To get our children ready to read, we need all parents to be reading to their children 10 minutes a day. It sounds simple, but a nursery manager I spoke to recently told me how many of her parents just don't realise what a difference this could make. For boys, there's compelling evidence that dads reading to them has an even stronger effect.
Little boy, you broke my heart today. We were at your very first classmate birthday party: a bouncy castle in the corner, cake and balloon plates ready on a table, preschooler shrieks echoing bat-like against the walls. You'd been talking about it for weeks. You fidgeted as we put on a shirt and jumper, and zipped ahead of me on your scooter as we walked down to the hall in the sunshine.
It worries me that boys are told that showing emotion is a weakness. And don't get me started on their notion of invincibility and willingness to jump off sheer cliff faces just for the hell of it. So, with all of this in mind, I've done a lot of thinking about how I can raise my boys to be good men.
People who are deeply hurting inside, lash out to their environment... Catcalling is one of those 'lashes' and until we see that the men who do it have a need for something essential that they have missed out on or are damaged in, be it love, care, trust or lonelyness, ... this disrespectful behavior will continue.
By remaining boys, we are able to pursue very selfish lives, full of ambition, competition and ego. This is promoted as an ideal, a role model or template for boys to follow. This fixed and inflexible view of masculine is nurtured by our culture, by the way we teach, by the media, by our drunken peers, by so many different means. However, it is not our nature.
It is a very sorry state we live in when a wish to help young people is instantly assumed to be malign. I absolutely know where it comes from, and have a huge amount of sympathy for it. But, I know I must support and encourage men to challenge the assumptions, they will provide positive male role models which buck the trend, and show all of us better ways are possible.
I recently heard a good story from someone about becoming a dad. After his child was delivered the man was handed the tiny baby, as the midwife did so she quickly checked the sex, and proudly said 'here's your big strong boy.' The father wondered if the midwife had delivered a girl whether she would have said 'here's your big strong girl.' Right from the first seconds of being born we are judged and compartmentalized.
I have to admit every now and again I turn into a crusty old git, who is very worldy-wise, been there, done it, seen it, got the T-shirt. My close friends would probably raise an eyebrow at such a statement and whisper in my ear, 'when are you not like that?' illustrating what good friends they are by doing so.
So we're students, yes we get it, we're both shamelessly poor, we're both not so great at the whole saving our loan for anything other than alcohol, and impulsive shopping trips, however boys; if you actually do ask a girl out on a date and clearly tell her you want to take her out, then surely this must mean a dinner, a cinema ticket or a few drinks are paid for in the date?
I love the collective nouns for groups of animals: a murder of crows, a charm of goldfinches, a bloat of hippopotamuses. At a recent Men and Boys conference I invented a new one - 'a confusion of men'. Right now, most boys and men are confused about what it is to be a man. I think that is a good thing.