Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dogs’ Tails – by Charlotte Canelli

Charlotte Canelli is the Library Director at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood.

Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails,
That’s what little boys are made of.
Popular nursery rhyme

If anyone had looked into a crystal ball and told me that I would be raising a teenage boy in my sixth decade I would have certainly laughed.  I’d have surely protested and said “Oh, no, no!  I’ve already raised my family of girls, thank you very much.”

Mothering my daughters in the 80s and 90s was an absolute delight.  Oh, our lives were fraught with ballet carpools, a zillion sleepovers, bad hair days and wardrobe meltdowns.  However, if you ask me, it was all a delicious piece of cake.

Please understand. It wasn’t that I didn’t WANT sons.  I just didn’t give birth to any.

And so, the story goes, I met my second husband, a widower raising his then eight-year old grandson in 2006.  And that is how five years ago I embraced this little boy as my own and promised him my love forever.

He was sweet and sometimes kind and he was hurting from the death of two very important women in his life within two years – both his mother and his grandmother.  He had an impish but genuine smile and an adorable sense of humor and he stole my heart.  He had me, quite simply, at hello.

And so, the next year he turned nine and then he turned ten and I managed to like some of his movies and he managed to make room for me on the family room couch and trust me with the remote. He turned eleven and then twelve and I learned to find books he liked to read and he learned to like my homemade macaroni and cheese, fresh-baked bread and quiche.

Then he turned thirteen.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I delight in watching his friends make disgusting noises especially when they laugh at all the wrong jokes.  After sleepovers I clean up their left-behind dishes and soft drink cans.  I wait for please and thank yous which might never come.

I patiently wait for him to remove the ear buds from his ears so that we can talk. I listen to the busy signal endlessly when I try to call home.  I stand in the hallway and smile when he practices his electric guitar.  Loud.

Both his grandfather, Gerry, and I train him every day.  We coax him to hold doors open for adults, to shake hands on greeting and we remind him to wash his hands, brush his teeth and change his underwear.

We are not always successful.  But we are on our way.  Most of all, we remember that our mission in life is to help raise a young, noisy and awkward boy into a compassionate, educated and gracious young man.

If you need help raising a boy, there are more than enough books out there.  For those of us with a sense of humor there is “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Raising Boys” by Laurie and Barron Helgoe.  The Helgoes were parents of teenage boys when they wrote the book.  In a positive tone they discuss the issues of discipline, puberty, bullies and girls.  The Everything Guides includes one on raising boys, “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Raising Boys: A Complete Handbook to Develop Confidence, Promote Self-Esteem and Improve Communication” by Cheryl Erwin.

Many of these books written about raising boys have a spiritual theme. Among them is serious reading with a light-hearted twist such as Rachel Balducci’s own experiences mothering five, count ‘em, five boys in “How Do You Tuck in a Superhero?: And Other Delightful Mysteries of Raising Boys.”  In “Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys”, Stephen James and David Thomas (and fathers of five boys) explain the five stages of boys, including the explorer, lover, wanderer, individual and warrior.

Well-known psychologist, James Dobson (founder of Focus on the Family) wrote one of his books focused on raising boys, “Bringing up Boys: Practical Advice and Encouragement for Those Shaping the Next Generation of Men.”

Michael Gurian is the founder of the Gurian Institute where his research and professional consulting has been focused on developmental characteristics of gender differences of childhood.  He positively focuses on those differences when raising either boys or girls.  Among his twenty-five books is a trilogy written between 2005 and 2010 including  “The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life”, “The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors and Educators Can Do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men” and “The Purpose of Boys: Helping Our Sons Find Meaning, Significance and Direction in Their Lives.”

In 1998 another clinical psychologist, William Pollack, wrote the bestseller “Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood” which gives parents practical advice on the emotional, psychological and physical needs of boys.  In 2000 he added “Real Boys’ Voices”.  In it, readers can hear boys “speak for themselves” and share their views on depression, girls, drug abuse, spirituality, school and parents among other things.  In 2001 Pollack and Kathleen Cushman included a workbook which helps “crack the boy code.”

Other books to check out are “Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different – and How to Help them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men” by Steve Biddulph and Paul Stanish, “Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys” by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, “It’s a Boy!: Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18” by Michael Thompson and Teresa Barker and “Boys Should Be Boys: Seven Secrets to Raising Healthy Sons” by Margaret J. Meeker.

Remember if our book is not available or if we don’t have a copy, you may request any book from any of the 42 Minuteman libraries online. Reference librarians can find the book at other libraries within Massachusetts or New England.  If you need help finding a book at the Morrill Memorial Library or within the Minuteman Library Network, please call the Reference or Information desks (781-769-0200) or visit the library in person.

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