Thursday, December 9, 2010

Boys Will Be Boys

After our Barefoot event on boys, we received much feedback and personal stories of how Maggie and Andrew touched and challenged people to help their boys grow and live and navigate through today's culture. (You can read a summary of their talk in our Summer 2010 issue of Barefoot Magazine) We thought you'd like to hear Carolyn's story.


As a mother of four sons (James – fifteen; and thirteen year old identical triplets with ADHD - Luke, Nathan and Matthew) I was very keen to attend Barefoot’s event featuring Maggie Hamilton speaking on the topic of her latest book What’s Happening To Our Boys?.
Maggie told us about many of the challenges our boys (as do girls) have to cope with in today’s society which differ greatly from growing up in the mid sixties and seventies. Things like cyber-bullying, worries about body image, wearing the ‘right’ labels, early sexualisation encouraged by clever advertising and marketing, access to porn and violence via today’s technology, stunted creativity caused by staring at screens, and the list goes on.

This information scared me. Terrified me, in fact, hitting me with a giant wave of doubt as to whether I’m doing a good job of mothering my sons.

Most parents of boys struggle with similar issues when it comes to getting their kids off all screens and doing something else. I am no different and after hearing Maggie speak, I had to honestly ask myself whether I allow my boys to watch too much TV, let them play too many violent games on the PS and whether I should’ve gotten them outside me. The answer was a resounding Yes.

So last Sunday I decided to test Maggie’s theory and made a brave decision. Some may even say stupid. I banned all screens for the day. Yep, you read correctly.

‘But what are we going to do?’ they wailed.

Oh no, I thought. It’s true. They’ve lost their imagination.

‘Make your own fun,’ I said, shooing them outside into the sunshine.

Five minutes later, Nathan popped his head in the door with large shovel in hand and asked, ‘Can we dig?’

Bearing in mind the triplets have already dug out my clothesline in the past, I reluctantly agreed. With four boys, my husband and I gave up ideas of having a pretty garden long ago. At one stage we did manage to have a lawn of sorts, but after a muddy winter of boys playing kick-to-kick, that was the end of that idea. A truckload of tan bark later, the problem was fixed. But not for long, so the backyard still resembles a cross between a cow paddock and a tip.

Within half an hour Nathan and Matthew were knee-deep in dirt. Within another half an hour – waist deep, and so it continued until they could stand up completely and I could not see their heads.

Luke was busily fetching and carrying bricks, scraps of wood and anything else he could get his grubby little hands on to add to the ‘trench’. James was ‘site manager’ and overseeing proceeding, offering advice as they went. Teamwork at it’s finest! See, they can occupy themselves away from screens if they try! I thought smugly to myself.

The end result was a fantastic concealed trench, complete with roof, army-style netting, a ‘shooting’ hole and finished off perfectly with branches sawn off a poor tree used as camouflage.

Before you say anything, I completely understand that not everyone wants a massive hole dug in their backyard. Or a two-story fort – we have one of those built by the kids too! But, then again, I believe in allowing boys to be boys and get dirty and do what boys like doing. In our case, it’s digging, playing war and making guns.

I think it’s about getting the balance right (obviously I need more practice!)

The boys were thrilled with their day’s work.

Me? I simply congratulated them on their day’s work and asked, ‘Now, who’s first on the Playstation?’

By Carolyn Angelin

Author of ADHD to the Power of Three: A mother’s story of raising triplets.

Published by Sid Harta Publishers Pty Ltd, 2010


  1. That sounds lovely. Though you make me wonder what my 2yo will look like in a few years given I already have to check how dirty he is before he's allowed inside. Most of his digging is so far in the search for the best 'cooking' ingredient to mix with weeds, or to make himself a cup of coffee, which he does actually drink.

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