Editor's note: This column was originally scheduled to run on Sunday, May 11.
Kevin Leman is one funny and wise man. He is the author of more than 40 books on topics such as parenting, marriage, marital sex and perhaps his favorite topic — the significance and effect birth order has on one's development.
In honor of Mother's Day, I received permission to use an excerpt from his book, "What a Difference a Mom Makes: The Indelible Imprint a Mom Leaves on Her Son's Life," published by Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Fathers hold a crucial role in parenting a boy, but Leman states "no one has a more powerful impact on them (boys) than mom." Certainly, fathers are necessary for the healthy development of a child, but I find it difficult to argue with a man who has written more books in his lifetime than I may have read in mine.
Boys will be boys
Boys will keep you on your toes. I'm a prime example. When I was a boy, my mom hated to do my laundry. Who can blame her? She once reached into my pants pocket and got bit! After hearing a bloodcurdling scream of "Keeeviiin!" I came running and fished out the critters from my pocket. I couldn't understand what the big deal was. After all, I'd gone fishing that day and had just forgotten to remove the crayfish, cricket, grasshopper and two salamanders from my jeans.
There's no doubt that boys are not girls. Boys do their nails with their teeth — no expensive manicures needed. Most don't think twice about wearing the same T-shirt they wore yesterday . . . and the day before that . . . even if it does have a few dirt stains or smell a little rank.
Boys spit and burp. They make all sorts of other noises too, like bbbppssittt and vrrooom! when their toy planes or cars take off at top speed. They like to crash things and knock their sister's blocks down. Such acts are a part of their day. They're rarely quiet, but when they are, you better come running to check things out, because most likely they're up to something. They whistle and tease girls when they like them. They might even push girls or try to wrestle them. (Most girls simply aren't appreciative of such actions. I ought to know, since I tried a few of those moves in my own growing-up years.)
What makes boys so different from girls — other than the obvious? Researchers in the journal Cerebral Cortex reported a fascinating difference between men and women in regard to the part of the brain that controls visual-spatial abilities and concepts of mental space — skills necessary for tasks such as mathematics and architecture. That area of the brain is about 6 percent larger in men than in women. But does that mean men are smarter? Not necessarily. Men's brains may be larger, but women's contain more brain cells.
Also, male and female brains work differently. When men and women perform identical tasks, different areas of their brains light up in response. In addition, females use both hemispheres, while male brain activity is restricted to one side. Perhaps that's why you sometimes feel you and your son are on opposite sides of the planet—because you truly are. You're able to bounce from brain hemisphere to brain hemisphere, but he's solidly entrenched in one and can see only that side of the equation without your help.
Another good reason God almighty created both men and women. We need each other in many ways! Men tend to focus on the present and the future, and they like to present possibilities whether they're realistic or not. They are often fast moving and risk takers. Contrast that with women, who tend to focus on the present and the past due to their relational abilities, and since they use both sides of their brain, they tend to think more realistically and in detail about tasks that need to be done. As a result, they are usually more cautious and less risk taking. Put the two together, and it's easy to see why you and your son will sometimes disagree or even clash.
But the more you know about that male critter in your house, the better off you'll be.
"What a Difference a Mom Makes" is all about you. It's about your son. It's about the relationship the two of you have right now — and the relationship you can have. It's about understanding the male your boy is and helping to craft him into the man you want him to be when he leaves your nest to fly on his own. It's about understanding yourself and why you respond to your son the way you do. And it's about not only weathering the changes in your relationship as your son grows up, but enjoying the fun along the way as well.
The old adage is true: boys will always be boys. But honestly, would you want your boy to be any different? Just don't forget the secret: how much you matter in your boy's world.
The differences between men and women
I'm so grateful to Leman and the folks at Baker Publishing for allowing me to use this excerpt from "What a Difference a Mom Makes." And while I certainly don't make a commission on sales of this or any other book I might endorse, I truly believe this is a resource that can be of great benefit to many. Even if you are not raising a boy, this book can give keen insights into the basic differences between men and women. With that increased awareness many marital spats can be explained and avoided.
Just in closing, I want to mention another book which helps women to better understand men. It's called "Wild at Heart" by John Eldridge. This book captures the true essence of masculinity, which when rightly lived out, is a powerful influence for family and societal good.
So happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there in reader land. And a wise word to you husbands — please don't wait for one special day each year to help your children express their appreciation to their mom or for you to do the same.Ron Price is the co-founder and executive director of the Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to strengthening and equipping marriages and families in the Four Corners area. He can be reached at 505-327-7870.