People have long told me I would be so happy that I didn’t have daughters, that the drama and chaos of daughters in the house far outweighs the joys and besides, boys are so much easier. Bullshit. I am a believer that it depends more on the kid’s personality, brain chemistry and environment and not on their gender to determine how difficult their journey to adulthood (and beyond) will be. And here’s the thing, when you tell me that my sons are easy, when you tell me your daughters are harder, you undermine you. You undermine me. (And when you tell me girls are so much harder and such a pain in the ass with your daughter standing right there it makes me want to punch you in the face and give her a high five for being difficult for you). For God’s sakes if you think boys are easy – you aren’t paying attention. Our boys are struggling with anxiety and depression at alarming rates, being a boy does not preclude you from pain, drama or chaos. It does not isolate you from challenge or confusion or uncertainty. It does not protect you from teenage struggles and it does not save you from a very challenging and difficult time in your life, it does not make life easy. School shooters? Boys. Most likely to die by gun fire? Boys. Most likely to die by suicide attempt? Boys. A study for the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found that teen boys have double the death rate than girls in fatal car accidents. Males are more likely to use illicit drugs, and more likely to OD when they do. What is easy about this? Why do we continue to ignore the struggles our boys have in growing up? Why do we turn to coddling and protecting instead of teaching skills and the ability to identify feelings, process and manage them?
Over the past two years of writing my blog I have had mothers reach out to me – ones I knew, ones I now know better and ones that were dear friends who hadn’t confided in me about their own struggles because, well … life just looks too perfect from the outside. It’s easy to say, “Everyone has a story”. It’s harder to believe it, and harder to find those people you can reach out to and say, “My story sucks right now. Can you listen? Can you listen and not judge me? Please?”. I have had moms confide stories of their boys aggressive and violent outbursts, of speeding tickets, of drunk driving and reckless driving and of drug use. Boys are running away from home, stealing and impulsively acting out. One mom talked about staying awake with her son all night long after he drank a fifth of Jack, and another who sent her son to ER after he OD’d on vicodin and pot. You would be amazed how many moms I know who confided in me that their boys are taking anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants or are struggling daily with the weight of anxiety and depression with counseling. Our boys are crumbling under the pressure of being “easy”. This shit is hard. It is real. There isn’t any piece of it that is easy. None of it.
I have written before that raising teenagers both humbles and prides you. My own word, I know. But, I believe it’s true. If you aren’t being humbled by your kids, if they aren’t disappointing you or you aren’t seeing something to focus and work on, you aren’t being realistic about who they are. We act out and misbehave, we treat others poorly and are dishonest. It’s part of the human condition. Denying the truth that our children would behave in a manner we find unbecoming, is to deny growth and set in place a state of inertia. Without acknowledgement of our children’s (and our own) weaknesses, growth does not happen, development is stalled. We can not grow without acknowledging our own weaknesses – and our children can not grow and learn about themselves without learning about their own weaknesses. We do them no favors if we act as if they do not exist, or if we rush into save them when they fall prey to their own poor choices. Admittedly, I do pretty well at seeing their weaknesses. I am not so good at allowing them to fail. Michelle Obama has been quoted as saying, “We love our boys. We raise our daughters.” That quote hit me squarely in the chest. We are not raising our young men to the best of our ability, we are loving them but we are not always raising them. We can not continue to parent boys through the lens that they are easy. It’s killing them. It’s killing us.
When our children are young, they remind us of joy, they provide us with levity when our obligations seem ridiculous and our stress mounts. Their funny stories and love of imagination and all things pretend and fantastical provide us with escape. As they grow, and our little buddies turn into pre-teens and then teenagers and then young adults – we lose the power of their wonder of childhood. Mostly because they have lost it, too. E and I were walking yesterday and as we walked we were talking about a few young adults we know – young adults struggling to find a path, seeking a place to belong and a way to find their future. I said, “It’s so hard to figure life out when you are young.” His response, “It’s still hard when you’re old.” He is so right. Our boys needn’t live a secret difficult life. They shouldn’t have to hide feelings of anxiety and stress and pressure under the guise of boys are boys and they are “easy”. Life is fucking hard. No matter who you are.
I had a friend text me a few weeks ago and ask, “Is my son the only kid who is a jackass? His dad is sure he’s the only one whose a jackass, and sometimes I think he’s the only one whose a jackass and that makes me feel like a jackass.”
No, he’s not the only one whose a jackass. At all. We just all do a really good job acting like our kids are never jackasses. I don’t even begin to know the answers, or understand why we continue to believe our boys will easily turn to men while their counterparts will be dramatic and turn difficult on the eve of their 13th birthday. All I do know is that the reality is, that raising humans is not easy. No matter the gender. So stop saying it is.