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The Joy of Boys: What to Expect When You're Expecting a Prince

Posted: 23/07/2013 17:23

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It's official--it's a boy!

Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of England's most anticipated new citizen.

In the old days, this news would have brought a national sigh of relief, as smooth succession could be safely ensured for another generation (if you don't believe me, just ask Anne Boleyn). But since October 2011, when the 16 realms of the British Commonwealth, including the UK, Australia, and Canada, unanimously agreed to allow the firstborn of either sex to inherit royal titles, William and Kate's firstborn has been destined to wear a crown.

Still, while having a daughter would also have been cause for celebration, the royal parents have a lot to be excited about with their little boy.

Raising a boy has its own particular joys and challenges. Duchess Kate and Prince William have some experience looking after younger brothers James and Prince Harry, but being a parent is entirely new. Here are some of the things that new parents of sons have to look forward to.

You'll learn the difference between tractors, bulldozers, and backhoes. Studies show that boys as young as 18 months will choose toys like tractors over dolls. They often get really excited about learning everything about a category like heavy machinery or dinosaurs--and mum and dad get taken along for the ride. Whether from books, videos, or toys, you'll learn more than you ever thought possible about how excavators work and what stegosauruses eat.

You'll be terrified--because boys are fearless. Little girls as young as 11 months can recognize fear on others' faces. But because boys are a bit slower to process facial expressions until about age five, they don't hesitate to run into the street or touch a hot stove even when mum or dad looks scared. This can be dangerous, but it can also be a blessing- boys are game for going new places and trying new things, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Buying clothes will be much easier. While the paparazzi have been documenting Duchess Kate's every fashion move, her son will likely be spared the scrutiny. In case the royal parents decide they want to shop for children's clothes in person, they'll find that boys' sections are often smaller than girls', and the options are less expensive. Royal or commoner, boys are subject to less cultural pressures about how they look. It's hard to imagine Kate's son would show up with mud on his shoes and mismatched socks, but if he is, the magazines will chalk it up to boyish charm.

You'll see him roughhouse. My friends and clients who grew up with sisters are often shocked at their little boy's proclivity for physical play. With all the shoving and wrestling, it can be tough for parents- especially first-time parents like William and Kate- to step back and let boys be boys. As long as the play is consensual and the children aren't in danger, let them have at it. The occasional skinned knee or bruise is a small price to pay for the kind of joyful, exuberant play that boys gravitate toward. Horseplay is also a great way to learn how to attune to others' physical cues- something that will help the little prince handle himself with diplomacy and grace in the future.

You'll think he isn't listening. It may sound like a stereotype, but it's true-boys' hearing develops slower than girls'. In practice, this means that baby boys are a bit slower to learn from praise or warnings like "don't touch the stove, it's hot!" Instead, try physically moving them away from dangerous areas, and redirecting their energy somewhere else.

You'll worry about his speech. Along with their hearing, boys' verbal development matures more slowly than girls'. I often hear from parents who have older daughters and notice their sons still aren't speaking at an age when their daughters were chatting up a storm. Every child is different, but in general, boys reach verbal milestones a bit after their sisters.

In addition, boys tend to have more trouble with speaking later on. It's no surprise that royal speech impediments gave rise to The King's Speech rather than The Queen's Speech--boys are between three and four times as likely to have a stutter. Fortunately, he has poised, well-spoken parents, and if he runs into trouble, he'll have the Lionel Logues of today to help him get on track.

You'll be grateful when he's a teenager. The other day, I was talking with a friend who has twin teenagers. "My kids have inverse drama curves," she said. "When they were little, he always running around, knocking stuff over, getting into trouble. Now, he's low maintenance, and she thinks everything is the end of the world. It's like they hit puberty and a switch is flipped."

Boys aren't immune to "drama" or fast-changing social landscapes, but they don't suffer the kind of Mean Girls attacks and complications that follow teenage girls.

You'll love him more than you thought possible. No matter how much you (and the Queen of England) have waited, hoped, and planned, regardless of whether your baby is a boy or girl, your heart grows three sizes the day your child is born. The difference for Baby Cambridge is that an entire nation has been rooting for him since before he was conceived. Like all new parents, Kate and Will will probably want to think about, talk about, and play with their baby constantly. Fortunately, they have a whole world full of people who are ready to listen. Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge--this little prince has wonderful parents, and we can't wait to see how he grows up!

 

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