The boys in my world these days—not just the ones I raise, but the ones who spend time with my sons—are tender. They are ages three and four and five and nine and ten. They bring stuffed pigs to sleepovers and hold them close. They cry when they learn that their old dog may only have a few months left to live. When they find a fallen baby bird, they suggest we bury it.

The boys in my world still want company as they fall asleep at night. They want a warm body next to them, breathing in the dark.

The boys in my world these days are wild. They rip off their shirts and twirl them in circles before tossing them in the air and running through the yard. They will pee anywhere: off the front porch, in the grass, on the driveway. They also linger in a warm shower, and enjoy pajamas fresh from the dryer.

The boys in my world these days play well with the girls in their world, though they sometimes have trouble admitting this. Already the outside world has taught them to see each other as separate. But this doesn’t stop them from playing dead man on the trampoline, or climbing trees together, or riding skateboards down the driveway. They may pretend not to understand each other, but they do.

The boys in my world have barely any inkling about romantic love or sex, even though it seems our culture often treats them like they should. At the fair last week, one of the children’s rides featured a mural with ridiculously buxom women bursting out of their corsets. When I pointed this out to my nine-year-old, he looked at me quizzically and shrugged. He hadn’t noticed or cared.

The boys in my world are rough with each other. Sometimes they wrestle for fun. Sometimes they hug so hard it hurts. Sometimes, in passing, they punch each other to make a point. Sometimes they battle and scream, and as consequence I separate them. They don’t want to be apart.

The boys in my world are emotional. One doesn’t like to say goodbye in the morning when it’s time for school. Another still remembers friends who he only knew for half a year in kindergarten. He wonders where they are now, and if he’ll ever see him again.

The boys in my world don’t know how lucky they are. They are fed and sheltered and loved without interruption. Their realm of worry is limited to things like monsters and earthquakes and attack dogs, and also things like too much homework and who’s best friends with whom. I want them to understand their luck, to care about the world and the many many ways it’s broken, but when I try to explain its brokenness, they can barely comprehend. That a family would flee a war, that a child would be torn from his parents and sleep every night alone—these are things that sound more imaginary than monsters, more remote than earthquakes. They look at me as if I’m recounting the plot of a very terrible story.

The boys in my world are tender and need tenderness. They drink it like plants drink water.


  1. In a world where children are being separated from their guardians across borders, your post makes pertinent points, especially towards the closing paragraphs. It is so easy to disappear in the quicksand of the world but I guess we need to let our children be sensitive towards their sorroundings and then of course as guardians guide them and lead them towards the light. It’s better to have vulnerability than false machismo. We need to look at our children the moment they cross the threshold of thirteen years of age especially. Your writing was enlightening on so many counts.

  2. Very important for boys to know that being in tune with their emotions, their likes and dislikes is nothing to hide and the right people will be with them and lifes experiences will hone and develope their traits to perfections if guided correctly.

    • Don’t agree. As a mother and grandmother of boys, I can tell you that boys are the men they become thanks to their parents who are the first port of call and the strongest influence. And if they do a good enough job of it, it’s something that nothing can shake no matter what the world throws at them.
      Thanks for a marvellous post, Jennifer. I’ve absolutely teared up reading it.

  3. I love this, and I love the complete innocence of children. They may be ignorant and immature, but they are so pure and loving at their core before life hardens them. We can all learn a lot from kids 🙂
    Great post!

  4. Great piece of writing. I hope to give birth to boys some day and I hope o can raise them to be the best they can be, not perfect but just kind to others

  5. This is beautiful. My twin boys are younger than any of your boys. They are both different from each other. One is all adventure and danger. One is full of snuggles and curiosity. They are joy and heartbreak and they are tender.

  6. The world needs this and tender boys. Since when did boys need to be men so young? They are still young and innocent and need their moms. Does it make them weak to acknowledge this? Why make them grow up against their natural tendencies? Just because one is a man and one is a woman doesn’t mean they are any more or less capable of being tough or tender and this should be encouraged. Great post

  7. My 1 year old boy is so vulnerable, so loving, so engaged with the people around him. He loves so hard and is so sensitive. I love this so much about him. I believe this is how all children are born, until they are forced to face the trauma of our world. It is our job to protect their innocence. Beautiful.

  8. Fantastic. My boys are the same, and honestly, I am glad they don’t comprehend. I don’t look forward to the day they truly understand the world. I prefer the world they see now.

  9. This post so beautifully reminds the purest form of existence. As every boy AND girl has the right to feel and express both tenderness and toughness in this whole world.

  10. Beautifully said. They learn these expression of tenderness and loving nature through the avenues of the mature masculine and feminine that imparts upon them the lessons needed to round out the divine nature of childhood as a means to shape their manhood to come. Thank you for the article.

  11. I love this! As a soon to be mom to a baby boy, your post provided me with a great sense of calm as I enter this new, exciting— although oftentimes nerve-wrecking— journey.

  12. Great post! I don’t have children myself but I do know that parents have a strong influence what kind of people the children will become. Thank you for sharing this appreciation of human emotions no matter what gender we are

  13. “Their realm of worry is limited to things like monsters and earthquakes and attack dogs, and also things like too much homework and who’s best friends with whom.”

    Haha… really nice way of putting this. Loved your post!

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