Wednesday, May 8, 2013

How to be the mom of boys

 “I didn't answer, but, please—nothing is obvious with boys. For such simple creatures, they are quite baffling.”
― Rick Riordan

My house is a busy, Minecraft-obsessed haven for boys.  There are dirty socks hiding in the crevices of the leather sofa (it's leather because, well, I have BOYS) and there are various shapes and sizes of balls in each and every room of the house.  There are robots in closets and various strange trading cards tucked into books, drawers and bags.  We have nothing in pink and no frills on any surface or object.  As a matter of fact, most objects that "just sit around" have been removed for safety purposes.

Mother's Day is coming up.  As a single mom, I won't be receiving gifts or really any appreciation at all unless Thing 2 is forced to create cards or a handmade pottery bowl at school.  That's totally OK with me because I typically use the day to appreciate THEM and all of the chaos they've brought into my life. 

Raising boys is a tough job.  It's so important to me that I instill in them strong values and help them mold their characters into men who will contribute to society, be kind to their partners and, most important, love their mother with all their manly hearts.  I attempt (sometimes in vain) to shield them from images of violence on television and in video games and I work very hard to provide role models for them, not the least of whom are their very own father and grandfathers. 

I don't get the soul-searching conversations you might have with a girl-child.  During our dinner  conversations, I feel successful if no one has mentioned farting by the time dessert is on the table.  If I ask them about their days, I get a grunt or possibly an "it was good" comment.  No one comes to me pouring out their hearts about friendships or girls they're interested in but I know they HAVE started taking more regular showers and Thing 2 has actually been applying product to his hair so I figure that interest is on the horizon.

Bruises and scrapes are commonplace.  Thing 1 isn't terribly interested in sports but is fascinated with chasing his brother through the house with some sort of make-believe taser he picked up on an outing with his grandmother.  Nerf guns are a part of life and you could get tagged walking past a doorway at any given time.  Thing 2 is constantly moving, jumping, twisting, falling and twitching.  He hurls his body through space and time in ways that are unfathomable to even a former tomboy like myself.

Movies about relationships or, like Netflix recommends for me, a "strong female lead character" are considered the ultimate bore-fest.  Science fiction is the way to make friends in my house.  Or a mild action flick with plenty of blow-'em-up scenes.  Cartoons are always preferred over any teen-angst-drama.

As parents, our responsibility is enormous.  We have to teach them to be strong but gentle.  We have to guide them in developing an ability to communicate their feelings without appearing weak.  We must help them retain their natural spirit of adventure while instilling a sense of caution.  We need to raise them to be men who will someday be worthy to partner with the beautiful and amazing creatures our friends are raising in tandem.

So, is there an easy guide to get this done?  There should be.  I have few tips gleaned from my years of experience and from people who know boys best--MEN.

  1. Don't talk too much.  Boys stop hearing anything after the first five words so pick your sentences carefully.  "Gather ALL your socks NOW, please."  "Get in the car, please."  "Stop torturing your brother, please."  Note how "please" is INCLUDED but not the first word.  If you say "please" first, you are wasting valuable head space.
  2. The television MUST be off when addressing them.  Boys can't process two verbal signals at once.  They need to have only one input if you're going to have a chance to be heard.
  3. Some boys don't hug.  Some boys need space.  If that's the case, give it to them.  Do NOT force them to hug your crazy Aunt Matilda with all the cat hair coating her bosom.  Believe me when I say that hugs from boys who DON'T hug are like gold.  
  4. Boys need rules.  They need consistent rules that aren't ridiculously confining.  But they need a structure to follow.  Homework comes before computer time.  Cleaning your room comes after trampoline time (because, honestly, they NEED to get that energy out first!).  
  5. All boys are not the same.  
  6. All boys are not the same.  
  7. All boys are not the same. OK, I repeated that three times because I have to make very different adjustments for each of my boys.  They are similar just because they're boys and they come from the same genetic hodge-podge.  But they're very different because they're PEOPLE.  They each need to be parented very differently.  That's a hit-or-miss game that I play every single day.

My boys slay me.  They are funny, wild creatures who I stare at in amazement.  As an opposite-gender parent, I have an appreciation for the many things that make them completely different from me.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to nurture them into adulthood and I can only hope that one day they'll look back on their time with me and understand that I did the best I could to raise them into the fine men they will (hopefully) become.

Thing 1 and Thing 2, I am so very glad I get to be your mom.

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