We have 3 little boys right in a row. I’m tempted to just stop right there and allow your imaginations to fill in the rest: all of the sounds, smells, catastrophes, and injuries that come with 3 little boys in a row.
It is hard for a mama to remain a step ahead of them to preempt what they’re going to think of next because they usually think of it first. I don’t think of using my head as a battering ram as something fun to do. Jumping from the highest point in the house seems, well, risky to me. I don’t have the same magnetic draw to sharp objects as they do. I think being clean and tidy is VERY nice. Bugs are cool to watch but touching them isn’t my first (or even fourth) instinct and I would NEVER dream of scooping up a cockroach and letting it crawl up my shoulder. I like to preserve my new things so they look new a dozen years later rather than finding out how much force they can withstand before crumbling. I prefer to think about eating yummy items while they like to gross themselves out by naming awful items they won’t eat (think poop). I find quiet a pleasant sound; to them, louder is better!
These three little guys are so different from our first son that I’m still getting over the shock and awe they’ve brought into our home. I catch myself saying, “but GH never did that!” I’m having to learn all new parenting tactics and strategies with these guys and have brand new callouses on my proverbial knees with their names on them. And with those tear-streaked prayers have come some fresh thoughts:
- Little boys need mamas. When I’m done counting the bruises on my own body at the end of a day wrestling with my strong toddlers, I wonder why God gave boys to mamas. My husband can carry two of them at once and throw them over his shoulder with one arm. They tackle him with all their might (which would topple me) and he is unfazed. It’s soooooooo easy to see they need him but do they really need me?? They do. There are times when I have to bellow at them but I’m trying to make that my last resort; instead, I’m seeking to be their contrast: calm, quiet, tender, clean. I’m not trying to make them feminine (I’m actually quite proud of their strength and fearlessness); I do see the necessity in bringing culture to the savage and showing the brute how to be a gentleman. Society expects danger and destruction from men; I believe moms can bring out the noble tenderness in their sons.
- Little boys need to know their mamas like them. Much of my day is spent in doing damage control. More than once a little man has asked, “you usset, Mama?” Or sensed trouble ahead and rushed to hug me with an “I love you, Mama.” While I’m all about these little men respecting us and living within the boundaries we have set, I want them to know that I think they are the coolest people alive. I must discern between blatant disobedience and mishaps that occur simply because they are inquisitive little boys. I’ve observed that nothing lights up their darling faces more than when they’re able to make me laugh till I cry. And there is a certain swag in their step when I speak with awe about the things they do that I certainly cannot- like pick up live roaches with my bare fingers or rescue geckos from drowning. At bedtime I make sure to say, “I love you and I like you”- not because they’re finally clean, sweet-smelling and still but because they are themselves and they are my little boys.
- Little boys need mamas to be their advocates. As I mentioned above, society doesn’t look too kindly upon men and therefore boys are often written off as troublemakers and future problems. Mamas can unintentionally speak the same message through sighs of exasperation and speaking about the low expectations they have for their sons. I speak from experience; at times it is very challenging to find something to praise at the end of a long day of messes, fighting, and repeated instructions. But praying instead of pulling out my hair is helping me break the code for mothering these little boys. I see now that they need me to advocate for them- even to themselves. I need to speak to them about the good they can do and the great men I see them becoming. And I need to build them up when we are in the company of others.
Practically speaking, how is this building up accomplished? Time with them: playing, teaching, snuggling, talking. It’s in doing these things that I see deeper into the essence of who they are and what makes their hearts beat boldly. And one of our favorite things to do as mama and sons is to recount memories of them as babies. It reminds all of us of those precious moments we have shared together from the very beginning. As I persevere through the difficulties of mothering boys, I see the privilege of and adventure that comes with raising men. I have always liked the thought of being a mama bear and how I am ever ready to take on anyone and anything that threatens my young ones; now I see that I need the resilience and strength of a mama bear to handle all that these young boys bring into my day. And there’s so much good that comes with them: the flowers, the fervor, the crazy stories and that priceless loyalty that sons hold for their mama.
Just a handful of nights ago, I slipped into their room and gazed upon their sleeping faces. Unexpectedly I got glimpses of those faces at 15, then 40, then 80 years old. Tears filled my eyes at the thought that one day they won’t be little boys anymore and how I raise them now will have a strong influence on who they will be then.