In the Beginning: Slugs 'n' Snails 'n' Puppy Dog Tails
Boys tended to be louder, rowdier, less sensitive, and sometimes even cruel.
And they often thought that mean teasing and cruelty was funny. Not all of them, of course.
But there did seem to be this strain of reveling in dominance, particularly against those who couldn't fight back—sometimes it was passive aggression and sometimes it was aggressive aggression.
Being in public school, sports were coed, which was pointless. They boys couldn’t play as heartily as they needed and many of the girls couldn’t be the teammates or opposition that they boys needed (although some girls did thrive on this).
I remember one of the more aggressive boys in sixth grade power-kicking a soccer ball straight into my face by accident. To his credit, he came over to me later in class and stammered an apology. I hadn’t thought he would feel so bad, and it was touching to see that he really hadn’t meant to do it. But I also remember being yelled at by frustrated strong and scary boys who couldn’t understand why I wasn’t throwing myself into the game like they were.
Boys also did things like put a ladybug onto a flashlight bulb, close the lens and then turn on the bulb, torturing the poor ladybug to death—and the boys enjoyed this. Another time, I listened to two boys chuckling about tossing a pet gerbil between each other from pillow to pillow and laughing when the gerbil accidentally flew out the second-story window after a badly aimed toss.
But in high school, things were different. Boys had matured somewhat, and could restrain themselves, and you could be friends. And you were no longer pitted against them in Physical Education class because there was no longer an obligatory PE class. Also, guy is humor is really, really funny. The way guys tell stories and yeshivah Purim shpiels, etc…they’re very funny.
And while due to my nature even as a secular girl, I tended to have female friends almost exclusively, though there were still guy friends too (like Linus, whom I wrote about in The Startling Impact of Kol Ishah.)
So I didn’t have an issue with guys nor with men. I just thought that little boys (though not all of them) were kind of scary and sadistic.
Little Boys, Israeli style
Particularly in religious neighborhoods on Shabbat when kids are out in droves, I ended up faced with those aggressive, bold, pushing-the-boundaries little boys again. Not all of them, but gosh. There are some who are real little gremlins.
And again, they were kind of scary. There are these types that don’t have personal limits and they revel in seeing how much bad stuff they can get away with.
In the Trenches with Little Boys
But another part of me said that Hashem knew best. What if the very best thing for me was to have a boy first? Would I really want to miss out on the very best thing for me just because of my anxieties? So I decided not to daven for gender.
And I had a boy!
And I fell head-over-heels in love with him at first sight. I thought he was absolutely the greatest thing that had ever happened to me (and truly, he was) and why hadn’t I gotten married and had a baby much earlier? He was so fabulous.
He was also born with this fun-loving innately masculine Alpha male personality (an Eight with a Seven wing, for anyone familiar with the Enneagram). You know, the type that can grow up to be a Green Beret or some other Rambo type? Yeah, that. His way of thinking and behaving is just totally masculine and I mean that in a scientific biological sense, not a stereotypical sense.
So he was not only very different than me in general, but totally different than I was as a toddler and preschooler, and so on. And as much as I adored him, he was also a big challenge.
And chinuch people and chinuch classes weren’t very helpful about this personality type.
But other mothers and my husband (who himself had been an active and fun-loving child, though not as daring and as much of a natural leader as his son proved to be) were able to tell me that a lot of his behavior was very normal for boys, and this endowed me with a more balanced and positive perspective (both toward him and myself as a mother) than I would have had otherwise.
Then I had another boy. And then another. And so on.
And I quickly realized that I really need to learn how to deal with Boy World in the best and healthiest manner possible. And while some fellow mothers provided a lot of chizuk and healthy perspective, some did just the opposite. Unfortunately, some women have ugly feminist views that are totally chauvinistic. They think that male chauvinism is evil, but female chauvinism is the emesdikker emes. And even in casual conversation, they denigrate men for no real reason and when talking about their own sons, they also denigrated them and considered them innately inferior—just because of their gender.
If you’ve ever looked at your kid for even a moment and thought about their innate potential, “Meh”— or even “Ugh”—then you’ll know that is a horribly depressing mindset. You cannot possibly raise a child in this mindset. It’s so miserable. So those chauvinistic snotty attitudes repulsed me because of that.
Secondly, this was exactly what feminists raged at society for doing (although certainly not all parents favored their boys pre-feminism. But the ones that did caused a lot of damage.) So why was it the Height of Evil to do it to girls, but perfectly acceptable to do it to boys?
It just all seemed wrong, wrong, wrong, and I avoided these types.
But the good thing that came out of it was that I saw that boys needed appreciation and advocacy too. I mean, we are talking about innocent children with precious potential, regardless of gender.
Boy World is Also Full of Sugar 'n' Spice 'n' Everything Nice
And also, there are two sides to any coin. Even a trait generally considered negative (like aggression and territoriality) can be used a positive and beneficial way.
Then I started noticing that a lot of problems in society are because of feminine traits being used negatively and masculine traits not being used at all.
There needs to be a balance of feminine and masculine traits, and both need to be expressed in a positive manner.
But the point is that now, I really like and appreciate little boys. And I’m not scared of them anymore. (Well, not usually…) And at this stage, I’ve liked them for years. And I like my own boys and I like their friends. And because of my own boys, I’ve learned how to relate to and deal well with other little boys. But the main thing is…I like them!
And I think that this is one of the very precious benefits of being a parent:
You learn to like and appreciate people that you never would have otherwise.
The truth is that when you feel repulsed by a group or trait, it’s because of fear or overfocusing on the negative aspects of that group or trait.
And ultimately, that fear or negativity stunts you and your own spiritual development.
But our children can help us overcome our own negative bias if we let them.