What People Don’t Tell You About Raising Sensitive Boys

Finn_dock Wisconsin

As parents of boys, we are often conditioned to think that our kids should have a thick skin. “Toughen up,” we say. “Don’t be a baby.” We have more tolerance for tears when they come from girls, as it’s just the way we’ve become accustomed to think. No one tells you what to do when you have a sensitive boy and, the more I talk to other moms of boys, the more I realize that there are plenty out there. For me, it’s my first born son. He’s a bleeding heart like me. I often find him in the yard, talking to butterflies or tickling the bellies of roly poly bugs. Then my second son comes along. All brute, he squishes them, giggles, and then runs away. In some ways, these guys are two peas in a pod but, in many ways, they couldn’t be more different.

I first noticed it a few years ago when he would talk about people laughing at him. He would get upset if he thought anyone was teasing him. In fact, when we were at a bagel shop once, he burst into tears, insisting that a group of girls had pointed at him and laughed. I was confounded, as I hadn’t seen it happen, and didn’t know whether I should even believe him, let alone placate him. The tears were wholly genuine, though, and my heart broke into a million pieces. I knew right then and there that this wouldn’t be the first time this would happen … not by a long shot.

Fast forward to the beginning of this school year, and something seemed off when we dropped him off in the first grade classroom. I could tell he was on the edge of tears, so I began talking quickly about how exciting it all was. My attempts at distraction were futile, as he wasn’t having any of it. As I sat and filled out paperwork and watched his lip begin to quiver, I knew the tears were inevitable. No one else was crying, so I took him out of the classroom, not sure whether I was shielding him or myself from embarrassment. It only got worse, as he cried all morning, every morning, for the week and a half before school.

He began to mention this girl he knew from preschool and how she was still chasing him on the playground. Discounting it as a harmless crush, I tried to explain to him how that whole thing worked when girls like boys. He seemed generally distraught, though, and even said he told the teacher on her. She then got everyone to chase him, and called him a baby in front of the others. “This has to be a joke,” I thought. He’s too young for bullies, be it boys or girls. The morning tears continued and I hemmed and hawed over whether to intervene, telling myself there’s a lot to be said for letting himself resolve the situation on his own. Empowerment and all that good stuff. But the chasing didn’t stop and neither did his tears. While it was only day 7 of school, my parents urged me to intervene and I made the call to his teacher. Sure enough, this little girl marched up to him that next day and said, “I will not be chasing you anymore.” I truly thought he was using this as an excuse for his anxiety over school, but who knows. I do know that his beautiful, bright, gap-toothed smile returned. The last few days, he seemed genuinely happy as he left for school.

My dad has had some horrible back issues, and is moving a little slower these days (sorry, Dad!). Finn and his brother will often be running ahead of my parents, giggling, wrestling, and other general shenanigans. At some point, however, he will stop what he’s going, return to his grandfather, and hold his hand, taking it slow with one of his favorite guys.

The other day, he told me, “I love you to the stars. I love you to God, Mom.” I’ve mentioned before that he has a propensity towards unconditional love that is well beyond his years. I’ll lose my temper and apologize later, only to have him say, “It’s okay, Mom. I get it.” It scares me to let him out of the house every day, knowing he wears that beautiful heart on his sleeve. I know it will get broken and there’s nothing I can do about it. But, as I’ve stated before, I wouldn’t have him be any other way.


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  1. Ned says:

    Great story about a lovely kid. Today, I sat in my car trying to get a football game (Bills) on my iPhone at a birthday we were invited to, along with the Brodersens. Sitting there, all of a sudden, there is a knock on my window and this gap toothed kid was smiling saying “Hi Boppa”. It was Finn.

    Great kid!

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