet at school but that means all the energy needs to be burnt off after they get home. This means they spend a fair bit of time playing outside. Our neighborhood has a lot of kids so, there are always other kids who have been sent outside to play as well.

  34. I’m reading all this and looking forward to having a rambunctious boy. I was the same, so I think I can handle it. Right now, Baby Rhode’s personality is a chill one. He doesn’t really get mad at things – unless I hang out with another baby. You can move a toy of his out of reach (or out of sight) and if he can’t reach it, he sighs and finds another, closer, toy. That may change as he gets more mobile (no crawling or scooting yet). If it doesn’t, I really don’t know what to do with that personality – it’s the opposite of mine.

  35. Mooshi- There are a few schools up in Marin that went all hippy and ordered standing desks for the kids. Or got accommodations of exercise balls for seats. Would your school be open to offering her some non-disruptive ways to fidget?

    My dd is in 2nd, but the 3rd graders that are with her after school have been having some serious “girl drama” among them. There are apparently some good classes out there that deal with girls and peers that a few of the parents are attending with their girls and recommending. (We are a bit too booked up this fall to add something else to the mix, but I was filing it away in case it became a future issue.)

  36. Rhode – your baby sounds delightful! What fun you must be having.

    SWVA – was just thinking about you and how you are doing. Well I hope. I’m so sorry about your daughter. Does she have a best friend? Most of the experts say that kids don’t need a whole bunch of friends just one best friend. Can you have some playdates to encourage friendships? I used to have parties for no reason and let the girls listen to music and do craft projects. This all seems a lot harder these days than it was in my time – but maybe I’m just getting old.

  37. ” told me she wants to change her personality so that more people will like her.”

    I felt like this at her age even though I had lots of friends (but wasn’t *popular*)

    it is good she can talk to you. I would never have been able to talk to my mom like this

  38. On Montessori – this really clicked with me MM – ” I think it was really good for her. It was both calm and quiet, which helped her focus, and also let her move about at the same time.”

    This is exactly the environment in which my son thrives, which is a big reason why I think Montessori has been the ideal environment for him so far. He gets to burn some energy as he works & they have longer recess periods than the public school as well. Like Tulip’s child, he has expressed wonder at children who sit in desks all day, but I don’t even know if that is an accurate portrayal of other schools these days. I think it got into his head from A Christmas Story last year. He is in 2nd grade & school goes through 8th. Don’t know if we will stay the whole course, but it is very likely we will stay at least through 6th. Other public options are on the table for 7th which we will give a fair evaluation.

  39. @Rhett & Lemon – I emailed the school guidance counselor and she is going to start meeting with DD weekly. The “change my personality” thing sounded so shocking at first, but after further discussion it seemed that she wants to be more “sassy” and to not be a “doormat,” which may be good things if interpreted as wanting to be more confident and assertive. But I can’t have her start thinking she needs to make that change for other people – she needs to do it for herself. We watched this Amy Cuddy TED talk last night after I heard about it in a women’s group meeting, and we’re going to start doing Wonder Woman poses together for 2 minutes every evening!

  40. SWVA, that sounds like my DD too. I hope for both your sakes that it’s just the normal ups and downs of girls that age.

  41. Thanks everyone, I’m feeling better already that this might just be normal. Last night she asked me if I had ever been prom queen (not sure where that came from), and when I said no she wanted to know why. I said that I just wasn’t that popular in high school, and she said, “Kind of like me now.” Maybe a boy would have been easier!

  42. My oldest is like a cat — he’ll prowl around at times but by preference will spend half the day lying around. My daughter is possibly the most physical of the three, although my younger son gives her a run for her money. But still, she’s the one who seems to need to be always moving, which is why the broken leg and recovery has been so rough on her. So, more anecdata that the physicality for boys and girls comes in overlapping bell curves rather than as a binary thing.

    My oldest is tall and deep-voiced now (no facial hair yet) and in some ways is independent and responsible, but in other ways dependent and flaky. You can see the progress, though. Two steps forward, one step back, but he’s moving toward adulthood. Very slowly.

