Boys Should Be Boys: 7 Secrets to Raising Healthy Boys, by Dr. Meg Meeker: A Review

This book was on my list to read last year as a book that will improve a specific area of your life. I ran out of time and didn’t get to it. It was perfect then, that the 2018 Reading Challenge list includes a book you you meant to read in 2017.

As the mom of three boys, ages 8, 7 and 5, I am always looking for ways to better relate to my sons and improve my parenting skills. This book came to me recommended by my sister who is also raising three boys. It isn’t easy raising boys, though I can’t imagine girls being any easier. Just a different kind of difficult.

The title promises to reveal “7 secrets to raising healthy boys.” As such, I expected to find practical advice I could apply immediately to my parenting. In this respect, I found the book lacking. Instead, Dr. Meeker expounds on the physical and psychological needs of boys and the many pitfalls that exist in today’s culture.

Dr. Meeker makes many excellent points on the psychology of boys, much of which I agree with. She includes at least one anecdote from her own experience in each chapter that illustrates what she is trying to convey. She also includes the results of various studies that demonstrate the negative impacts today’s culture can and does have on boys. There is much to learn here, and her unique perspective as a physician lends a degree of authority to her words.

Overall, I appreciated what this book had to say. I would have liked a little more practical advice to go along with all the wisdom Dr. Meeker shared. Still, I would recommend this book to parents of boys. There are definitely some valuable insights to be found.

An Ordinary Day

I am grateful to have an ordinary day.

As a not so ordinary week comes to an end, I found myself looking forward to a bit of normalcy today. The kind of normalcy where I tell my children more than once to get themselves dressed. The normal morning where I nearly forget essentials like earrings or coffee. Or the normal work day morning routine where the boys squabble over who gets the first hug as I’m on my way out the door. Normal. Ordinary.

This week has been one of those roller coaster type rides I think most parents anticipate, but are never quite prepared for.

It started with registering my youngest son for kindergarten. Come September, all three of my children will now be enrolled all day in formal education. I’m sure most parents can relate to the storm of emotions this event can trigger. The bittersweet milestones as we watch our children grow up.

Now there are no more babies. No more cuddly, little boys who need their mama. No more being the center of the universe. Now their peers will become the most important influence in their lives. Have I given them all they need to move successfully into this next phase of their lives?

As if this emotional trauma wasn’t enough, I no sooner returned to work after completing this task when I got the call no parent wants to get from the school. “We have your son here in the office. There’s been a fall on the playground. Can you come right away?” Of course, I dropped everything—including my uneaten lunch—and went straight to the school.

I arrived to find emergency vehicles outside in the parking lot. The principal met me at the front door. Inside, was my middle son, his arm very obviously broken, scared and in pain, but holding it together pretty well, all things considered. We spent the next several hours in the ER waiting for x-rays, waiting for doctors, waiting for results of x-rays, and so on.

My son hadn’t had his lunch either, having fallen during recess which comes right before they eat. So, between the pain and discomfort of his injured arm, the pain of hunger and being denied food because he had to be sedated for treatment, and the pain of sheer boredom, it was a lengthy ordeal for both of us. One I hope I never have to repeat.

I’m a mother of three active little boys, and there’s always been a sense of inevitability about this sort of thing. I wondered when the first incident would come. Which of my three boys it would be.

The inevitable has happened. After three days of adjusting to life with one useable arm, of having to help my son dress himself or use the bathroom and of doing my best not to allow my other two children to feel neglected in the wake of their brother’s obvious need, I am exhausted. Both physically and emotionally.

Today, I am grateful for a normal, ordinary day. A day filled with ordinary things. Normal things such as reminding my children more than once to get dressed, forgetting essentials like earrings and the daily squabble over who gets the first hug as I’m on the way out the door for work.

Passion & Creativity: In Pursuit of Ingenuity

pas·sion·ate
adjective
showing or caused by strong feelings or a strong belief

There are a number of things I’m passionate about: my children, words, needle crafts, football, teddy bears, cheesecake. When I put this list together, a common theme emerged: creativity.

Growing up, imagination and creativity were encouraged in my home. There was a lot of reading. We played music. My sisters and I played with dolls, with cars, with building blocks. Once in school, I started drawing and writing. Along the way I picked up counted cross-stitch, taught myself crochet and discovered miniature teddy bears.

