Welcome to the Rough House

Not long ago I heard a piercing scream of "Mooooooom!" ... followed by gasps and hysterical laughter. Then here came my first-grader, grinning through a macabre mouthful of blood, to gleefully present me with the treasure balanced on his outstretched palm: his tooth.

The tooth that his brother had just kicked right out of his mouth while they were wrestling. It was a baby tooth, thank goodness, but it hadn't even been loose.

I mean ... what?

A couple of kids ago, I'd have freaked out. But now I'm the seasoned mother of four boys, with the nerves - and stomach - of steel that raising a gaggle of dudes tends to provide. I just shook my head (mostly to clear the haunting visions of dentist bills) and said, "Go rinse your mouth out before you get blood on the carpet, and then save that tooth for the Tooth Fairy."*

*Who may or may not have forgotten to come, but hey.

I'd have tacked on the obligatory motherly addition of, "... and be more careful," but by this point I have learned that such a phrase is a pointless waste of breath. Boys are rough. They just are.

I once read an article that I absolutely loved: A Plea for Boyhood and Rough Play. It spoke to me so deeply. The author, Celeste Brinson, put into words so eloquently what I see in my boys every single day: the innate need to climb and tackle and tumble and wallop. They're not being bad. They're being boys.

Are there exceptions? Absolutely. There are always exceptions, to just about everything. Some girls are rough, and some boys are not. But the people who do have the exceptions got so rude in the comment section of Celeste's post - saying that it's a learned behavior, that if her parenting were different (or, let's be real, better) that her son wouldn't be such a hooligan.

There are few things I consider myself an expert on - I mean, I have to Google "how to hard-boil an egg" every time I do it. But I've had an all-boy household for the last decade. I have been immersed in boyhood for that long; literally, twenty-four hours a day, I'm with one or more little boys. And let me tell y'all something, loud and clear:

BOYS ARE LIKE THIS. Trust me. If yours isn't, have another - or two more - and then see. Maybe it's something about a group of them. A boy who's an only child, or perhaps one with a more mild-mannered sister, may not be as rough or at least not as demonstrative of that quality. But in most cases - and especially when you have more than one boy - this is what you're in for. The stereotype of "all boy" exists for a reason - yet, judging by people's reactions to that post, that really ruffles some feathers. I don't understand why. It is what it is.

Before I had kids, or even when I only had one, I'd have poo-poohed the notion that any of this behavior was inherently "boyish." My oldest, my firstborn son, isn't as physical as his little brothers. He's into computers, not wrestling or sports, and recently requested piano lessons. He wasn't a particularly rough kid, especially not when he was by himself - and had he been the only boy, I imagine I'd still be one of those people who insists this behavior is learned because "my son isn't like that." But then his three male siblings came along, one right after the other, and they are all rough-and-tumble in varying degrees. And now, even my "non-physical" oldest son joins right in (and, okay, sometimes instigates) ... because when you live with a pack of boys, that's what happens. They act like boys. Want proof? Ask any mom of more than one male - and especially moms of three or more. Or just watch this.

Boys will be boys. It's true.

Does that mean boys will be brats? Of course not. My sons know that there is a time and a place for roughhousing. They're obviously not going to do it, say, in the middle of dinner at a restaurant or during church or whatever. I don't care if it is in their nature, it's expected - nay, demanded - that they also control their impulses when they're in a public place, and they're very much aware of this.

Also, there's a clear distinction between playing rough and hurting or antagonizing or bullying. I'm not talking about aggression, and YES, there is a (very big) difference. I think that's a concept that people who are unfamiliar with the nature of boys don't grasp. They seem to think that the only purpose of roughness is to hurt someone.

But dudes just wrestle and pounce and leap for the sake of wrestling and pouncing and leaping. Because it's what dudes do. They will literally be standing there one second, watching TV or something, and next thing you know someone takes a flying leap out of nowhere and then they're rolling across the floor. It's an attack, but without malice - and I guess that's kind of odd if you're not used to it. Ever seen puppies play together? Or a cat sneak up on another cat? It's pretty much the same. It's just that sometimes, there are busted-out teeth involved.

Luckily, when you're proud of your new toothless gap, you've got a good story to tell your friends - and you use your Tooth Fairy money to buy your brother some candy, so you can show there's no hard feelings.

Don't let their antics fool you. Boys may be rough, but they're also soft.


  1. Aw. Yes, my boy can be rough, but he does love his Mommy. I probably shouldn't admit that online. But he does ;)

  2. I have one girl and one boy. My girl is rough too and loves to wrestle; I blame daddy! I have found that it is true though, boys will be boys. My son throws a fit a lot, climbs everything, and wrestles with his sister. It's cool to see how that is just how they are wired! Hopefully we don't have any knocked-out teeth around here though! Good luck with your boys!

  3. Yep! My boys are little, but they are SUPER rough. They can be calm and quiet when they're apart (sometimes), but they can't be in the same room as each other without a wrestling match breaking out or someone kicking the other! We have a baby boy due in a few months, and I'm trying to teach them that they can't jump on him or punch or kick him! Not for a while, at least! :-p

  4. AMen!!! Over & over...!! Love your photo round-up!!

  5. I've got four boys, too - similar ages to your guys - and I totally agree. I always say, "Together, my boys are MUCH MORE than the sum of their parts"; individually they (especially my oldest) can be quiet, focused, and gentle - but when they're together it is just non-stop wrestling, pushing, etc. Like you, we've got standard for behaviour and they (at this age) understand that it's not appropriate to be physical in the church service or at a restaurant - but they struggle to maintain the 'hands to yourselves' thing elsewhere! Definitely nature and not nurture. :)

  6. I'm a mother of a 2 year old boy, and have another on the way. I love reading about the zany adventures of your little pack. I check out the blog often, and actually get sad when there's not a new post! Mom-ing 4 boys (plus hubby) is time consuming, but keep entertaining me! Lol :)

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. A friend of mine directed me to your blog as I, too, have 4 boys. Let's just say....I get you. Solidarity, sister.


Post a Comment

Commenting makes you big and strong! Okay, maybe just strong. Okay, so it's only your fingers. But still ...

Popular Posts