Boys Will Be Boys

I remember when my first son was in need of his first haircut.  I took him to a professional stylist and, with 35mm camera in hand, clicked away, literally walking around and around his seat, so that, once developed, the pictures would immortalize that very special day in my life, in his life, in the world, I was sure.

By the time my third son was in need of his first haircut, I let my mom have at it and, as it turned out, time did not improve her hair-cutting skills.  My youngest son ended up with the same bangs that I had worn some 30 years earlier — a wavy line of hair jutting out all over the place somewhere between eyebrows and the hairline.

Things really do change from the first born to the second and then to the third.  And as that is all the children we were blessed with, I can go no further with my experience but my assumptions would be that by the fifth or sixth child, he or she may very well be performing his or her own first haircut.

Now, my oldest is graduating from college, the second is mid-way through his college career, and my youngest has almost completed high school. All the years in between those first haircuts and this point in time have truly gone by in the blink of an eye.

I can’t say, for sure, what each of my son’s take on things has been; but, for me it has been an incredible journey.  And I’ll admit that I look back and find great relief that my oldest, in particular, has been so forgiving towards me in all the ways I tried to shape and mold him into what I thought was right — and certainly in keeping with my post-feminist upbringing which included the need to neutralize any distinctions between the sexes along with my politically-correct interest in taming all things that could even appear to have a glimmer of “inappropriateness” attached to them.

I remember once when my mother was reading a book to my oldest son.  I can’t quite recall the book but in retrospect I am positive it was as bland as everything else I allowed into his life.  She came to some point in the story where, when my husband and I read it, we had always chosen to replace some word or phrase with more “proper” words, but not knowing better, grandma read the actual words.  Well, when he heard her reading it verbatim, he was on the floor laughing, “Grandma! It does not say that!” So much for our attempt at politically-correct censorship.

No matter how hard I tried, though, he was still a “boy.”  And that means something. They all were, actually, very much “boys.”  For instance, they simply weren’t able to pass each other in the hall without a push and a shove for good luck.  Try as I might to dissuade them, they were just so “physical” all the time! I once received a note from a teacher who, in all seriousness, felt it was imperative to tell me that my son, while playing “Duck-Duck-Goose” became so mischievous that he tapped two children instead of one!  I can only imagine the pandemonium that ensued and my son received from me the sternest of warning against such wild classroom antics! At the time I was duly mortified that I would have birthed the child who wreaked havoc with “Duck-Duck-Goose” rules.

Of course, despite such notes and other miscellaneous offenses along the way, my boys were, in fact, quite good kids — in the grand scheme of things. Sure there were times that I was forced to walk away from parent-teacher conferences with a piece of paper held in front of my face in hopes of obscuring my identity as I made a beeline towards the door; but, all in all they were really fine young boys on their way growing into fine young men.

It’s just that I didn’t have brothers and couldn’t figure out why these boys of mine wouldn’t sit down and play quietly with one another or do their puzzles in an orderly fashion.  I could fondly recall how my sisters and I would play school for hours on end. Not a peep out of us as we wrote on the chalkboard and assigned one another “homework.”

The closest my boys came to that sort of quiet, structured, group play was when they were building Legos; but, for the most part, even that time was spent constructing weapons or creating scenarios in which caves, hideouts and counter-attack strategies were necessary.  This, after having been exposed to the dullest of television choices — which were extremely time-limited anyhow — and don’t forget censorship galore on all books!

One dinner, when the boys were around 2, 4, and 6 I remember one of them eating a piece of bread into the shape of a gun and being completely convinced that I had failed as a mother.  “How,” I moaned to my husband, “could they even know about such things?!”

Boys will be boys.

Now that’s a phrase I’m none too fond of but there is some truth to the fact that, well, boys will be boys.  However, if we understand it not as an excuse for bad behavior but, rather, being a plausible testament to some basic genetic truths, we are able to more sufficiently appreciate how God created male and female and the path on which each will proceed towards developing virtuous behaviors and moral choices.  Denying the genetic and natural differences between male and female will not make them go away.

And as a mother of all boys — and never having had any brothers — I have grown to love the way in which God has made male and female.  Raising boys has given me a new appreciation of my husband and how, if we are called to the vocation of marriage, we grow in beautiful ways when we embrace the unique gifts and talents and personalities of male and female.

I am fully convinced that God knew what he was doing when, in His immense wisdom, He gave me all sons.  I have learned so much about our Creator through my life as a mother of boys.  So many of the ill-conceived notions about gender-neutrality, which was part and parcel of my life as a teenager in the post-radical-feminist-movement that pervaded the 70s, have been washed away in the Truth about male and female, their inherent differences, their shared dignity, their beauty as having been created, equally but diverse, in His image, His likeness.

As my own sons grow into men, I am grateful for the gifts they have received from their Creator and feel blessed that I discovered, sooner rather than later, how important their unique “maleness” is and how it has been a gift to participate in helping them grow into all that God has called them to be as they venture out into the world as men.

Cheryl Dickow


Cheryl Dickow is a Catholic wife, mother, author and speaker. Cheryl’s newest book is Wrapped Up: God’s Ten Gifts for Womenwhich is co-authored with Teresa Tomeo and is published by Servant (a division of Franciscan Media); there is also a companion journal that accompanies the book and an audio version intended for women’s studies or for individual reflection. Cheryl’s titles also include the woman’s inspirational fiction book Elizabeth: A Holy Land Pilgrimage. Elizabeth is available in paperback or Kindle format. Her company is Bezalel Books where her goal is to publish great Catholic books for families and classrooms that entertain while uplifting the Catholic faith and is located at To invite Cheryl to speak at your event, write her at

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  • Claire

    That duck-duck-goose story is a riot! I wonder if my son will rebel like that in nursery school?

  • aheapoftibbetts

    Love the post!
    I had 3 girls first and often times would feel pride in how well behaved they were during mass, etc… God’s cure for my pride was to bless me with 5 boys!
    They have taught me more about life (and near death) than I could ever imagine!
    Once I found them under my van trying to light sticks on fire. They figured that would be a safe place out of mom’s sight. We’ve had 7 broken bones , 5 trips to the ER for stiches, several holes in the walls, fencing with butcher knives(one of my favorites) and an almost daily game of football that always ends in 5 red faces and someone hurt. They have created an arsenal of giant swords and weaponry made from PVC pipe, camping foam and lots of duct tape! I miss buying dolls and dresses but there is a mysterious joy I never thought I’d have watching my boys run at each other, swords raised, shouting at the top of their lungs, “For Narnia!” and then pounding each other!

  • Cheryl Dickow

    Ahhh, duct tape….that could be a whole new article!

  • Doris Rodriguez

    I love it! I, too, am the mother of three wonderful sons and I could very well have written this article, except I had four brothers who well-equipped me for the adventure I was in for as a young mother. All attempts at curbing the wilder side of my boys were met with futility, but now I am glad they stuck to the way God created them to be, in spite of my “I know better” mentality. As a 70’s throw-back, I can look back at my past 50+ years and see my errors and God’s wisdom, and I am so thankful that most of my best intended lessons didn’t “take”! Thanks for sharing this delightful article with us.

  • It makes me wonder about history’s most famous only Son. We have a couple of small glimpses from the Passion of the Christ movie, and one story from the Gospels from when Jesus was 12 and taught the teachers in the Temple, but we know next to nothing about His boyhood. Was he gentle, or did he like to roughhouse? Did he ever get teased for being different? How much did he realize that he was different? Did he spend every waking hour at St. Joseph’s elbow or did he like to sneak out and play with the other kids? I’d love to know the answers to all these questions.