    My youngest was being Mr. Mature yesterday because we were giving a ride to a young lady of 16 and he was trying to impress her, chatting about theater and books and suchlike. Always funny to see. He’s much more of a ladies’ man than his older brother.

  43. I am going anon for this in case someone I know IRL also reads here.
    Ok. Timely topic for me. I have a 3 year old boy. And as described by several above, he is super energetic and also quick minded. He somewhat self learnt his ABC when he was about 2 years old and also knows good amount of numbers etc. He speaks up a storm and has good diction and extensive vocabulary. He also is a very active kid and is Constantly on the move! He does go to a local Goddard school like daycare/school but is not very happy there. From what I have observed, they actually have the kids play outside for an hour or so and the rest of the time is spent doing painting/crafts/reading books/doing puzzles etc. All this is done while sitting at a table or on the floor. The other thing they do is read books. While my kid loves to do all of that, he’d rather spend small am of time doing that and majority of his day being physically active. He excitedly walks to his class room only to get visibly disappointed to see everyone sitting around reading a book everyday.
    So while the above format works for most kids and even may be optimal, it is not working for my kid right now. He is much much happier rough housing with DH or me with some time spent reading, playing with his train tracks, playdough etc. Realistically while I want him to learn to function in a school room environment, I can’t help but think that there might be other options out there that may be better suited to his current needs.
    Do totebaggers have any ideas?

  44. Anon, could he try out another preschool?

    DS’s 3 year old class was 3 hours, and I think about half was free play or outdoor play. Is there another program in your area he could visit for a day or two?

    Also, not to depress you, but our kindergarten runs from 9-3:30 with 20 minutes of recess a day and 90 minutes of gym per week, and the rest is butt-in-seat time.

  45. When my kids were in preschool, they spent a lot more than an hour a day outside running around. Kids who wanted to play family in the playhouse could do that, kids who wanted to sit and chat under the tree could do that, and kids who wanted to race down the hill or climb on the structure or ride bikes could do that. And even when they were inside, they would have regular dance breaks or stuff like that. So if your son’s school is giving preschoolers so little time to run their wheels off, perhaps it’s not a good fit.

  46. Anon, would you be open to in-home childcare? They vary more and there are homes like you describe. My three boys in two years (interactions and competition are my contribution to today’s topic) go to the park on early out day’s with their in-home care provider.

  47. it seems like it is so much more socially acceptable for a girl to be a tomboy than for a boy to be “girly”

    DS is rough and tumble as I’ve mentioned (wouldn’t surprise me if he ended up playing football later)

    He also loves disney princesses, pink ponies, and playing dress up with my shoes, purses and clothes.

    Santa will probably be bringing him a baby doll because he asked for one after playing with his cousins toys

  48. When I was at my friend’s house once, her two boys started gently rough housing. She put a stop to it immediately and I was sad – that is how boys communicate with each other and show their affection! We learned that early on and let our son jump on the family room couch (only the family room one!), wrestle with friends, and throw a soft ball (not a softball) against this one wall in the family room. He hasn’t done it in a while, but he would throw and throw and throw.

  49. Anon, you could look into Montessori. They are learning but they are constantly moving – at least at a good one. The one we went to had them outside even in the worst of weather. It was fantastic! It is hard because you want him to feel good about school!

  50. ‘it seems like it is so much more socially acceptable for a girl to be a tomboy than for a boy to be “girly”’

    This is my observation, also. The rambunctious girls I’ve seen are not typically admonished to be quiet and more ladylike. In fact, they’re usually lauded for their athleticism and energy. Of course, excessive rambunctiousness in boys or girls is not usually approved by adults.

    “the physicality for boys and girls comes in overlapping bell curves rather than as a binary thing.”

    Oh, definitely true.

    And maybe I’m off base, but a child’s whining wish to change her personality seems more normal than not.

  51. Anon, my children’s preschool was more play than “academics”, and generally less structured than most others. I guess those kind are rare nowadays, but maybe you can search for something like that.

