9 Unexpected Truths About Raising Boys

by Rita Templeton
Originally Published: 

Raising a boy can present some … interesting scenarios, particularly if you’ve never been a boy. (And by “interesting,” I mean the kinds of things that leave you gagging, cringing, or wondering what the hell just happened.) Check your pre-conceived notions at the door – here are nine things that the baby books never tell you about bringing up boys.

All the gross surprises. It begins in infancy, when you find they’ve gleefully finger-painted with poop all over the sides of the crib. And from that point on, boys will continue to leave you disgusting little land mines to discover. Boogers dried like cement on the wall, petrified food molding under the bed, creepy-crawlies in pants pockets, skid-marked underwear thrown haphazardly around, crusty socks that practically stand on their own … you never know what you’re going to find. The good news? You’ll develop a really, really strong stomach.

They never really learn to aim. It still baffles me: what seems like the simplest concept in the world – point penis, hit water – eludes even boys who have been using the toilet for years. You think they’ll learn once they pass potty-training age, but no. Just give them a toilet cleaning lesson once they’re old enough to wield a roll of paper towels, so at least they can sop up their own sprinkles.

Their hair isn’t all that low-maintenance. I have to admit: I’m glad I’m not in charge of styling a little girl’s hair every day, because I can barely manage my own. But having boys doesn’t get you off the hook in the ‘do-doing department – because boys’ hair grows at the speed you wish yours did, and they require a lot of (expensive) haircuts. You can remedy the problem by learning to do it yourself, but it’s kind of a trial-and-error process, which may result in unfortunate bowl cuts that you have to apologize for later. Not that I’d know from personal experience or anything. *cough*

You will be drowning in laundry. Multiple daily outfit changes, garments strewn all over the place, dress-up clothes aplenty: it’s the stuff of daughters, right? WRONG. You think you’ll have it easy, because boy wardrobes are relatively uncomplicated – just a few pieces to wash. But they’ll grab a pair of shorts only to wear them for a few minutes and then toss them into the dirty clothes pile. They’ll go outside and get themselves muddy, drenched, or otherwise disgusting, requiring a fresh outfit. They’ll accidentally pee on their superhero capes (see #2). They’ll change because they suddenly “feel like wearing something else.” They’ll leave clothes everywhere, making it nearly impossible to determine what needs laundering, so you’ll wash it all just in case – and be up to your eyeballs in detergent and stain remover.

They will wreck your stuff. They don’t do it to be naughty, but boys can be hazardous to any possession you hold dear – so if your beloved Aunt Edna bequeaths you her prized collection of porcelain knickknacks, it’s advisable to keep them in storage for a few years. And two or more boys together are like a litter of puppies: eager, boisterous, tumbling all over the place. They wrestle. They jump and climb. They knock stuff over and wear things out. You’ll find yourself wailing, “This is why we can’t have nice things!”

You have to teach them about the penis. It’s the biggest (little) difference between boys and girls, and it doesn’t come with an owner’s manual – so when you’ve never had one yourself, explaining things about it can be a bit of a challenge. Nevertheless, it’s your job to at least pretend like it’s not the most awkward thing in the world when your preschooler wanders out of his bedroom fascinated by his, uh, “morning wood,” and expresses pride at how he can “make his penis tough.”

You’ll need to instruct your boys on the proper way to keep it clean and the physiology of why it can be so hard even without bones (trust me: they’ll ask). Later, you’ll be faced with the duty of teaching them why condoms are so important and what to do with one, even though the mere thought will make you want to run screaming to the nearest liquor store. Remember this: the phrase please just keep it in your pants will be relevant for every stage from toddler to teenager – even though the meaning changes a bit.

You have to teach them about vaginas too. When your little blue bundle is born, you don’t think about the fact that someday, they’ll barge into the bathroom as you’re changing your tampon or find your stash of pads under the sink. But it’s inevitable, and when it happens, you get to swallow your own discomfort and explain the how and why of being female. Just try to ignore the horrified looks on their faces.

They can be just like you. As a little girl, I always imagined having a daughter who was just like me – so when I had boys instead, I automatically assumed we’d be nothing alike. Apples and oranges, right? But in my sons, I see many of my own traits, and not just the physical. My oldest has inherited my obsessive perfectionism and my lack of patience (sorry, kid). My youngest has a surprisingly familiar stubborn streak. And while you’d think that these similarities would make them easier to relate to, it’s actually difficult to see the things you’d change about own personality mirrored back at you.

If you have only boys, people will feel sorry for you. From the time you’re pregnant with “another boy,” people will feel the need to express their sympathy. It’s as though the general population agrees that if you’re a mother without a daughter, there will be a gaping void in your soul that goes achingly unfilled. Like you didn’t get it right and now you’re stuck for life with these penis-packing hooligans. They will squeeze your shoulder and smile reassuringly as they say, “Well, you can always try again for a girl.” And that will be a recurring theme, as people will ask you on at least a weekly basis for the rest of your childbearing years if there’s any hope of adding a little princess to your brood of dudes. You’ll just smile politely while you fantasize about punching them in the face – because while raising sons is undeniably challenging, it’s also super freaking awesome.

… I promise.

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