Sarah Rieke » Living. Loving. Pressing on.

Boys Are Just Different (And I’m Learning That’s Ok)

At three years old I have a vivid memory of using the beige carpeted hallway of our small ranch style home like Hollywood Boulevard for Barbie and her sweetheart, Ken. They cruised so smooth in their pink Ferrari. Or sometimes to shake things up a bit, the red Porsche.

This day wasn’t too unlike the many days that had preceded it – me, dressing Barbie and Ken to the nines, jamming them into their two-seated sports car (that day it was the candy apple red Porsche), and cruising down the same sandy-colored hallway.

There was one big difference about that day though. My parents were in the process of selling our home by owner and, for some reason, the couple who planned to buy the house were there that day. And so was their son, probably similar in age to me although I really don’t remember.

So there I was, cruising with Barbie and Ken as I was accustomed to doing. When the little boy asked to play I moved aside to proudly display my favorite toys. And what he did next, I will never forget.

In one effortless motion, as if he had done this a thousand times before, this little guy ejected Barbie out of the front seat of her own car, threw her onto the floor, and used said car to run over her plastic body a few times. I stared with eyes round and mouth wide open.

This was not the appropriate way to play with Barbies.

Years later I look back at that memory and smile to myself. I didn’t grow up with brothers so it wasn’t until I had my own son that I realized how boys just do things differently.


Before he could even say many words, my son knew and could imitate train and car sounds effortlessly.

When Micah was a toddler and we would sit down to color, we would only be able to fill in a few lines before the crayons turned into swords or spaceships.

The other morning when he came downstairs to greet me for the day, he gave me a playful punch on the arm and said, “Hey mom, good to see ya!”

Boys are just different.

But I’m learning that’s ok.

As my wise friend Shannon says, different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

But sometimes I have trouble living that out.

No you can’t explore in the woods in our backyard with your camo rubber rainboots. What if you get lost?

No you can’t bring rocks into the house and store them on the kitchen table. Can’t you see the mess you are making?

No you can’t use that box cutter to open your amazon package. What if you hurt yourself?

Certainly there are real dangers in this world and I should not be foolish enough to think our family immune to those dangers. But my son also has an intrinsic spirit of adventure and a desire to be brave and flex his little man muscles. And I cannot let my fears of his differences squelch those things.

By God’s grace I’m learning to recognize what my son needs. I’m learning that sometimes when I react negatively I can visibly see the light leaving his eyes. I’m learning to say yes more than no and be excited when he comes in muddy and dirty because underneath all that mud and dirt is a little boy whose soul is coming alive.

So I’ll peek out the back door to make sure he’s ok and I will remind him gently to make sure he can always see the house. But I’ll try not to let my fears keep him from discovering the world and growing into the strong, ambitious man I know he will be.

Boys are different. And different is ok.

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