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    On Raising Boys

    December 14, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    I had forgotten what it was like to have a little boy. My almost-toddler considers it his mission in life to remind me. Every morning, I am convinced that he wakes up and says in his mind, “Hello, World! What sort of trouble can we get into this morning?”

    He has, for instance, recently learned to push the step stool around the kitchen. {Remember, this child still only walks ten steps at a time.} He pushes it near the counter and then climbs up on the stool. And then he grabs whatever is close enough to be grabbed.

    Glass bowls.

    He prefers knives, actually. They are his favorites.

    I have no doubt that he will relish learning to use a shotgun with Daddy when he is older.

    When I do laundry, and the other children are helping, we put him in our play nook and hope he stays distracted while we complete our task. Between the four of us, we are pretty quick, but never quick enough. We hear him crawling around the corner; he crawls as loudly as possible.

    E. shrieks, “Here comes O. the Undoer! Help, help!”

    And then all of the children move double-time, trying their hardest. We whisk away all the stacks of freshly folded clothes, each of us putting them in their rightful places as fast as we can.

    This is when he and I begin our race. He looks me in the eye, and I know what he is thinking.

    I rush to put my stack away, and return in time to see him do the naughty thing I know he wanted to do. He has crawled upon the couch. On the back of the couch had lain a small pile of clothing to be hung. There he is, looking over the back, experimenting with the effects of gravity.

    “Down!” he yells, throwing another of Q.’s dresses overboard.

    And I tell him no. Again. And I discipline him for it. Again.

    Next time, I make him sit in his bouncy seat while we work, and he glares at me for stealing his fun.

    This week in church, Si suggested I bring him a toy. He has been struggling with being quiet during the singing, and now that he is older he is loud enough to be heard over the din. We all know that he gets loud because it is his usual nap time and he is always loud before naps, even in the sanctuary of his own home.

    I, foolishly, grabbed the giant plastic spoon that our daughter Q. delightedly chewed on in many a church service at this age.

    I forgot that such a thing is a weapon to a little boy.

    The woman in front of me, who only three minutes prior had turned around and complimented me on a “lovely family” almost got a dose of reality. I realized just in time that he was not moving said spoon to his mouth, but rather getting ready to whack the sweet couple in front of us. I moved just enough that he hit the back of the seat instead.

    I told him no, but then he whacked me, and so the spoon went back into my purse, and I made a mental note to bring a soft toy next time, if I brought a toy at all.

    Instead of playing with toys, we went to the Cry Room ten minutes earlier than usual, and he was fast asleep in no time.

    Being a boy is exhausting, he seemed to say.

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  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 17, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    Rachel, I believe you! In fact, our neighbor said a couple weeks ago “Oh, to have all boys” so winsomely I had to laugh. Si and I were baffled that someone would long for that much havoc in their lives, but it turned out that, in his home, it was the girls who did this sort of thing while the boys played peacefully with their toy cars. 🙂

    Also: we call ours The Cyclone for the same reason.

    There was a period of time that we called one of our daughters The Tornado, but she wasn’t like what I described here. She was just extremely cluttered and didn’t put anything back without being told. After playing for an hour, it looked like a tornado had hit the room…

  • Reply Rachel R. December 17, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    This is not a boy thing. This is a some-children thing. I am convinced of this – because I have a 2yo GIRL who is like this. Not long ago, I said that we should have named her “tropical storm,” because it seems that the only more destructive force is a hurricane! I am completely baffled as to how she can get into so much trouble and wreak so much havoc in such a short time.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 17, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    By the way, Anonymous:

    18 months and 1 month? My friend with 10 children has advice for that stage of life:

    “Take two naps per day.”


    She is serious, by the way.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 17, 2009 at 8:04 pm


    I tend to not discuss specific discipline publicly because I am still a young mother and haven’t proven myself by actually raising godly children to adulthood. I have much more to learn than I have to teach! However, if you want to know where we got our approach, there are basically four books at the top of our list which were very formative for us. Two of said list were recommended to us by a family of twelve, full of God-fearing wonderful children, that we greatly admire. We basically cornered them and begged them for advice. 🙂

    Anyhow, those four books are:

    The Little Book of Christian Character & Manners
    Child Training Tips: What I Wish I Knew When My Children Were Young
    Raising Godly Tomatoes (I use the website, but actually there is a book)
    Shepherding a Child’s Heart

    I would say that what we do here is (1) specific to child and (2) a fusion of the above, and also what I learned reading Charlotte Mason’s work concerning habit training.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 17, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    Julia! What a cute little boy story! I love toddler stories. Such a sweet age…

    As far as how I get so much done, I think that if you were here, you wouldn’t think we did all that much at all. But, on the other hand, I knew I was going to homeschool since our oldest was an infant, so we always built patterns into our life to that end.

    If you want to know what our days look like on average, the Average Day Charts category might help. I thought I wrote a post about how I go about doing my planning, but I can’t find it.

    I basically spend a few days figuring out what we absolutely MUST do (like eat), what our priorities are for school, and so on, and then I put them all into a chart to see how they fit. If it is too crowded, something must go.

    I don’t do a lot outside of the home at this stage of life, at least not in a regularly committed sort of way. This means no mother’s groups or co-ops or regular children’s sports. We also have very little electronic media: the computer and a radio are about it. This is what works for us. It might totally be different for other families. It helps me keep things simple at this stage, with having so many little ones around (and so few big ones).

  • Reply Anonymous December 17, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you for this! My firstborn, a boy, is 18 mos old. Every single thing you mentioned that he does – mine does almost on a daily basis as well! It makes me feel better that I am not the only one struggling through his daily antics, and it’s not just because I’m a new mom (w/ a 4 week old as well by the way) who is very slow at teaching my child how to behave. Although, that is probably true too, but I realize in reading your blog that part of what I need to remember is that he is a little boy! Thank you for the reminder. Also, can you share what you do to ‘discipline?’ This is a particular struggle for my husband and I.

  • Reply Julia December 15, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    I was talking to my husband in the kitchen today when we realised out 13 mo old son was nowhere to be seen. We went searching for him and found him sound asleep in our walk-in closet, he collapsed right in the middle of it and I almost stepped on him 🙂

    I have enjoyed reading your blog very much! I have just begun homeschooling my boys (we have three ages 6, 3 and 1).

    How do you manage to do so much in a day? I am sure you have probably posted about it before and I searched your blog but did not find anything.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 14, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Yes, enjoy! One really is a difficult age, boy or girl. I find that it requires intensive training, especially if I am determined to enjoy having a two-year-old.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts December 14, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Somehow, they know when is the worst possible time to do things like this!

    I am not that great at this, but I am learning to laugh at it! 🙂

  • Reply Mystie December 14, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Boy + 13-22months = exhaustion

    The Undoer. That is perfect. Ilse was also my undo button. We are headed into the smoother waters of two-year toddlerhood. It is welcome relief.

    In a year and a half, I will be there again. I am telling myself to enjoy this year respite, even if it includes little sleep. 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca December 14, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    Love this. Boys have been a shock to my system. I gave one sweet boy a rattle in church yesterday and he shook it more than he ever has shaken it in his life and started to shout. We left.

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