for release Friday August 20, 2004
by Melodie Davis
In Celebration of Boys!
The minute I walked in the paint store I glimpsed trouble. There was a four-year- old boy standing straddle-legged on two separate cushioned stools at the counter. It was fun, Iím sure, but it sure didnít look very safe.
He kind of grinned at me triumphantly, as if to say he knew he shouldnít be doing that, and then slowly (and safely) climbed down from the stools. In subsequent conversation, his father reverentially addressed him with, ďYou know, I would really like you to do thisĒ rather than telling him in so many words to straighten up.
People tell me I would have had a different time raising boys and that may be true (but I donít recall anyone giving me any options on gender, so thatís not a fair accusation). And girls also like to get into mischief, push the edges of their parentsí patience and boundaries, and can raise a whole lot of cane and grief themselves. Even the titles of some of the books Iíve seen give clues to that, like a recent one called Get Out Of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me And Cheryl To The Mall? (Anthony E. Wolf, Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
Still, there is something special and winsome and yes trying and tiring about a little boy. I recently had the chance to entertain two great nephews aged three-and-a-half and ten. The older one was of course a big help with his little brother. It was great to be more in touch with a boyís world. We were at a small amusement park in a city and trying to fill about two hours without spending any more money than we already had.
So we went up an elevator and down the escalator numerous times in a nearby building (until I worried about keeping it from others), waded in a fountain pool (taking great care that it wasnít one of those dangerous kinds with the gigantic vacuums that recently proved fatal for a child) until the older one started collecting too much money out of the fountain; sat on a rocking horse, watched a juggler; popped soap bubbles by an entertainer (until she looked like she really wished we would just go away); and generally tried to keep a wiggly little boy from wearing out at the end of a long day. It struck me that it really wasnít much different from keeping two jumps ahead of my girls when they were youngócreatively trying to think of things they would enjoy, that didnít cost money, and that I still had energy for. Perhaps Iíd have done better if I were a guy. Certainly men are important in a young manís life.
One book that has a treasury of good reminders for fathers of boys is called Father to Son: Life Lessons on Raising a Boy, by Harry H. Harrison, Jr. (Workman Publishing) Some of the better lines include:
1. Show him how to eat an Oreo. This is a skill that will serve him his entire life.
2. Take him for walks and introduce him to the world of bugs.
3. Show him how to do a wheelie.
4. His favorite game for a long, long time will be playing with you. Be available. Even when tired. Even when the presentation went south. Be available.
5. Show him how to call you at work. Then take his calls. Forever.
6. Talk to him about what he wants to be when he grows up. Donít be alarmed by his answer.
7. Never tell him boys donít cry. Ask him why heís crying.
8. Teach him to clean up his own mess.
9. Check his homework. Donít leave this totally up to his mom. Heíll see how important this studying is to you.
10. Remember, bullying him is a guaranteed way to raise a bully.
11. Race him. Youíll never forget the day he beats you.
12. Teach him how to iron.
13. Teach him to chew with his mouth closed and talk with it open.
14. Teach him to spit. Heíll practice all day.
15. Teach him the joy of finishing a job.
16. Teach him to call his mom.
17. In the end, let him go.
Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 720 words; end material = 105 words
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