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Mothering boys is different

Posted: November 24, 2013 - 1:00am

I was recently asked to fly out to Denver to speak to a group of women whose children are all boys. The group, called The MoB (Moms of Boys) has the unique group requirements of members each a) having at least three sons and b) having no daughters. Now that we have our daughter, Isabel, I realize I can’t technically belong to the group, but just the same, I’m honored to speak to such kindred spirits.

What is it about life with boys that makes having a support group seem like such a good idea? Is life with lots of boys really that crazy?

The answer, of course, is a resounding yes.

Life with boys is crazy. It’s messy and wild and fun – and for a woman, absolutely foreign and sometimes terrifying. “Why would you do that,” is the question I ask my boys most often.

It’s certainly an exceptional challenge to be raising boys, to be in charge of tomorrow’s men. As a woman, this can be particularly daunting. I have to dig really deep sometimes to figure out where exactly my boys are coming from. It took me years to make peace with the fact that I couldn’t expect certain kinds of behavior from them, despite my good intentions and spectacular mothering skills. (If you’re a mom of boys, you get the joke.)

It’s not that you are raising savages, but that you are working with the God-given personality traits of your male children. That will mean different things for different boys, of course, but there are indisputable trends in behavior that are worth identifying and acknowledging.

So many of the ways of our boy children came into sharp focus once our daughter got older. I’m amazed at the difference between a 3-year-old girl and all our 3-year-old boys.

A few months ago, after Isabel’s first day of preschool, I decided she and I would visit the chapel next to her school. I explained to my daughter that we were stopping in for a minute to say a quick prayer and she followed my lead. We quietly entered the chapel, knelt for a few minutes in silence, and then headed back to our van.

That moment was really wonderful, because it showed me that there are some things with little boys you should just never try. Or if you try and fail, don’t be too hard on yourself.

Because that trip to the chapel was something I’d tried before when my boys were little. And it ended very badly indeed. The worst part is that I walked away feeling like a complete failure (this was before I learned that you shouldn’t let your child’s good or bad behavior feed your ego).

But I thought if I was somehow training my boys better they could handle entering a silent chapel and spend a few moments in prayer. Could you figure out how to be a little quieter, I had beseeched them, do you really have to breathe so loud?

It’s a tale as old as time, but these days I fear modern parents try to see all kids the same. It’s a disservice to everyone, the children and the parents. Of course, we need to have ideals and standards, we need to train our children and show them just how good they can do.

But we need to have a sense of humor about it, too. And moms – especially moms of boys – need to remember the unique and wonderful gift of being their boys’ mom.

Boys are different – thank goodness for that.

(Rachel Balducci is the author of How Do You Tuck in a Superhero and blogs at Testosterhome.net. She is married to Paul, and they have five lively boys and one sweet little girl.)

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