  52. Winemama – my experience has been that most boys like sparkles and pink and my little ponies until about age 4-5 when they figure out that isn’t acceptable. And if the little boy has older siblings, this happens even earlier.

  53. Anon, it may also be worth a chat with your current preschool director.

    Ours are under a lot of pressure from our town’s public school superintendent to send the kids to kindergarten knowing their letters and numbers to 20, writing their names, and reading some basic sight words. Our preschool director thinks it’s wrong, but there are a lot of places here doing more seat time.

    If the preschool director knows that you want something else, she may be able to modify your son’s schedule.

  54. Anon– I’ll just ditto the idea of continuing to look around. My kids have gone to a full day Montessori preschool, and while there is a “work period” (where the kids are still up and moving around from project to project) the rest of the day was a LOT of unstructured play, both inside and out. Most days when I pick up my littlest, he is shooting baskets outside or pedaling a trike as fast as he can around a loop, etc.

    I think it’s WAY less ok for boys to exhibit stereotypical “girl” likes. A lot of it seems related to homophobia and/or a fear they won’t know how to “be men.” I don’t get it, but it’s real. My little guy plays with baby dolls at home with his sisters and we just tell him he’ll be a good daddy. The thing I notice with girls is that tomboy behaviors are often praised, but the presumption is still that girls can sit and “do school” in ways that are easier for teachers. They seem to expect boys to struggle with that, but not girls. So when a girl has a lot of physical energy it seems like teachers don’t expect it.

  55. SWVA – I’m so sorry that your daughter is going through that. I can’t remember if she is in a big or small school – if it is a big school and they mix the classes up each year she will be in better shape than being with the same 30 kids for all of elementary school. In either case I would start looking for activities that she can do outside of school. I have mentioned this before but I think it is worth repeating.

    DD had social troubles in middle school – she wouldn’t be part of the queen bee’s pack but didn’t have the “it factor” that would let her be the leader of her own group. It really helped that she did musical theater with kids from all different schools. It may be a little early still, but it can’t hurt to have some ideas lined up for next year or two. It could be theater, sports, etc. – just something that lets her have friends and popularity outside the classroom.

  56. Also, DS will occasionally drape his 6’4″ body across the sofa when we are watching TV, or lie down between us on our bed for a few minutes – I treasure those moments – and it so reminds me of him being a little boy!!

  57. It could be theater, sports, etc. – just something that lets her have friends and popularity outside the classroom.

    this was a lifesaver for me! band/drama and choir

  58. “it seems like it is so much more socially acceptable for a girl to be a tomboy than for a boy to be “girly”
    I always believed that to be true, but I have been shocked at the intense pressure on my DD to behave more like a girl, and in particular, to look more like a girl. There have been many ugly incidents. When she was in a summer camp a few years ago, a bunch of girls told her they wouldn’t let her on the playground equipment unless she wore pink. She gets constant comments about not allowing boys in the girls bathroom (from girls who know her well, but are trying to tease). Luckilly my DD is friendly and outgoing, and has a lot of friends. I think it would be hard if she was more introspective or shy. And lately she has been discussing with me whether she should grow her hair “just a little” because she is sick of the boy in the girls bathroom jokes.

    I think tomboy-ish girls are accepted as long as they still maintain the girl appearance norms – especially long hair – and remain pleasant, quiet, and pliant in the classroom.

  59. And on the other hand, boys can adopt some girl norms without repercussions. My oldest is highly verbal and loves to talk about food and art and his feelings – no problem there. In fact, girls tend to love that, including teachers. I think it is hard for boys to LOOK like girls, but what I am seeing with my daughter is that it may be just as hard for girls to look like boys

  60. Remembering myself and friends at SWVA’s DD’s age–I don’t know anyone who was 100% happy. Perhaps it’s not unusual for tween girls to be unhappy about social issues–there is so much pressure to be “perfect” now-a-days–especially for girls. You have to be pretty, popular, skinny, smart, and athletic. And it all has to be effortless.

    No solutions, just sympathy.

  61. I think tomboy-ish girls are accepted as long as they still maintain the girl appearance norms – especially long hair – and remain pleasant, quiet, and pliant in the classroom.

