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We hear the phrase all the time, and it rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

“Boys will be boys.”

I imagine it bothers people because it could sound like we’re giving boys a pass on misbehaving. Like we’re allowing them to act like brutish thugs just because they happen to be male.

But this phrase doesn’t bother me in the least. I don’t see it as an as an excuse for bad behavior. I have three boys and I expect all of them to be responsible, well-behaved, kind people. Being a boy doesn’t mean you get to be a jerk. What I do think is that boys are inherently different from girls. Whether or not they have some characteristics that are typically more feminine or more masculine, there’s still just something “boy” about boys. And the phrase “boys will be boys” explains so much behavior that would otherwise leave me bewildered.

Boys love gross stuff.

I have a girl who likes gross stuff too. But the boys downright love it. They’re obsessed with it. As toddlers it was fart jokes and peeing outside. As teenagers it’s stuff that makes me gag, stuff that makes me blush, and they’re still at it with the fart jokes. No matter how much I reprimand them for bringing up bodily functions at the table, apparently it’s worth the consequence as long as they can land the joke and get a laugh.

Boys are boys their whole lives.

Be honest, have you ever looked at your husband and thought, “He’s just a big little boy who never really grew up”? Although my husband is a responsible adult who works his butt off every dang day to provide for his wife and five kids, he’ll still join in with the rabble-rousing. He’s mostly a mature adult, but he never lost his passion for war movies, sports, roughhousing and those incessant fart jokes. He giggles at the boys’ gross antics  and he’s always “attacking” the kids with tickles and wrestling. No matter how old and responsible they get, it seems they’ll always be little boys at heart.

Boys have so much energy.

Again, this varies from person to person and some girls have more energy than some boys. But in general, boys have an unmatched NEED to run, climb, and wrestle that I’ve never seen in a typical girl. Even my girl with ADHD who can hardly sit her butt in a seat for two seconds doesn’t have quite the same need to be constantly climbing, running, and battling everyone and everything around her.

Boys are heroes.

Boys need to save the world. Fight the bad guys. Solve the problems. Fix the stuff. Be the hero. When my older boys were little, I didn’t like the idea of them being violent so we banned playing with weapons and even got rid of all their little green army men. Of course, they started turning anything and everything into a weapon and for a while we tried putting them in timeout for using sticks as swords and easels as guns (true story). But eventually, we realized that this “violence” needed to be channeled, not squelched. They had a need to fight the bad guys. They needed to go to battle every day. So we let them. They’ve never become boys who glory in violence. But they sure do love heroics and would be willing to go to battle for me in a heartbeat. And thank goodness, because we need people like that in this world.

Even with “feminine” traits, they are all boy.

Boys may have some traits that are typically considered “feminine” but that doesn’t make them less “boy.” Mine all loved baby dolls, blankeys and cuddling. They are sensitive, kind, and thoughtful. They may have an opinion on fashion, love the color pink, have a soft spot for Disney songs or be really good with kids, but they aren’t any less “boy” because of it.

Boys will be boys no matter what. And that’s a good thing. It just means that we need to understand them and appreciate their personalities for the magnificent contribution to our lives that they are. Where would the world be without our boys and their heroism and sense of humor? Although I could do without all the fart jokes.

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Crystal Hill

I've been a mom by profession for the past 17 years. My qualifications are: raising 5 kids and having a degree in Marriage, Family and Human Development from BYU (yes, that's a real degree). I'm particularly experienced in the areas of carpooling and diaper changing. My hobbies include watching crime dramas and absurd comedies when I have the time, reading when I have the attention span, and running when I'm not too fat. I'm also really good at oversharing and cracking myself up, usually at the same time.

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