I am sure many of you have read parenting books over the years. Let’s face it, we start buying up the expert literature when our precious first-born is but a mere dot, and we continue to buy them into their teenage years. Once you get past the baby stage, the books actually get gender specific. So we started with ”Raising Boys” by Steve Biddulph about bringing up boys aged 5-12 years, and then ”The White Water Rafting Years” (A common sense guide to parenting teenagers) by Ian Grant & John Cowan. My sister-in-law gave me this book when the boys were 11 years old and said read it immediately so you appreciate how easy they are at that age – in other words just wait until they are teenagers!
My latest read is “He’ll be OK” by Celia Lashlie. As it explains on the cover it’s a book about “Growing Gorgeous Boys into Good Men”. I read it about a year ago and I must admit as a mother of teenage boys I found it incredibly enlightening and insightful – and it gave me a lot to think about in terms of my own role versus that of my husband, specifically that I really needed to take a back seat and he really needed to take a forward one. Or as the author so aptly describes it, Mum needs to get off the bridge of adolescence, and Dad needs to get on it.
This was borne out on a holiday last year on the Gold Coast when we finally did the theme parks. We all had fantastic fun, with the boys off on their own to do all the scariest rides (including hideous water funnel things) and my daughter delighted with the younger kids rides, and water play areas etc. All the boys were interested in was getting their father onto the rides with them. They didn’t once ask me if I would do one with them, and nor did I offer. But they nagged my husband for two days, until finally he capitulated (I actually think he was slightly terrified). I’m sure their key motivation was having added ballast on the rides, so they got even more “air”, but it was most definitely a bloke thing. They were actually impressed for one nano-second when I explained I had done the Big Drop and the Blue Ringed Octopus water slide at approx. 80 kmh, but really it was all about Dad. The differences between the sexes (in their eyes) and our role was really evident to me on that trip.
There’s a great analogy that the author of “He’ll be OK” uses in her book to describe the role of parents in setting boundaries. She suggests that in years 7 & 8 when boys are typically focussed on having fun and learning, ideally both at the same time, the metaphorical boundary needs to be very evident, and have a small electric current running through it, which they will test and of course discover is real.
By year 9, when you see evidence of the “man-child” species on mass, the boundary no longer has a small electric current, but now requires that we run the national grid through it!!! I absolutely love this analogy, perhaps because I already have one “man-child” (yes I am convinced he’s at least 12 months advanced in this regard) and I am hell-bent on helping him stay safe and moderating his social life (or in his eyes severely cramping his lifestyle), and at the very least I can use the book to rationalise my own behaviour if need be.