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At my feet sits my one-and-a-half-year-old son and his favorite toy train. He chugs it across the floor, moving no further than inches away from my home in front of the stove. This son of mine is independent and fierce. He’s my wild one. A typical example of a boy—and although he’s rough and tumble and can’t be tamed, he loves nothing more than the comfort of being close to mom.

In my arms is his brother. My three-month-old baby boy nuzzled tightly against my chest; he wouldn’t have it any other way. This boy of mine—my tiny one—he’s my sensitive boy. A mother can just tell. He likes to be held close, he likes to be held tight, and he likes to be held often. Something I don’t dare to argue with.

From the womb to their births to their first few months on earth, each boy has been vastly different. From inception, their personalities lit like a match and the nature of their being has been burning brightly since.

When I discovered I’d be raising sons, a sacred responsibility was being placed in my hands. A responsibility to raise these boys to be kind, compassionate, and gentle individuals despite their masculine genetics. As their mother, it’s my job to ensure they remain true to who they are rather than the stereotype they think they need to be.

When I was growing up, I roughhoused with my younger brother. We played video games, street hockey, and climbed trees in the park. We also played with my Barbie dolls, Polly Pocket, and took on various roles in the mini-kitchen our parents gifted us for Christmas. Our home was very gender neutral. Even my football playing, strong, rough, and rugged dad jumped in every once and awhile. But the dynamic way my brother and I played at home was never reflected by my peers on the playground.

There was always a sense of gender divide. The boys were strong and the girls were delicate. They’d chase us and we’d submit. They’d tease us and we would blush, for indeed, it meant they liked us. They would trip and tumble and fall, dust it off, and get right back up again. Never could they be hurt, especially when it came to their feelings.

This was the world I grew up in back in the ’90s and early 2000s. A world where boys would be boys—and should be boys.

As the saying goes, boys will be boys—but what does that even mean?

Honestly, when you get down the nitty-gritty, it means boys or young men can act mischievous or inappropriate without any ounce of surprise from onlookers. It’s a term used to describe “typical” male behavior. It also implies that boys or young men or even adult men must always remain strong in the face of adversity: “man-up”, “don’t be such a baby”, “don’t act like such a girl”. Communicating wants, needs, or even feelings and emotions as freely and openly as their female counterparts is something boys often struggle with. And it’s not because they don’t have the ability, it’s often because they’re not encouraged.

As parents, we have the power to raise emotionally intelligent children, despite their gender. This means all children should and can be encouraged to identify their feelings and emotions and express them freely and openly without fear of judgement, or fear not being “man enough”. The power of nurturing emotionally intelligent boys means that boys will boys will no longer imply noisy and unapologetic men; instead it will imply that compassion and kindness make a person human rather than feminine. The responsibility falls within our hands—the adults. We hold the power to show boys we hear them, believe them, and see them, and that all they feel is worthy of being shared.

Every day my young children remind me of their innocence. They remind me they’re a blank canvas and it’s my job to give them the tools to live their best and happiest life. Again, a sacred responsibility I don’t take for granted, despite the fact it comes with challenge.

There’s a lot I have to learn, especially when it comes to raising sons. But as I raise these boys and allow them to be boys, I bear in mind that boys will be boys is an evolving concept. One that now encourages my sons to be wild and adventurous but also gentle and compassionate. One that encourages me, as a parent, to fuel their hearts, minds, and souls with the ability to share their feelings with me and the world without fear of emasculation or judgement.

That’s the world I want for them. That’s the world I intend to create. One where my boys can be boys—but can also be their very unique, emotional, respectful, and intelligent humans.

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