And interestingly, Beatrix Potter’s classic tale, “Peter Rabbit” illustrates these differences wonderfully. So let me take you through some of the lessons I learnt from it in trying to be the best mom I can be for my son.
Boys are unlikely to take direct instruction
If there is one “truth bomb” that any mother with a son is likely to confront sooner or later, it’s this: you cannot make them do something merely by telling them. Boys just don’t seem to process instructions.
Of course, if Peter had listened to his mother telling him not only “don’t go into Mr McGregor’s garden”, then we wouldn’t have this wonderful story. But it’s not like she didn’t give him a very clear idea of consequences: “…your father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs McGregor”.
The bottom line is this: they are unlikely to feel that they need your approval to do (or not do) something. Somehow, little girls often do.
I am concerned about the characterization of girls as “good” and boy as “naughty”
Having said that – and having my own fair share of frustration with getting the message through – I am deeply uncomfortable with the labelling of the three girls as “good” and Peter as “very naughty”. No one is all good or bad, we all have our moments.
And although he can send me round the twist, I do know that my son seldom intends to annoy me. It just doesn’t occur to him that he might if he goes off on his own tangent.
Boys often have little thought for consequences
Just the fact that Peter made a bee line straight for Mr Mc Gregor’s garden, despite his mother just having told him not to, tells you that there is little regard for the consequences of his behavior. (And being put into a pie like his father would be a very sub-optimal outcome.)
But then he makes it worse. He doesn’t check his surroundings while he feasts on the radishes, lettuces and French beans. AND THEN he wanders off looking for something to make his overstuffed belly feel better, without any sense of caution whatsoever.
And not surprisingly, he runs into trouble in the shape of Mr McGregor.
I needed this parallel the day I watched my son step off the swing at the high of the parabola. Just because he had had enough.
Boys are lackadaisical about looking after stuff – especially shoes
In his efforts to escape Mr McGregor’s pursuit, Peter lost not one but both shoes – and his brand new jacket…all for the second time in two weeks.
Does this feel familiar to any of you? Because I have lived this particular script many, many times…
Not that boys have a monopoly on losing their stuff – it’s just that my son’s losses tend to run at around double the rate of my daughter’s…and at least she will go and find them in “Lost and Found”…
Boys go with the obvious solution – even if it is potentially dangerous
Peter’s escape from the garden lacked finesse, to put it kindly. He heard Mr McGregor hoeing, climbed up on a wheelbarrow to scope out for the surroundings…and saw the gate into the safety of the woods just beyond the gardener.
Peter then undid the benefits of that caution by running as fast as he could, straight past Mr McGregor. Happily he escaped into the safety of the wood, but it could have ended so badly. Just like the previously referenced “step off” the swing. Because when we see a solution, we act…now.
Home is a sanctuary
The final lesson I learnt from “Peter Rabbit” was a real balm to my heart. Peter’s first action after he escapes the horrors of the garden is to head straight home and flop down on his mother’s hearth. Home is his safe place – and his mother is the heart of that home.
In turn, she just accepts where he is, noting to herself that he’d lost his jacket and shoes – again. And doses him with chamomile tea and puts him to bed…
But as much as my son’s idiosyncrasies can send me round the bend, I wouldn’t have him be any different for all the world. There are those special moments when he climbs on my lap and wraps his arms around my neck and hugs me for all he’s worth.
And the second bonus is that having a son – who does all the things at 18 months – that send you completely potty when done by your father, brothers or significant other just means that they can’t help it. It’s a Y chromosome thing. So be tolerant.
And so I need to find ways to cope with it and survive it, rather than beating my head against the wall of trying to change any one of them.
But being a mother of a son has been a wonderful adventure and I’m looking forward to what comes next, knowing that it will force me out of my comfort zone at every opportunity.
If you’d like to read “Peter Rabbit” for yourself, please feel free to use this handy Amazon link.
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