Being a Boy's Mommy

I've been at this for 18 years now.   Being a boy's Mommy.

 You'd think I had it figured out.

I still feel like a neophyte. 

But it still feels great.

Today marks the 18th birthday of my son.  He gets to register to vote.......and for the Selective Service.  (Just giving notice to anyone who ever decides to reinstate the draft, you will have to deal with some upset Mamas.  Including me. Especially me.  Just warning.....)

I've cried over his socks that have long been indistinguishable from his Dad's.  I've grinned back the tears during his first prom pictures.  And I've pulled out the memories of Matchbox cars lined up by the basement stairs, shots made from half court, and frustrated tears over sibling squabbles.  Being a boy-mommy is a cherished gift.

As I looked ahead to this momentous occasion, I thought about how much our world focuses on girls.  On treating them right.  On giving them a "fair chance".  On how they deserve to be viewed. And treated. And I'm all for that.  My husband has done a herculean job of modeling for our girls how they should expect a fella to act towards them.  Date nights.  Tender touch.  Lots of time with them.  And especially how he treats their Mama.  He has set the bar high for the men in the lives of his girls.  I am so very grateful.

But what do we do for little boys?  Who's showing them what to expect from a girl?  Not just how to treat females but especially how they themselves should be treated!  Who's setting the standard for respect and tenderness and responding to his leadership?  Who's helping him figure out what God's calling is on his life? Who's gonna let him know he shouldn't settle for a girl characterized by mean-spirited sassiness or disrespectful putdowns disguised as humor? Who will instruct him that the old saying "you can't judge a book by its cover" doesn't apply to girls and their clothing (because that book didn't select its cover but, be assured, young women carefully choose their outfits!)?  Who's got his back? Who else is protecting and nurturing his heart, the wellspring of life?

As I pondered these things, I thought - it's me.  I'm the one.  His Dad is doing a pretty much perfect job to show him how to be a man, but I'm the one that can guide him in what kind of girl deserves him.  (Or comes close, anyway).  And, honestly, all these thoughts have reshaped some of my girl-guidance.  But that's another post.....

I am far from an expert and I am ever so hesitant to "give Mommy advice" especially about raising a man-child.  I'm more comfortable in girl-world.  But my son patiently teaches me a lot and I want to share some things I've learned that boys need........

1.  Boys need hugs and kisses and lots of loving touch.  Just as much as girls.  Oddly, the natural tendency is to give less of these to our little fellas.  That's not just my observation or personal inclination - research bears this out.  If you've got a little boy, work really hard to be sure you fill up his cup with lots of hugs and kisses and tickles and pats on the arm.

2.  Boys need responsibility.  This can begin with chores at a young age and evolve into taking care of his schoolwork and his car and his schedule.  It's extremely painful to watch but you need to let him fail so that he can learn how to recover successfully.  Don't always rescue him.  He needs to exercise this muscle of responsibility so that it will be fully functional by the time he is on his own.

3. Boys need to learn how to handle money.  Duh.  Don't we all.  But seriously, this is critical.  How many promising young men have we observed falling into failure because they lacked the skills to manage their finances.  I have an earlier post about kids and money - no need to repeat here.  Just know that boys need to learn the fundamentals of saving and giving and delayed gratification.  Move on to investing and such from there.  Boys need to learn how to handle money.

4.  Boys need to learn how to work.  Hard.  They need to know some basic household skills like how to scramble eggs and clean a bathroom but they really need to know how to take care of a lawn, change a tire, and fix a leaky faucet.  You can label me sexist if you want to but boys need to be equipped in the "man jobs".  And they also need to know how to work outside the home.  They will be motivated to do this if they don't have a steady stream of money coming in from the parents...

5.  Boys need respect.  Yes, they do.  This can be a difficult transition for mommies because, after all, we have wiped their snotty noses and washed their stinky socks and dried their little-boy tears forever.  But we must be intentional about respecting them.  And insisting that their sisters do the same!  Respect his needs and his preferences and the differences between guys and gals.  Give him respect personally ....and especially let him see you respect his Dad.

6.  Boys need a daily example of what a good wife is.  Serving the family cheerfully, diligence at home with a willing heart, joy in her role, respecting her husband, and all the while utilizing the talents and resources God has entrusted to her.  Many many times I have been guided in the right direction as a wife because I've thought "what would I want Chip's wife to do for him in this situation?"

7.  One more thought.  I learned this one the hard way.  Boys need closeness with their Mom.  Years ago, I got some bad advice.  Or maybe it was good advice that I misapplied.  Whichever it was, I learned a painful lesson.  I was told to be so careful not to smother my only boy (my perfect boy).  I was cautioned that I would handicap him as a man by hovering over him and trying to be so close.  So I backed off.  I made conscious choices to retreat from the tight relationship that we had when he was a little fella.  Back when he thought I was as perfect as I think he is.  It was painful, so very painful, for me but I thought I was doing the right thing for him.  It's not that I abandoned him or shut him out but I did try to make myself less important in his life. 
Boy was I wrong!!!!!!!!!  One day, choked with emotion, he bravely said "I wish we were close like we used to be."  I nearly drove off the road!  How wrong I had been!  I begged his forgiveness, told him about the poor advice I had followed, and asked how I could mend things.
Trust me, I want that, too.  More than he possibly could!  So I'll keep working on it forever.  With my boy and my girls!

Boys need to be close to their Moms.  They need our attention and our approval and our affection and our availability.  They need their Mom.  While it's true that our role shifts and morphs and adjusts to their growth, they will always need us.
I am so glad.  So very glad.

Happy birthday to my favorite boy.  I'll be your biggest fan forever!  And I'll continue to do my best to model and pray for the luckiest girl in the world that gets to arrange her life around yours and listen to your funny stories and be mesmerized by how your mind works and delight in fixing your favorite foods.
I am so glad I get to be a boy-mommy. 
Thank you, Lord.  Help me do it right.