Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Raising sons, daughters and co-parents

Gentleman Jack and I had all of our kids together this weekend for the first time in a long time.

Gentleman Jack's teenage son, Carbon Copy (CC), was in summer camp when the rest of us, including Rose, Grace and GJ's younger son, Fireball, enjoyed a week's vacation together in Mexico in July. Prior to that, it had been a few months since the four kids were together.

Now you add to that the female puppy that I've acquired in my household and Gentleman Jack's older male dog... it makes for quite the party!

He has a house full of competitive, rowdy, endlessly energetic and hungry, testosterone-filled boys. My home is filled with mostly gentle, compromising, somewhat quiet, laid-back, tiny, estrogen-filled girls. It is ALWAYS interesting when we all get together!

First of all, Lilli (the puppy) ADORES Gentleman Jack's dog. They play continuously until we separate them so they'll sleep. The kids immediately begin some sort of game when they all get together. Or they'll sit together in front of the TV and watch Looney Tunes cartoons.

But occasionally, they begin to get on each others' nerves.

Things are said. People get their feelings hurt. Fights ensue. My girls pair up against one or both of Gentleman Jack's boys.

The reason for yesterday's post was because I'm honestly learning as much about men by watching Gentleman Jack raise his sons as I did my entire married/dating life so far!

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Boys (and men) want attention. They want to feel respect and honor. They don't always know how to gain those things, however, and some of their methods fail on the female gender.

For instance: a man/boy can brag to another man/boy about his toys or feats of physical strength. The other man/boy will be impressed and/or challenge the man/boy with his own toys or feats of physical strength.

When a man/boy attempts this same impression on a woman/girl, she (in most cases) isn't impressed AT ALL. In fact, she may even look the other way and/or ignore the man/boy.

*sigh* This is what I've been teaching my children so far. When a boy is bugging you, ignore him. Gentleman Jack has been teaching me differently.

What I'm learning, in fact, is that when you ignore a boy, it completely throws him off. It hurts his ego. He gets angry and acts out.

Men do the same thing, except his acting out may appear as withdrawing.

Women/girls want attention too. However, they impress each other with creativity, beauty, occasional feats of strength or stamina, sharing laughter, stories and emotion. Women/girls tend to support each other and frankly, push men/boys out. It honestly takes quite a man/boy to impress and get in the inner circle of a bunch of women/girls.

Amiright?

How do I explain this to these boys? They have the best intentions. They just want the girls to like them, think they are the coolest boys around and want to include them in their playtime.

How do I explain this to my girls? They think the boys brag too much or are too rough. They can't handle the boys' constant need to compete with them or each other.

***

The best part about parenting with Gentleman Jack is that we're alike when it counts and different in the best ways.

He's able to point out when my girls are simply expressing a fleeting frustration with the boys. I tend to take it personally as if I'm forcing my daughters to be with kids they don't like. Gentleman Jack helps me to remember that these disagreements are so short-lived!

I'm able to take a gentler hand in enabling discussion amongst the children, explaining hurt feelings and how to better get along.

After all, they spend such a short time together and not often at all. We''d like them to learn to tolerate and accept each other, at the very least. We''d like them to realize how important this is as a life lesson and to realize that they cannot dismiss each other as temporary annoyances. Because if Gentleman Jack and I have our way, these kids will be like brothers and sisters for a very long time.

***

Wow! This co-parenting thing is a challenge! I'm glad I have such a great partner with whom to share the responsibility.

10 comments:

  1. This is probably the scariest part of me about moving forward! You can't make kids like someone else just because you like the father..(speaking of my fears here!) sounds like you and Rascal have found a way to communicate your way through the issues and are doing the best you can!! It also sounds like the kids are just being...kids! It would be SO much worse!!:)

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  2. Hey, you guys are like the Brady Bunch!

    I happen to think birth order plays a much bigger role in this than gender. There are women/girls who want attention and men/boys who don't. Personally, I'm more interested in understanding each person/child as an individual rather than a representative for their gender.

    But that's just me.

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  3. Ya know what, Snarkbutt, you may be on to something.

    There's a LOT there that I didn't mention regarding birth order and the mothers of these boys. And the father of my girls...

    Thanks for giving me something else to think about.

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  4. Hi T! Have missed you....

    Integrating families is good... except... when you have a 16 yr. old Testosterone filled boy and your girlfriend has a 15 yr. old girl that LOVES your 16 yr. old son... those two.. liked each other TOO Much! We had to hose them off with the garden hose it got so bad! Mom and Dad were the couple, not them and they became "just friends" after a while... that was quite the experience! I'll get into that one on my blog one day... makes for an interesting story....

    XOXO
    KC

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  5. Co-parenting with CBG over the summer was interesting experience as well, and has taught me so much.

    Sounds like you guys are doing great. There are always going to be challenges and rough patches...that's what makes life interesting!! :-D

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  6. I had a good giggle at this T!

    "as if I'm forcing my daughters to be with kids they don't like"

    I do this daily with my two - I think its the dynamic when you have different sexes because they are so different!

    I seperate them - send them to different corners of the house and then ignore them!

    Co-parenting is not for the faint-hearted!!! I will say that much!

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  7. "Boys (and men) want attention."

    I'm not sure what this sentence means. All men want attention, and women don't? Or men want attention but don't know how to get it?

    I think you're stereotyping.

    My son doesn't sit around bragging in order to get attention from a girl. My daughter doesn't sit around choosing when to adore, and when to ignore.

    As for giving attention to boys, or ignoring them - my son and daughter interacted with each other every day. (They're 14 and 18 now.) Sometimes they bugged each other, sometimes they were nice.

    It wasn't all about my son trying to get his sister's attention.

    The best advice I felt I gave them growing up was to treat each other with compassion and respect.

    Is ignoring a boy compassionate or respectful? No.

    Is a boy bugging a girl compassionate or respectful? No.

    Other behaviors can be encouraged and fostered in gender-neutral ways that help the kids grow and evolve into healthy adults. Kids can be raised without furthering stereotypes.

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  8. Thank you for this honest and insightful window into co-parenting!

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  9. It's great that you're observing, talking, and thinking about this stuff, T!

    You never know - if/when things progress, you'll have better insight!

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  10. I think the best possible sceanario is for the two of you to teach the kids how to communicate with eachother.

    Men and women are notoriously bad at comminicating with each other. I think it's a learned skill.

    This is the perfect opportunity for the boys to learn to hear what the girls are saying and for the girls to learn to ask for what they want without the emotional manipulation that many girls rely on to get what they want.

    It sounds like you and Rascal are a good team!

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