As a mother, creativity is no less important to me. I do everything I can to encourage my children to use their imagination. We read together, color together, build together. I take great delight in their creative endeavors. I make sure they see me read and write.spiderman_m

And I love the results. Their efforts at art make me happy. Their enthusiasm for library visits and reading books thrills me. Now they are learning to read and write for themselves, and I can’t wait to see where they go with that.

cre·a·tiv·i·ty
noun
the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work
synonyms: inventiveness, imagination, innovation, originality, individuality, artistry, inspiration, vision, enterprise, initiative, resourcefulness

I love this list of synonyms for creativity. Innovation, individuality, inventiveness, vision. Creativity isn’t all about art. There is creativity in science and engineering as well. I’m sure I’m not the only parent with a love/hate relationship with Legos. Incredibly frustrating to maintain and the basis of any number of conflicts, they nevertheless provide hours of creative play. I am always impressed with the ingenious structures my boys come up with.

enterprise_eSo yes, I am passionate about pursuing creativity. I’ll continue to pursue it for myself with my writing. And, perhaps more importantly, I will encourage the pursuit of creativity in my children, whatever form it takes for them.

I think Albert Einstein has the right of it…

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.
– Albert Einstein

A Rare Day

This morning I got to wake up without the aid of an alarm clock or kids. The children finally know that they’ll have to ask their daddy for help with the Xbox – mommy has remained deliberately ignorant of this technology.

I spent a good hour reading various blogs. It was nice to catch up on some of this reading I don’t always have the time to do on a week day. In my short experience in the blogging world, I’ve come across some great writers and I wish I had more time to spend reading.

Then, I got to sit down with a cup of coffee and actually consume the entire thing without interruption before it went cold. This is a rare treat, and I took full advantage. I read my book and very nearly finished it.

My big errand for the day was taking my youngest son to pick out his backpack. He starts preschool this week. He was pretty excited about the backpack and wanted to put it on right away.

To finish my day, I joined some fellow writers for our twice-monthly writing group. We meet at a coffee shop and just write. We’re working on various projects from personal blogs to novels of nearly all genres. It’s a great, productive atmosphere where I can usually accomplish a fairly decent amount of work.

This was a good day. A rare day in which I was able to be quite lazy. A chance to recharge and take a step back from all the daily responsibilities of being a mom. I may regret it tomorrow when I have to do all the laundry I didn’t do today, but for now, I will enjoy the moment.

Boys

My nephews are here. They came over the mountains for a brief stay, to attend my son’s birthday party. My house is full of boy noise. Between my sons and my nephews, there are six of them, ages four through ten. The toys around here haven’t seen so much action in months.

So far this morning, they are getting along, playing together in twos, threes, sometimes more. This makes all the noise fun to listen to. Brothers aren’t arguing with brothers. Cousins aren’t fighting cousins. Just regular, monster truck, Lego, building blocks, imaginary play sort of noise. And I love it.

Later, it will likely devolve into angry words, drama and tears. But for now, I will enjoy it.

World War Lego

This morning, my youngest son ran toward me, screaming in terror. Following close behind him was the biggest one trying to catch him and shouting angrily about something I couldn’t quite understand. I stepped between them in order to keep one from pummeling the other before I could determine the cause of the conflict.

I found out the crisis was over a Lego piece smaller than the tip of my smallest finger. The youngest had the right of current possession, but the oldest claimed a prior ownership. He played with it yesterday, or possibly the day before that. In his six year old mind, if he touched it once, it belongs to him. But of course, the three year old is of the opinion that he found it abandoned, and it is now his by right.

As a parent, this is an ongoing struggle as I try to show my children a proper response to conflict, to teach them the values of sharing and unselfishness. I am faced with resolving this conflict in such a way to impart fairness and justice. I must decide who the Lego now belongs to. Before World War Lego breaks out in earnest.

Any parent of more than one child knows the struggle of trying to mediate between siblings and settle the multitude of conflicts that arise on a daily basis. And we struggle to teach our children how to resolve their own conflicts. They learn this skill from observing us, the parents, in how we resolve our own conflicts.

What then, is conflict? And how do we resolve it? I found this description on livestrong.com:

Conflict is a natural, everyday occurrence between children.
(Conflict Between Children, by Barbara Sorensen)

In truth, it is an everyday occurrence even between adults. After all, as humans, we are born with the natural inclination to seek out self-interests, often in conflict with others. We are greedy, selfish and we lust after power and control.

When I went looking for a definition of human conflict, I found nothing that summed it up quite so well as that of James in his epistle to Jewish Christians of the first century:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. (James 4:1-2 ESV)

In the midst of this crisis this morning, I realized it is in a way a microcosm for conflict on a much larger scale. On a global scale, even.

Take, for example, the triggering event of World War I. Though it was certainly not an insignificant event, in the greater scheme of things, it was a small event. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary sparked fire to the dry tinderbox that was Europe in 1914. Increased tensions and ongoing, unresolved conflicts turned a small, local event, tragic as it was, into a global mess.

