Thursday, 29 September 2011

Dead birds and Feelings

"Mum! There is a pheasant eating a bloody bird in our garden!", the excited voice greeted me as I ventured downstairs this morning. During the night a cat (possibly ours) had butchered an innocent bird and left the feathers and entrails in our garden. By the time I looked out the window, the mystery 'pheasant' had vanished. The boys were so excited, it took all of my strength and will to prevent them from going outside at 7:30am to inspect the contents of the dead bird.

The troubling incident led me to the differences between girls (or maybe just me) and my boys yet again. Why on earth is it exciting to see the bloody intestines of a bird spread about around our garden? How can they possibly want to inspect it straight after breakfast? Of course, I could transform it into an educational moment, but at that time of the morning I was not quite awake enough to fulfill my teaching role.

If you have read any of my previous blogs you will know that I am passionate about seeing our boys be free to be the boys they were made to be, accepting all their adventures, risk taking, superhero delusions and noise making capabilities. However, I was struck again this morning by the fact that there has to be a limit even to this. If we give them total freedom, they will not learn to be disciplined. We will create selfish children who only think of themselves, and not how their actions affect other people. We will also, dare I say it, not allow them to develop any of the more feminine traits.

Don't click on another tab yet. I am not advocating lip stick and glittery high school musical school bags. Nor am I suggesting that girls cannot have adventures and take risks (although I am not sure I know of many little girls with superhero delusions). However, I do see my role as the sole female in the house, and as the mother of 3 incredibly testosterone fuelled boys, as one of enabling them to learn about their emotions and to experience enjoyment of reading or art. Before anyone tells me that these are stereotypes, I know they are. I know that many grown men are sensitive and enjoy the quieter activities. I am not writing a blog about stereotypes, I am writing a blog about a mother's role to develop her sons.

From when my boys were very young, I have taught them about their emotions. We used to sit in front of the mirror making happy faces and sad faces. I have encouraged them to talk about how they feel. I have welcomed their outbursts of emotion, even the angry ones (although this is sometimes harder), because they give us an opportunity to learn. I work hard at passing on to them my love of reading and the written word. I point out beauty in nature and use words that boys might not necessarily use. I discuss with them how other people might feel in different situations. My job as their mother is to develop their emotions and help them to understand them. It is to foster in them a sensitivity towards others. This is more difficult with some boys than others. Toby, for example, is highly sensitive to other's feelings. Max, at the other extreme, probably wouldn't even notice if someone was in the same room as him nevermind thinking about what they might be feeling! I can only do my best with the boys I have been given.

Of course, when the boys come home from school they will go straight outside and inspect the, by then sun-cooked and rotted, dead bird. As much as I would like to, I cannot contain their excitement about it. By that time I might be able to rack my brains and transform it into a teaching moment, then at least I will feel it had some use. Their training in emotional development will continue until they are not in my care anymore. You never know, one day they might see a dead bird and manage to refrain from jumping up and down, finally able to contain the thrill within them.