I still fiercely defend those boys who ‘will be boys’

by Denise Dykstra

I pulled the suburban into the park and giggled a little as the boys shot out of it.  It was on a whim that we were out all together and they asked if they could stop at the park.

When they were younger we had spent many an afternoon or evening here watching them play, catching them as they jumped from the oh so tall walkway to the slide. We were driving by and they begged me to stop.  The boys, my four and two extra I had in tow, joked and shoved each other as they ran for the merry-go round and began to spin it at dizzying speeds.

I laughed as I took another bite of the ice cream I had and as I watched them I thought I would have been puking my guts out already on that merry go round.

But then I noticed something else.

Moms were calling their kids closer to them.  They cast wary glances at my big boys and gathered up their young children, shielding them from the boisterous boys on the merry go round.

I was shocked.  And my heart broke.

I wanted to assure all those moms that my boys were just having fun and would just be here a bit on this merry go round.  There was no cursing, no lewdness, just some boys reliving a favorite childhood moment they all shared together.

The bigger my boys got, the more I noticed this.  A group of boys seems to be instantly not trusted.  And while I know my “boys” are not perfect and sometimes do stupid things, like every single one of us, they are still boys growing up into men.

Recently, I took one of my sons fishing.  While I don’t like fishing or fish or really anything about fish at all, I do enjoy the time with my boys.  I set myself up with some knitting and listen to them joke and watch them beam with the big fish they pull out of the water.  I take all the pics and squeal as they expect me to when they pretend they will shove the fish in my face.

It was quiet and then a loud truck rumbled in.  The tires were for show and grippy heavy tread.  The back window displayed stickers I have been well acquainted with over the past years by the boys’ back windows of theirs and friends trucks.  The boy hopped out of the truck and old country was pumping through his speakers.  He carefully tried to get the boat backed into the boat launch.

I am not a boater, boat person, whatever you call it, but I have spent enough time near a boat launch to know a few things.  “Want me to hold the rope for you?” I asked the boy who was more man than boy.

He was startled.  “Uh, no, I got it,” he mumbled with his head down.

He finally got the boat in and the truck parked and came back to look the boat over.  “It’s a pretty boat,” I told him.  I inwardly groaned when I said that to him, boys don’t call boats pretty and sheesh, he didn’t need to think he was dealing with some looney woman on his fishing night.

“Thanks,” he said a bit surprised and gave me a quick side glance.

He kept watching the boat, holding the rope.  “I really will hold the rope for you if you want to get in,” I offered, “I don’t know much about boats or anything but I know a little from listening to my boys,” I smiled at him, setting down my old lady knitting needles.

“Ah, thanks, but I am just seeing if it has any leaks.”  He then proceeded to tell me how he had traded for this boat and needed to make sure that he really had made a good trade.  “It seems good,” he grinned finally.  He looked up at the truck and his girlfriend came down toward the lake as she was looking at her phone.  “I think we can fish!” he said.

They got themselves situated in the boat, never needing my help, and he gave me a wave as he drove away in the boat.  His eyes were twinkling bright, he was a boy who drove his truck to the lake to launch his boat with his girl with him.  He was having a pretty good night.

“I wasn’t weird, was I?” I asked my son who had come back from fishing the shore a bit away from the launch.  I knew he was keeping an eye on all the things and had easily heard the conversation.

“You were just being mom and that isn’t weird,” he shrugged, “I mean, you are kind of a weird old mom with knitting needles and all but nah, you were fine.”

I thought of the transformation of the boy as I talked to him that night.  I thought back to the day at the park.  I thought of my other boy mom friends who languish over how people fear our boys who are loud and big and strong and help us and watch out for us and defend their little brothers as well as pummel them to the ground.

In this house, I have fed a lot of boys a lot of meals.  I have asked them to give me a hand and they have quick as a lick moved furniture around for me or helped diagnose a mechanic problem.  The boys check in on each other and talk for hours in my driveway about life.  And they peel out of my driveway and away from the house every single time.  They spend hours working on pick up trucks and rev their engines every time they drive by our house.

If you want to find a bad group of boys, you are going to find it.  But these boys are out in the real world working real jobs and taking real pride in their hard work, they are eating all my groceries but they are giving me hugs when they have signed up to serve our country or leave for college again, they are dropping a cuss word and seeing me around the corner and shouting out an apology, they are are wrestling in my house and then spending a night fixing my favorite chair they broke just by plopping their big self into it.

I challenge you to look for the good in a bunch of boys.  If they are jerks, well, walk away like you would any other jerk.  But I think you’ll find more good in our young generation then you will find bad. It’s time to celebrate the group that is our next generation instead of making them feel they are to be feared and less than.

Tell me a story of a terrible kid you found and I can nod and say “I have seen them as well.”  I am just asking you to be on the lookout for the hard working ones.  You’ll find them everywhere once you start looking for them.

Now tell me about your great kid, grandkid, neighbor… they are out there and need to be acknowledged and celebrated.

AUTHOR’s NOTE:  I wrote this column two days before a young man went through our little community and broke into numerous vehicles – including ours.  That same day, another young man who is friends with one of our sons stopped over to check on my husband’s potatoes because he was curious how they were faring in the rain.  Same community.  The one who did the bad got all the attention, but there are many more of the good and no one is giving them the attention they rightly deserve by doing the daily little bits of good. 



  • Beautiful post Denise. I’ve had many similar experiences with my boys. I noticed the judgment even when they were little. I remember watching a bunch of moms gather up their little girls when my boys came running through the park. That’s when I decided I’d do everything I could to protect them from being striped of their wild. I’ve taken a lot of glares from strangers and even almost had to fight a park ranger guy once, but I was determined to not let society tame them.

  • Dear Denise, your article resonated deeply with me. My son was a serious skateboarder (he eventually was featured on the covers of national skateboard magazines) but as a teen, he was labeled a bad kid by most people who interacted with him, including his grandparents and the school teachers and officials who basically hounded him out of school at the age of 16. He was always a kind and compassionate boy and now, as an adult, often teaches me better ways to live. He became a vegetarian a decade ago over his concerns for the treatment of animals is one example of the kind of person he is today. I think this kind of labeling and reaction is even more of a problem for African American boys. It makes me sad when I smile at a young black man and he won’t even meet my eyes. It happens all the time. I hope your article makes some people think more kindly about the young men they encounter.

Leave a Comment