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Pirates, shark attacks and rambunctiousness: Rooting for boys
Grocery shopping is always entertaining for fellow grocery-getters when I bring my boys (and nephew!). - photo by Carmen Rasmusen Herbert
I get a lot of looks when I take all four of my boys out in public.

I've seen the raised-eyebrow "Yikes! I am so glad I dont have kids" look, the nose-turned-up Please control your little animals look, the narrowed-eyed Your toddler is ruining my once-a-month lunch look, and the occasional half-smile I promise you will wish for these days back look. I am usually trying not to look at anyone, aiming to get out of the house and back with only minor catastrophes, which almost never happens.

Usually, I call my mom crying about how inadequate I feel, how incredibly hard being a mother is and how, try as I may, I just dont get boys. I want to sit quietly and read a book. My boys will oblige for a little while, then suddenly leap off the couch, screaming, WATCH OUT, THERES A SHARK!

I want to have a nice, quiet lunch where we talk about what wed like to do for the rest of the afternoon. My boys are seeing how much food they can shove in their mouths while simultaneously standing, straddling or hanging off the chairs, even sometimes doing laps around the kitchen island.

And I can't commiserate with my husband when he gets home because hes one of them. As soon as he walks in the door, all five of my boys run/crawl toward each other and meet in the family room where they have one big giant wrestling match on the floor, roaring with laughter as they attack each other.

I am a lone reed.

But I dont want them to be anything else. I dont want them to be more like me, more feminine or mild-mannered or emotionally intuitive. I just want to know how I can best nurture and raise them to be the strong, steady, wonderful men they are meant to be.

Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, recorded a short clip that has been circling Facebook, in which she talks about how crucial it is that we acknowledge and celebrate boy-ness in all its rambunctious glory.

First, help boys develop a love of reading, she said.

Boys prefer comics and nonfiction. Boys whose eyes glaze over when forced to read Little House on the Prairie may be riveted by the Guinness Book of World Records, Sommers said. Boys will read if given materials that interest them. She then cited a website filled with ideas for books that have proven irresistible to boys, titled I loved all the suggestions of books from many genres to help make our daily reading time more enjoyable.

Next, Sommers discussed how parents can help inspire a boy's imagination. Cowboys, pirates, monsters, dinosaurs and superheroes fighting for world peace are all characters to which boys are innately drawn. She said not to be alarmed if our boys come home from school with a picture of a zombie attacking someone (as my oldest did). It simply means he is using his kinetic imagination.

Lastly, she said, Boys need to work off some of their energy! They need to be free to play games they enjoy."

At the park the other day, I watched with equal parts interest and horror as my boys teamed up with some neighborhood children to play a game where every boy but one would run up on the playground set and then try to dodge a very old broom handle being poked through the holes on the steps by the boy left at the bottom, while they pelted him with shoes.

They thought it was the best game ever.

Boys need to be physical, to be loud and adventurous, to take risks and explore the world around them. Im not saying they have a free pass to be as crazy or wild as they want. But I do appreciate a smile and salute more than a rolled eye or rude comment about controlling my kids.

I also appreciate the amazing store manager at a boutique called Bella Ella who recently told me to come back with my boys! anytime to shop.

Bring 'em! she said with a smile. Ill let them run around and be crazy in here. They can do their boy thing while you look for clothes.

The fact that she accepted and was OK with my boys more lively presence meant the world to me. May we all celebrate and root for the exuberance of boys.
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