June 12, 2013
Here at TFG we focus on women, our gift of femininity, our responsibilities and privileges of womanhood, but where would we be without men? I’d like to take this opportunity as Father’s Day approaches to acknowledge the wonderfulness of men.

I’m not married, nor do I have brothers so it was a little daunting to move into my sister’s home a few years ago, with her husband and five boys. It was a large dose of testosterone to become accustomed to overnight. It certainly was eye-opening; I learned so much about men by observing the boys. The first thing I realised was that boys are boys right from birth – it isn’t something we impose on them. That lesson helped me understand the grown-up boys in my life.

Here’s something I wrote about my nephews (called the Peanuts) on my personal blog a few years ago:

I’ve learned a lot about men (also known as boys) from living with Nephews One through Five (also known as the Peanuts). Here are a few insights:

1. Boys are competitive. Everything, from putting on their shoes to eating meatballs is a contest to them. They will assess who has the fastest shoes, and who has the most meatballs, and they. Must. Win.

2. Boys need to be in constant motion. Whether putting on their shoes or eating meatballs, boys tend to flop or squirm or wiggle throughout the entire activity. The only time the Peanuts are still is when they are asleep; and then only because the grownups have finally had enough nonstop movement and we’ve flipped their off switch.

3. Boys have very little sense of personal space. When putting on their shoes or eating meatballs, boys will find the smallest possible area to do it in, and do it piled on top of each other. It appears, through observation, that two limbs must be touching at all times, or they just aren’t close enough. Number Three Nephew is an exception to this rule. He’s the one who will draw a boundary on the couch and tell you, “You can’t go over this line.” while the other four will happily all share one cushion.

4. Boys are loud. Regardless the task (it could be putting on their shoes or eating meatballs), boys like to make noise. Noise. Noise! Every activity is accompanied by a soundtrack of sound effects, music, or dialogue. They also tend to be very exuberant in their noise production, so things get very loud, and because of #5 (and perhaps #1 also) they tune out all the other noise around them – though they know it’s loud – and simply increase their own volume to ensure they are heard.

5. Boys listen selectively. Unless they think what you’re talking about has anything to do with them, to positive effect, they will not hear you tell them to stop eating those meatballs and put on their shoes. The most common response around here is, “What?”, closely followed by, “But I didn’t hear you!” I once quoted Two as saying, “You yelled just the right amount that time” or words to that effect. So true.

6. Boys have complete faith that Mama Nut knows everything, from where the shoes are, to did they like meatballs when they were five. This saves them from the dreary task of having to remember such things themselves. They also don’t know where the milk is, or if there is any more toilet paper in the house.

7. Boys like to be helpful when they’re feeling warm and fuzzy. They will gladly tidy up the shoes or help you make the meatballs because they appreciate being useful. They will be especially helpful if there is an element of competition involved, or if they will win something in return. A note for moms desperate for help with the laundry: boys prefer to feel benevolent rather than obligated, so be wary of issuing ultimatums.

8. Boys are incredibly territorial. They are loath to have anyone move their shoes or touch their meatballs. Their treasure may be just elastic bands and old batteries in the eyes of a girl (or mother... very different entities in a boy’s understanding) but the elastic or battery is his own... his precious, and therefore worthy of being prized and protected.

This certainly isn't a comprehensive picture of the nature of men, only what struck me strongly at the time. The boys have been an absolute delight, a real blessing in my life, teaching me about unconditional love and how truly wonderful men are.

My voyage of discovering and accepting my femininity has helped me accept and appreciate those qualities in men so different from us. From the superficial, like size, strength, and deeper voice to those qualities which can sometimes be maddening but really are endearing and complementary like how they can focus on one thing at a time, and seem to always believe they know how to fix a thing, or find a place without a map. I like how they take up their space without self-consciousness, legs splayed, arms resting on the back of the seat. I appreciate that they tend to not take things personally, and are able to be in the moment.

I love to see a man’s hands gentle on the head of a dog or holding a child. I like the straightforward approach of men. I like the contrast between a man’s strength, his confidence with his religious devotion and commitment to his family. I like that, given the chance, a man’s instinct is to protect and serve. I like that the little boy is never very far below the surface of the man.

John Eldridge provided good insight into men in his book Wild at heart. He reminds us that men are meant to be warriors, adventurers, risk takers. They want to conquer, whether it be new lands or the 'fair beauty' who has won their heart. The best thing we can do for our men as women, is to allow them to be men.

To all our men, happy Father’s Day. We thank you, and may God richly bless you.


  1. Tess, I have fours boys and two girls. However,I grew up with only sisters. Thus, these sons are new territory for me. I agree whole-heartedly with your observations. Being in the thick of things right now provides little time for such objectivity. Thus, your list was extremely helpful. I had vaguely recognized the obligation vs. benevolence but your articulation set it all straight in my mind. That said, here is an anecdote from breakfast: 5 yr.old: Mom, Hannah (older sister) is going to be a great mother one day. She made my breakfast, packed my lunch and told me what to do this morning. I helped by letting her do all those things for me." Oh dear.

  2. God bless you, Elena! It sounds like you have a lovely family. I really did learn so much living with my nephews (I no longer do, and miss them a lot) It helped to realize that men are men... like all of us they could use some refining but in essentials they are what they are, so I no longer tie myself in knots wishing they were otherwise. Phew!
    Thank you for sharing that moment with your son. Kids say the darndest things, don't they? I used to post the cute things my nephews said on my blog when I could remember - the days were so intense and busy I'm surprised I could remember anything at all by bedtime!

  3. Tess, number 7 is so spot-on that my jaw dropped when I read it. My two sons are incredibly cheerful about doing cores when it is presented as a game but so so SO (infuriatingly) opposed to helping me when it's presented as a demand. I am relieved to hear this is more universal than simply as applying to my own children.

  4. It helps, doesn't it Jenna, to know that certain qualities are hard-wired in them? (Them being boys/men) that way we can stop beating our heads against the wall and figure out how to get along with them and enjoy them, even.

    Vive la difference!



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