Girls might be made of sugar and spice, but boys can be nice too

brothers
brothers Photo: Getty Images

"Be gentle, don't play too rough, let the little girl kick the ball too." As the mother of two small boys, these are phrases I use regularly when my kids are playing with mixed groups of children at friends' houses, play centres or the local park.

Don't get me wrong - I am all for gender-neutral parenting and don't believe the existence of a Y chromosome automatically means a child will be one of the the roughest, loudest and fastest in the playground. Nor do I believe that all girls are quiet and want to play with dolls and wear fairy dresses every day.

But I am also a realist who accepts that "boys will be boys" is a well-known phrase for a reason. From the moment they can crawl, many little guys display a level of activity comparable to that of the Energiser Bunny, and they don't always realise when their play becomes more rough than tumble. 

So I am doing my bit to make sure my boys grow up with an understanding of how to play nicely and be friends with girls. I will also teach them the importance of treating their female friends with kindness and respect. 

But lately I've realised that the opposite conversation doesn't seem to be on parental radars. Nobody ever talks about teaching girls how to treat boys nicely. It's almost as if because of their rambunctious nature, it is assumed little boys can look after themselves and don't suffer like girls do when their feelings are hurt.

That saddens me because, like any mum with a son knows, boys are rarely as bulletproof as they appear on the outside. So for the benefit of those who don't have little men in their lives, here is a list of ways in which our boys are more complex than they may seem.

Little boys are sensitive

My eldest son was once reduced to tears at a local play centre because two little girls refused to let him join in their game purely because he was a boy. He bounced back quickly enough and soon ran off to climb up the nearest slippery slide. But after watching a friend support her sobbing teenage son in the days after he was dumped by his first love, I realised the play centre heartbreak is just a glimpse into the future for me as the mum of boys.  

Little boys are funny

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Sure, for a while - a long while, in fact - little boys' humour seems to focus around poo and fart jokes. But give them a chance; they (mostly) grow out of that phase and go on to tell some awesome knock-knock jokes - not to mention the hilarious reasons they can come up with for a chicken crossing the road. 

Little boys are kind

I know females have a reputation for being the more nurturing and caring gender, but if my experience of being a mum to boys is anything to go by, I think I can look forward to being well taken care of in my old age. If I am ever feeling under the weather my five-year-old does his best to cheer me up, covering me with blankets and bringing me glasses of water as I lay on the couch. My toddler will do his best to help out too, asking "Mummy, ow?" before showering me with kisses. 

There are also the endless flowers the two of them like to pick from the garden give to me along with a cuddle. I don't have the heart to point out they are often presenting me with a bunch of weeds.

Little boys are thoughtful

Once, when my first son was about three years old, we were on our way to a birthday party for a little girl. Without prompting, my thoughtful little man declared we should buy the birthday girl "something sparkly for her hair, like clips or bows or something, because that's the stuff she likes, Mummy". Cue my melting heart.

Most of all, they are incredibly loving

My favourite thing in the world is the feeling of my boys' arms around my neck and kisses on my cheeks at the end of a day at work and school. Sure, they might almost knock me over with their enthusiasm as they run full pelt into my arms, but there is no doubting the love contained in those blissful cuddles.

So as a mum of boys, I will continue to guide them on the road to becoming gentlemen. I only hope that mums of the girls they encounter in life also teach their daughters that boys are not always as tough as they may seem on the surface.

After all kindness, like friendship, should be a two-way street.

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