Today I came to a strong realization of the reality I face.
My boys are hitting puberty!
Oh, yes. I know we are there. Not physically. That's something I told them to tell Daddy. I can't help with any of those things. Not really. But mentally. Yes, I can go there with them on the changes that are affecting how they think and act. Today was just further proof.
I got up and got to work as is my usual. As I'm cleaning the kitchen mess, my oldest son comes up and starts talking about his hair. Then my other son chimes in. It was time to cut their hair again, but now they are wanting to get fancy... Now they are talking about how they want to cut it in various sizes and they want to make it spiky. Sadly, I don't have gel, so I'm off the hook with talking spikes. Normally, I just give them a buzz cut or maybe a little more military style with it shaved close on the sides and back and slightly longer on top. So today's hair cutting took a lot longer than it normally does. We experimented with the lengths until they had what they wanted. It is still shorter on the sides and back while longer on top, but it is the lengths they wanted. Now we just have to get better with the showers that come after as both boys had bits of hair all over their necks, ears and foreheads after they said they were all "clean".
Then there is the talking about girls. My boys are heart breakers. Oldest has brown hair and green eyes. Younger one is blonde with blue eyes. Both are tall and lean for their ages. But their personality speaks volumes. My older son is outgoing. He loves talking. Loves people. You mention girls, though... let's just say he gives a tomato a run for the money in how red he can get. And, oh boy, does he giggle nervously! But even so, he asks a lot of questions. A lot of, well, deep questions. He wants to know everything. My younger son is the opposite. Shy, but very intelligent. He doesn't speak out often, but when he does, it is often a dropped mic moment with stunned faces around him. For my husband and I, it has been challenging. We let them tell us what they think and then correct where needed. We elaborate as much as they ask us to. But on their level. Which is why the sex talk has already happened. For all three of our older children. (Yes, the 5 year old was right there asking too.) Besides, they all talk on an equal level among themselves. So even if we had only talked to the boys, it would not have been long before they told their sister all about it.
Now we are having other serious conversations. Not just about how sex affects life, but about how choices have consequences. How treating others makes or breaks relationships. For my sons, I have decided to raise them with chivalry being a characteristic to hold on to. I am a traditional woman. I want my husband to open doors for me. I will stand outside the van and wait for him to open the door for me to get in. I let him get the heavier bags when we go to the store. I walk on the inside of the sidewalk and he takes the side closer to the street. If he offers me the last seat available, most likely I will accept with a smile and a thank you. I often take his arm as we walk side by side. Not always from need, but because I just like to. He holds the umbrella and does his best to make sure it covers me most of all. I couldn't care less about the feminists out there who protest such treatments. Do you, honey - but ain't no way I want my husband to stop treating me like his queen. And in respect for how he treats me, I treat him as my king. He has earned that respect. Only four men I have met in my lifetime who have done such for me. And that is what I'm teaching my sons. I have already told them that a girl who gets mad at them for doing something nice for her, isn't the kind of girl they should want to be around. Say what you want, but what it boils down to is not about female power and equality. There is a time and a place for that. Like getting paid equally to any man in the same job. Being able to vote. Having equal opportunities. I'm all for it. But that does not mean that we should give up the joy of having a door held open for us. Let's say I was not into a chivalrous man. What about this - you don't know where other hands have been that have touched door handles before you. Ever think about that? So why not allow a gentleman to do it for you? Do you really want to stand on the bus when all seats are taken, just for the sake of your pride? Heck no! A man offers his seat, I'll accept it gladly. Why? I appreciate the kind gesture.
And yes, we do need to know the difference between flirting and a kind act...
As parents, we have a responsibility in raising our children to be better. Manners are the base. Respect is going a step further. Kindness and generosity should be given freely. But for our sons, they need to know how to treat a woman. And our daughters need to be shown how they should expect to be treated. I don't want my daughters to end up in the clutches of an abusive jerk. I want her to have respect. I want her to feel as though she is loved above any other, and always will be. Call me overly optimistic, if you please, but I think it is a noble goal. My first marriage crashed and burned much like my first, second and third dating trials. I've learned what I can handle and what I absolutely won't stand for. I am teaching my kids to figure these out too. Know what you want from a relationship, but be prepared to give in return and in equal. In a way, it all goes back to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When did we part ways from this? And when did we forget to raise our standards and expect better?