This, of course, is only one example of many in a seemingly endless world conflict. Are we any better at arbitrating conflict as adults? Should we step into the middle of someone’s conflict in order to determine the cause? Can we truly decide on behalf of another what is significant and what is not?

I think that, no, we cannot adequately resolve conflict on any level if we are still at war within ourselves. Where there is greed and selfish ambition, conflict will inevitably arise. And compromise is doomed to failure unless both sides of a conflict can achieve a level of selflessness.

In my home this morning, World War Lego was averted. For now. Not without unhappy tears being shed by one party. And it is an uneasy peace, for where humans exist together, there will be conflict.

Writing in the Corners of Time: Three Tips for Making the Most of Your Creativity

For a long time I have wanted to be a writer. If you’re reading this, chances are good you know that feeling as well. The challenge for some (I’m sure I’m not alone in this), is finding the time to actually do the work of a writer. If you’re not one of the fortunate souls who can make writing their daily work, this can be challenging indeed. Maybe you need to keep that full time job, or you have children at home, or you are a student. Whatever obstacle you are facing, there is a way to make your writing dream a reality. But you’re going to have to work at it.

In my case, it’s a full time job, a spouse and three children that demand my time and energy. For several years, my writing moved to the background as these other things took priority. As I’ve attempted to make more room for writing and creativity, I’ve had to make some adjustments to how I approach each of these various activities.

If you are in a position that allows writing to be the top priority in your life, you no doubt have your own challenges to face. As I’ve never found myself in this position, I cannot speak to what those challenges might be, and you will likely find little of value in this article. Yes, I have a touch of envy for you, and I hope that one day I might be closer to that place than I am now.

In the meantime, I find I have some great things in my life I’m not willing to set aside. Maybe you are there too. Things that are important in their own right, family, career, education. Here are a few tips I’ve learned from my own experience that have helped increase my writing productivity within the frame of a very busy life.

Make the most of every opportunity

I had to train myself to write quickly, in short bursts. I learned to make the most of every opportunity. Some sort of notebook comes in very handy here. Take it everywhere. They come in all shapes and sizes, with infinite designs to fit any interest. Find one that fits your life, your style, and go.

One way to prioritize your writing without taking away from those things in your life that are essential is to write in the in-between moments, or as I like to call them, the corners of time. They exist everywhere if you watch for them, and are prepared to catch them.

Write while you wait for the bus, or during your commute. Write in the moments after cleaning up the lunch mess while the preschoolers actually play nicely together. Write on your lunch break. Write before class. Basically, any moment you find yourself waiting, pull out your notebook and write.

What you write doesn’t matter so much as the act itself. Put words on the page, any words. As long as you’re writing, the right words will come. Let your subconscious mind continue to work even when you can’t write. If you can get away with it, keep your notebook handy for when those brilliant ideas suddenly jump to the front and demand attention.

Be prepared for anything

If you’re a parent, you already know that children are extraordinarily curious. They are demanding, they want everything their own way, and anything that is yours, is theirs. As a writer, and a mother, I’ve had to learn ways to work around, and with this demanding curiosity.

When my boys were very little, I carried around a spiral notebook or two at all times along with a handful of pens. One reason being that a paper notebook is much easier to replace than expensive technology should they fall victim to sticky fingers. Also, my boys loved to take my notebooks away from me and fill the pages with their own artwork and writing. That’s why I always carried a spare. I could give one away, and still write in the other.

There is a plus side to my children stealing my notebooks and using them for their own endeavors. My stories come pre-illustrated in a beautiful, imagination-stretching way. My boys have been free to express their own creativity. They have come to recognize a blank page is something to be filled, not feared.

Make writing a priority, but not the priority

It was here in my simple spiral notebooks where my eldest first learned to write his letters and numbers. It’s where he first learned to write his own name, and to recognize letters and words as more then simple marks on a page. One of my favorites is where my son took over my notebook and began to make little squiggly lines on the ruled page, emulating my cursive handwriting.

In short, this season of parenting is fleeting. Make the most of it. Already, my children no longer reach first for my notebook, they want one of their own. They are growing up. Before I know it, instead of a notebook, they will want their own laptop. My only hope is that they will still delight in filling an empty page.

Whatever your situation, if you want to write, you can find a way to make it happen. Fill up the corners of time in your world. Fill them with beautiful poetry and breath-taking prose. Never fear the blank page, but let it instead challenge you to stretch your creativity.

Thank you for reading. I’d love to hear about how you’ve overcome the time challenges you face with your own writing.