    I agree.

  62. My son has never been remotely interested in playing any sport involving a ball, and he never engaged at all in the play-wrestling that so many other little boys seemed to. A lot of his interests, however, are stereotypically “boy”: for example, fast cars, military aircraft, and explosions.

    One thing I find interesting is the effect that he has on his younger sister. My daughter seems to really enjoy talking to him about Lamborghinis and weaponry and such. I wonder if she would have developed these same interests if her older sibling had been a girl rather than a boy.

  63. When did long hair become a virtual requirement for girls? When I was in school in the early ’70s through mid-80s, many (perhaps most) girls had short (often vary short) hair. Now, though, it seems like every girl in middle school or high school has long hair. Our local newspaper often publishes pictures taken at various high-school games, and every time they show a picture of a girl playing field hockey, soccer, lacrosse, or whatever, the girl inevitably has a super-long ponytail accessorized with a headband. It’s as if the long hair has become a required part of the sports uniform.

  64. The thing that made me crazy the other day when I was shopping with my DD. She was trying on dresses and the middle aged clerk who I’m sure meant well, kept saying “you have an amazing figure. Everything will look good on you!!” She’s 5 foot 6, maybe 80 pounds soaking wet, no boobs, no hips – NO FIGURE! They are praising this barely pubescent girl for a shape or lack thereof that will disappear in a year if not months! What’s she supposed to think then? She has the exact same figure as a boy her age!! It is so F%&*ed up! I wish I could come up with a good come back that won’t undermine my DD.

  65. NoBo – they do all have long hair, but I have to admit I loove long hair. I have a bit of Lady Godiva going on myself. Nothing makes me more optimistic and happy than a high bouncy ponytail!

  66. NoB, could it have something to do with extracurricular spread (kids doing more activities, more seriously)? I speculate thus because in our case, it was ballet that made my daughter’s early pageboy too much of a hassle (can’t put short hair in a bun and gelling the bangs is a pain), and nowadays chorus requires French braiding for performances and that, too, is easier with long hair. If at least one activity’s dress code encourages long hair, and today’s girl does several activities, and activities in general have more demanding dress codes, that would produce the effect over time.

    And of course fashion trends are probably part of it too — the layered and feathered styles of our youth, which could be cute with short hair, have given way to straightening treatments and blowouts.

  67. North of Boston – so true! No girl in DD’s class had less than a chin length bob in the early years of elementary, and by middle school it was at shoulder length or longer. In her high school there were a few girls with short hair, but they were definitely in the minority.

  68. Anon – I think a more play-based preschool of any type should have more active time. Our Montessori program in preschool was like Tulip described – a workcycle with lots of movement, and then lots of free play time or group activities in the afternoon. Waldorf is really into active movement & all of that as well, especially for younger kids. But I think you really just need a program that is less academically-focused.

  69. Thank you everyone for all the suggestions. I too, thought about the in home daycare option as one alternative. Or a nanny! Having a nanny will eliminate the drop off/ pick up hassle as well, but those options have their own pros and cons. I hadn’t thought about the montessori option, but will now look into it.

  70. HM — Chorus requires French braiding for performances? Really?? When/why/how did that happen???

  71. It’s probably just this chorus, NoB. They have a specific uniform, with the girls in mu’umu’u for the formal uniform — like this

  72. I also notice the long hair. All of the HS girls have super long hair now. My DD has short hair – was a pixie and now super-short bob – and people comment that she “looks like a boy” even though her features, accessories, and clothes are ALL girl.

  73. The girls in that chorus do look very nice, HM. If my daughter wanted to do something like that, though, she’d have to learn to do her own hair, since I am hopeless when it comes to styling hair (mine or anyone else’s).

  74. There was a girl in DS’s class last year who had short hair and could be mistaken for a boy. She hated dresses and she was always in shorts/pants and a shirt. Everyone at the school was fine but outside of school as other girls were growing up they were startled to see what they thought was a boy using the girls’ bathrooms. This more than anything else made her go with slightly longer hair and pierced ears. There was another girl like that and at camp she was the only girl who played football with the boys. She was good, so all the boys wanted her on their team.

