Over the last few years of being a boy mom, I’ve come to realize how much of a gift it has been. I’m most certainly no expert in parenting boys, but they’ve taught me quite a bit. Aside from the constant fart announcements, pee pee jokes, and urine to clean in the bathroom – they’re my world and I couldn’t live without them.
There are many stigmas that accompany the life of young men. Especially in the ever developing worldview of past offenses committed by them. Yet, as I parent our boys and even interact with other young men as a teacher and involved in ministry it dawned on me one day that “crap, I’ve been missing it.”
Let me explain… though I anxiously waited all three times hoping that the sonogram would show a baby girl, it’s because I know girls. I know feelings, crying (a whole lot), expressing yourself like…yes a girl. So when I had my first boy I didn’t really know what to do. I was determined to parent him well, but was parenting him strangely for lack of better words. How do you truly engage your son? Unfortunately my parenting started parenting based off of what I thought boys should become all the whole and telling my husband to suppress his own knowledge of parenting in the process.
I found myself telling him don’t cry when he really needed to or ordering him around simply because he needed to listen. The worst demanding he grow up and stop complaining cause that’s doable at 4/5 years old. After some tough conversations with Mike along with reading to better understand what it means to be a mother of boys for me, I realized the delicate gift I have of my part in molding and even maintaining those vulnerable pieces that are vital to my boys becoming men. I don’t get this right even with three boys in our home, but here are just 3 things I’m finding are so essential for boys to know, hear, and take hold of in their own journey:
- Your feelings are important and worth expressing.
This does not make boys soft, in fact it makes them strong. Demanding your son to not react, to stay calm, to appear together can kill their very spirit. One thing it took some time for us to adopt was you can cry, but you can’t whine. When I noticed it wasn’t our boys crying that bothered me, I realized it was whining. This had me snapping at their crying sent some bad signals. To the point where Kai wouldn’t cry in front of us many times. We’ve had to completely readjust and begin to validate all of their feelings, in the process helping them filter through the whining and the tantrums while not missing that expressing themselves is so so important.
- You are valuable, always.
Not what you say or how you act, but because of you. In my time of mentoring girls and sharing my story, I’m a huge advocate of making sure you know your value. Well guess what boys need to know the same thing, if not more. Way before they get into a relationship or feel the pride of hard work, they have to know their value. When Kai started school we noticed he clung to others’ verbal affirmations significantly. Insecurities start so early, especially when you don’t notice. Mike started simple mantras with the boys and encouraged consistent eye contact. Simply saying: reminding them of who they are has made an impact. It shows in their posture, how they say no to others, and yep even in their body language.
- You are responsible for your actions.
The type of man I hope my sons become will not happen or click when they are men. It’s happening NOW. We are shaping and developing throughout all of their years. We are constantly challenging the boys as to what is the wisest thing to do and say, as well as modeling we have to own what we do. Being responsible is hard. When I got my first speeding ticket last year (seriously!!) I really didn’t want to take responsibility. So I know it’s no different for our boys. Parenting boys is hinges so much on this.
More than ever we’ve encouraged them to own when they make a mistake, own when they have a success, own when they should apologize, and own when their part in forgiving. You may wonder how do you get a kid to own it. Well we model it. Appearing like “perfect” parents never helped create a perfect child. So we keep it honest and open with our boys. When we mess up, when we have an argument in front of them, we stop and fix it in front of them. When we hurt one of their feelings we apologize specifically to what we did. We daily show how owning your actions is important.
I could share a million things, because I don’t know if we champion them enough. In celebrating my sons, it doesn’t dim my feminist heart or take away from many of their masculine traits. I want my boys to be proud of who they become and strong not just in the physical sense. Most importantly confident in all of their quirkiness that is so different to my girlish self. So I want them to know their mama thinks the world of them! They need to hear these things and see them at home more than anywhere else.