I don't have a lot of parenting gems to offer. After nearly sixteen years, I am still flying by the seat of my pants, which, now that I think about it, doesn't make any sense at all. Flying. By the seat of my pants. Huh.
Anyhow, what I mean is that I am still making this up as I go along, and most of my ideas are sort of boneheaded. I am making some progress, though, because today in Target I stopped myself from buying Raphael a workbook on the American presidents for an upcoming road trip, recognizing in time that he would not, in fact, appreciate it very much. See? Growth.
I have also stumbled upon one parenting technique that is rock-solid genius. Just the one, but I'm telling you, it's good.
Sometimes the boys taunt each other (I know, I'm as shocked as you are) by suggesting that the tauntee is,in fact, a girl. You know, like, "Hey, nice throw. FOR A GIRL." Or "I can't wear that color! That's for GIRLS. Give it to [insert brother name]."
And then they laugh and laugh, unless they are the one being accused of an X chromosome, in which case they glower, stomp, or bellow in rage. So that's nice.
This makes me insane because, as I have told them ONE MILLION TIMES, A) "girl" is not a pejorative. Some very wonderful people are girls, myself included. And B) I have changed all their diapers once upon a time. I happen to know what parts they came pre-assembled with. Any changes to the factory settings would be dramatic and difficult and not caused by standing too close to something pink without being upset about it. Seriously.
But all my sincere lectures about why I found the cries of "GIRL!" so offensive didn't seem to do much to stem the tide. After all, they were JUST KIDDING, which renders all right to take offense null and void. Yeah, commence lecture #2. But clearly I needed to step up my response.
So one day when someone was being accused of female-ness, I turned to them with a deeply sorrowful expression.
"OH, dear. Here I thought I'd explained these facts well enough for it to be clear to you all, and yet here you are, still confused. Let me go over it again: you are all boys. You each have a PENIS. If any of you were a girl, you would have a VAGINA."
All frivolity dropped to the floor like a stone, where it shattered into a thousand awkward twitches.
"I have a book in my room that explains the differences more fully, and I would be happy to sit down with any child who is still confused, so we can look at the pictures together and really have a good TALK about it all. So if you're not sure, go right ahead and call your brother a girl. But if you're NOT confused, and you DON'T need it all explained - with pictures - then I suggest you knock that right off."
Let me tell you , dear friends, that since that day I have not had to remind them once. I have delivered the lecture twice, once in the first week to Raphael who never met a boundary he automatically believed in, and the other just this evening, to Tre who really thinks he's funny, often at the expense of reason and wisdom.
And that's it, my one bit of parenting wisdom. If you have the same problem in your home, I invite you to use my technique. I guarantee there is not a boy on the face of the planet who will volunteer more than once to sit across from his mother and look at line drawings of naked people while she says such horrifying things as "vulva." So if you need this approach, feel free.
I'll even loan you my book.