  75. Rant of the evening: So tomorrow, I have to drive several towns over in the middle of the work day, and pay $35, to get fingerprinted. No, I have not been accused of any crime, nor am I applying for a job that requires a security clearance. Rather, our school district has instituted a rule saying that any parent who wants to chaperone field trips (just day trips, mind you, not overnight trips) has to get fingerprinted. They actually instituted the rule last year, and I was so mad about it that I refused to volunteer in protest. But nobody cared, because apparently plenty of moms went along with the fingerprinting requirement without protest, so I was not missed on any of the field trips. DD wants me to chaperone this year, which is nice, so I’m going to jump through this hoop, but I’m really kind of resentful of the whole thing. There, rant over.

  76. NoB– I had to pay $55 to get fingerprinted. Though I understand that said clearance is good through when my youngest child leaves this school district. I understand why people want the clearance checks, but those really only eliminate people *convicted* of crimes, not the people who haven’t been caught yet. I was annoyed. More at the cost and the inconvenience of the time spent. But that same year I got fingerprinted– by the same company– for my work and again for girl scouts. I am now convinced it’s a giant racket. In time and frustration I wish I could pay my $$ up front and get a general “clearance” that all these organizations would check. I have no idea why I had to re-submit fingerprints to the same company three separate times.

  77. NoB. One of the reasons I decided to retire completely 2 years ago was that the company was going to introduce thumbprint electronic timecards/employee badges for no exempt workers, of which I was technically one. I think it had something to do with ensuring part time no benefits status post ACA. I could have insisted that I be classified as decentralized to avoid the time clock, but that was the final straw.

  78. SWVA – it could be that some kid in your DD’s class is suddenly categorizing kids as popular vs unpopular, maybe after learning about it from an older sib or a movie or whatever. I recall issues being started like that — one kid who suddenly decided it all matters, so now the entire class feels it does.

    We had plenty of discussions around the dinner table about how “popular” is quite different from “well liked.” Often, popular means loudest and bossiest, with a lot of followers who are afraid not to be followers. Well liked, OTOH, likely indicates a kid who’s nice to others. Well liked > popular. And of course, being yourself > both.

    I agree w/ ssk on seeing about activities outside of school, so that when in-school unhappinesses like these crop up, there’s always something else that’s going well. A church group or art class or fencing team or whatever.

  79. Louise, the girl you are describing sounds pretty much like my DD. She has her hair in a pixie (which were really popular for girls when I was a kid – I had one in first and second grade). She has been discussing what to do with her hair but so far doesn’t want to change. I have been delaying the next haircut and letting her hair get a little longer in the meantime.

  80. My preschooler was very happy with her pixie until too many (adults) referred to her as a boy, often while wearing a dress. We have now had more than a year of moppy, messy grow out to be a girl again.

  81. Oh, and I hate, hate, hate when people tell me that their two year old girl “acts like a boy” or is such a tomboy. But is said so frequently in my circles, with such pride. You can’t really align yourself with the opposite gender role when you have no concept of gender. You can’t make a choice to avoid princess tshirts (or Barbie, or ponies) when you don’t know they exist. It’s not that you don’t like to play house, it’s just that you are too young for role playing.

    There is a certain, misplaced, in my opinion, pride in having a girl who is boyish. What is really meant is that she likes to play actively, be physical, etc. Which we can celebrate without saying that she’s not a girl.

  82. One of my daughter’s best friends just got a pixie cut and it looks so adorable. I tried to convince my daughter to get a little bob (her hair really needs to be cut, it looks straggly) but she wants long hair…

  83. DD does after-school daycare, swim team, and theatre with kids from other schools, so maybe I just need to encourage spending more time with those friends outside of the organized activities to strengthen new friendships.

    Ada – I totally agree! Why can’t they just be happy to have a strong, athletic girl?

  84. “how “popular” is quite different from “well liked.””

    And perhaps how “popular” is different from popular. Popular > “popular,” and popular ~ well liked.

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