Nine years ago, I squinted at a black-and-white monitor as an ultrasound tech drew a little turtle with her mouse and asked, “Do you want to know what you’re having?”
I was having a boy. And 30 months after giving birth to him, I had another boy. I won’t lie. The second time I learned I was having a boy, I cried a little. I’d always pictured myself having a boy and a girl. But now that my kids are 6 and 9, I can’t imagine it any other way. Raising boys is the most fun I’ve ever had. It’s also incredibly challenging at times. Here are 10 lessons every mom of boys will learn.
1. Diaper changes are dangerous work
While I was pregnant, I scoffed at the idea of little devices to cover a boy during diaper changes. It took only two diaper changes for me to realize how necessary those little covers were. Let’s just say I had to wash curtains not once, but twice. It’s amazing the kind of projectile power infant boys have.
2. Boys are just as vulnerable as girls
I grew up around boys, but that didn’t teach me anything about being a boy. I learn about boyhood on the fly every single day. One of the best lessons my sons have taught me is that they’re just as vulnerable as I was as a child. They’re emotional and dramatic, too. Raising boys will teach you to rethink the stereotypes you associate with gender.
3. You can’t sit still all day
I’m perfectly happy curling up on the couch for an entire day, reading a book or binge-watching my favorite show. My boys go absolutely bananas if we don’t get up and move. They’ve taught me to take breaks to run around outside, jump around and make a whole lot of noise. When we play hard, it makes relaxation time even more satisfying.
4. Hugs and kisses fix everything
My boys are more interested in computer games than climbing trees, but they still manage to get hurt nearly every day. Whether we’re visiting the emergency room for some stitches or my little one stubs his toe in the driveway, I have the power to make it better. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing I can provide my kids comfort and a sense of safety simply by loving them.
5. Kids need to feel strong
When we’re at home, I often find myself in a “mama sandwich” between two cuddly kids competing for my affections. When we’re in public, it’s all about appearances. My kids are embarrassed by hand-holding and goodbye smooches. They want to appear independent and brave. That’s all right. I know I’ll get my cuddle time later. I’ve learned to respect their need to feel strong.
6. Feelings are really hard to talk about
“What are you thinking about?” I ask my kids frequently. They invariably shrug and say, “Nothing.” Getting boys to talk about their feelings can feel like trying to teach a cat to do tricks. Instead of asking questions over and over, I begin by opening with my own feelings. I try to act casual, and I bring feelings up when we’re doing something active, like walking or playing catch. When my kids don’t feel they’re being interrogated, they start to open up.
7. The clothes aren’t all that bad
One of my biggest regrets upon learning I was having a second boy was the fact that I wouldn’t be able to shop for little tutus and dresses. What I didn’t realize was that boy clothes are awfully cute, too. From little onesies with animal tails to bow ties and vests for older kids, boy clothes are adorable. I’ll save the tutu budget for my own outfits.
8. There’s no such thing as a typical boy
Forget everything you thought you knew about raising boys. Some boys are really into sports, but for every fiercely competitive boy there’s another who would rather quietly work on art. My two boys are close in age, but they couldn’t be more different. They’ve taught me to sit back and observe instead of projecting my own expectations on them.
9. Start teaching manners early
What qualities do you admire in men? How do you define a gentleman? Start teaching these qualities to boys early. Boys will grow into men, and it’s never too soon to teach and model respect and integrity. Sometimes I stress out about the responsibility of helping to shape a little person who will someday be an adult, but deep down I know it’s a huge privilege to teach a young man how to be a good man.
10. Your support means the world
There’s nothing I love more than watching my kids experience triumph. But there are plenty of times they experience discouragement and frustration. Recently, my 9-year-old’s soccer team lost. He trudged to his bed and dropped his filthy body onto the mattress to cry. Instead of scolding him for tracking dirt into his room, I rubbed his back and listened to his woes. I can’t make life easy for him, but I can be there to listen when he’s hurting.
What lessons have you learned from your son?