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Boy Energy

I’m on a child-related reading kick at the moment, having just purchased three new parenting books: The Blessing of a Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children, Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, and Discipline: The Brazelton Way.

Though I should be starting with the third book, as it most directly and succinctly addresses a pressing need, I have instead begun with the second, more interesting title. Furthermore, I have not begun at the beginning of this book, either. (I rarely begin at the very beginning, even with fiction. It’s a habit that drives Matt over the bend.) I instead began with Chapter 6: Mothers and Sons: A Legacy of Desire and Distance.

The authors begin by describing a mother and her twenty-four month old son at the park. He is exploring while she sits and watches, and his motions create an ever-widening orbit around her. After each revolution, he looks to make sure she his still there and watching, comes to her for a hug or some affection, then ventures out again, perhaps traveling a bit further this time. “He is the explorer and she is ‘home base’,” say the authors, and such is the fundamental pattern of sons and mothers.

Much of the chapter was thought provoking in its descriptions of how mothers and sons interact. And much of its advice I seem to have intuitively brought to my relationship with Simon. I’m not sure who these moms are that are “toughening” their very young sons and comforting or kissing them less than their daughters, but I am certainly not one of them. I dread the day that Simon decides not to hug or kiss me; until then I’m getting in all the affection that I can!

But one section of the chapter covered something I hadn’t really thought of before: boy energy. Having read a bit more, I see that “boy energy” is a theme of this book. Simply put, boys have a superabundance of energy that girls typically lack. They have trouble sitting still for stories, they fidget when they must sit for prolonged periods, and boys’ energy must be respected and given a proper outlet for them to flourish. There was even a description of a Montessori school that cordoned off an area in the class for boys to jump rope when they felt especially antsy.

I didn’t work today, so my goal was to redo Friday’s mama-baby day, ideally with fewer crying jags and less yelling. As I started the day, I had “boy energy” and the lessons of Raising Cain fresh in my mind; the book thus informed my interactions with Simon and my schedule for him.

After the regular morning routine, we headed to the JCC to play in the pool. Simon and I tossed a ball back and forth in the baby pool, shared a snack, then went to the big pool where he learned to float, danced with me, and played the “astronaut game” in which I count down from 10, hoist him wildly in the air, and ensure a huge splash on the way down.

Next it was home for lunch and a nap. Once he woke up, we changed clothes, ate a quick snack, and proceeded to walk to the park for Part II of a fun summer day outside. Here he spent some time on the swings, but spent more playing with the steering wheel and chimes on the play equipment, and even more running around a fountain, climbing up and over things, and chasing me all over the park. The entire time, I coaxed him to try out new things, chased him, arranged to be chased by him, took him down the slide, helped him climb up, down and over things, and otherwise did all I could to physically engage him.

By 5:30, we rolled up the sidewalk for dinner with Matt and my dad. Simon was pooped. He held on for dinner, played and danced a bit for my dad after dinner, and then collapsed into a sobbing heap at 8:00 sharp.

He’s in bed fast asleep now: I have several more active hours in me. Raising Cain has put me on notice for sure, but for now at least Simon’s 21-month-old boy energy can’t hold a candle to my 38-year-old mama energy.*

*Age may have nothing to do with this. It may simply be a factor of my being twice as much Soirefman/Kahn as he is. Anyone who ever saw my mom, maternal grandmother, or maternal great-grandmother in action knows the powerful force of which I speak.

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