09 November 2010

Boys

Riley used to wear a lot of girl clothes. He still wears girl clothes sometimes, but not nearly as much as he once did. Most days, he wears sweatpants and a t-shirt and he lives for the days when his football shirt is clean.

He's always been a really sweet, sensitive boy, my Ri-Man. He's not crazy emotionally intuitive like Maddie, but he has always been a gentle soul, much the way his dad was.

Since starting public school in September, I've noticed a big change in Riley. Please note: this is not a rant about public school, and I think some of the changes I've noticed are simply related to age and developmental milestones. That said, it's true that in the past few months my sweet, active-but-not-physical boy has become more . . . aggressive. He's constantly pushing and tackling his sometimes patient sister. He hits and kicks, in play, but too hard, too much, without understanding how it feels to the one being pummeled. He's more verbally aggressive, too. He talks back, he refuses, he is impertinent and impatient. We're deep in the poop, pee, and butt "joke" phase (although I confess that my inner seventh-grader has rediscovered just how funny the word butt really is).

Riley's class has 13 boys and 7 girls in it. I've occasionally observed the kids in class or on the playground after school, and it seem clear to me that the exposure to not only the kids in his class but the other—older—kids on the playground has brought on some of these changes in Riley earlier than I would have expected. This is nothing more than an observation on my part, something that's on my mind as I watch Maddie and Riley grow and change and start to become more independent of each other and of me. I can see in these changes the beginnings of the lifelong negotiation of self v. other, of individual v. herd. I wonder how much of Riley's earlier inclination towards the feminine came from nurture v. nature, how much of what he's trying on now is nature v. nurture.

I wonder who he will turn out to be. I hope he will always carry some of the conundrum he his now, the nightgown wearing boy who is obsessed with football, the pink Crocs lined with purple fleece and the football shirt, the constant want for snuggles after an hour-long session of let's-knock-each-other-over in the yard.

12 comments:

Heather said...

I've been following your blog for a year or so now (and am originally from Portland, now living in Seattle). I was just telling my mom how my son's attitude has changed, in exactly the ways you've described, since starting school. I know it's part of growing up but I miss my sweet boy who has been mostly replaced by this rambunctious kid I'm not used to. It's an adjustment for us all!

Jes said...

Riley's wearing of "girl" clothes is something that's always struck me about your pictures - I absolutely adore how at ease you and he are with it and can understand why this change is unsettling. Thank you for being so open with your readers!

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to tell your inner 7th grader to check out the song "I've got a butt" by Uncle Jim. My inner 7th grader thinks it is hilarious.

Maggie said...

The gender imbalance in his class probably accounts for some of what you're seeing. I feel sorry for the teacher!

Snickollet said...

@Anon: my favorite butt song is Eddie Murphy's "Boogie in Your Butt." Makes me laugh every time! Will have to check out "I've Got Butt."

Little Bird said...

I've been reading your blog since you lost John and we've emailed once or twice....

My little boy is now almost 16 and I remember seeing the same changes you see in Riley. I think you are wise to allow him to explore this new world of 'other kids' and know that he isn't who he is just yet.

Another interesting thing I found among my son's kindergarten buddies....how many of the boys in Riley's class are younger brothers of boys? I found those boys, having spent time with older boys in their own homes, to be further along on the "acting out" scale.

And despite exploring the wild world of outlandish boy behavior, my son remain best friends with a boy from his kindergarten class -- the sweetest, wouldn't-hurt-a-fly kinda kid.

Little Bird said...

Oh, and one other thing....

The experimenting with the rough behavior isn't any more indicative of Riley's true persona than is his experimenting with his sister's princess clothing! Its all the same thing.

kathy a. said...

i also think the more aggressiveness is partly developmental, and partly influenced by so very many boys around.

little bird's comment is interesting, too. my daughter was part of a group of strong girls, from age 4 and going forward -- most of these girls were younger sisters of brothers.

it is really intriguing, seeing new influences, seeing changes, wondering how it will go in the future. xoxo

Alayna said...

I was just realizing as I read your post that Mateo's wearing of more girly clothing has dropped substantially this year, and I wonder if it's because he doesn't have Riley there at preschool anymore. It's amazing to watch their little personas develop and change. I wonder all the time (I am way too future-oriented) about what kind of adults our kids will become.

I'll be interested to hear how both kids continue to change as the school year goes on...

Mariella said...

My son sounds like he was very much like your son at that age.

I was a single parent, but I think his feminine inclinations were more nature vs. nurture, as I am not a girly woman, and would always play cars and things with him.

He never did get physically aggressive, he was overly sensitive to physical pain.

But poop jokes were ubiquitous for several years - at one point I had to give him a daily quota. I appreciate a good poop joke as well as the next person, but it was all poop, all the time.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Little Bird. I have two boys (and a girl in the middle). There really does seem to be a "trickle down" effect with the rough boy behavior. The boys who have older brothers start that stuff much sooner than boys who are the oldest themselves and/or have sisters. When my older boy started school, I was shocked at all of the rough boy stuff going on. The tricky line for us to walk has been that he wants to try it out, but it often gets too rough for him to handle. I suspect the "younger brother" boys don't have that problem as much. It will be interesting to see how it goes for my littler boy.

Anonymous said...

I've got some catching up to do with your blog (so am posting this comment days after you posted).

A few of my friends and I share a theory that through all the changes kids experience growing up, their essential personality at age three will still be "who" they are at age 13 or 23 (ie., stubborn, calm, the "ham", etc.) --that whatever descriptive characterizes them at 3, remains accurate ten and twenty years later. Our kids are in the 13-18 year old range and so far, the theory holds up for us. I wonder if your readers who parent teens or young adults would agree, and if so, perhaps you can then know that Riley's basic nature will survive the tumult of school.