Thursday, September 26, 2013

Things Boys Need From Their Moms




I have three children, all boys, and I am thrilled without regret, to be their mother.

I don't pretend I'm happy with boys, I am happy with boys. I would have been happy with all girls, too, or with a mix of girls and boys. I just wanted children, since little on. I have wanted to be a mother always.

My children are growing up, as children do, no matter how we try to press them down and keep them small by squishing them in tiny beds (like you don't...) they grow up. I've now entered my 18th year as a mother of all boys, and I've kept mental notes along the way. While driving this morning, the mental list was getting too long to keep track of, so I'm writing it down here. My blog, my open journal, my source of connection, and a bridge to others...

I'm grateful for this space here, and for those who read and share with me. Please take what you feel fits in your life from my list here, and add what you've found is your nugget of wisdom. Let's all help each other with this parenting gig, hmmm?


What I Believe Boys Need From Their Moms (and children in general)

 Teach your boys to respect women and how to treat women. Women on the average are physically smaller and shorter than men, but this is only the physical. Mentally, and person value wise, women are equal to men. It sounds ridiculous to have to teach this, but it's what we as mothers need to do. I turn off commercials that show women as less than capable or inferior or needy, because actions speak louder than words. I comment on magazine covers or ads that show women feeble and manipulative. I am now the second shortest person in my house, there are three taller than I am, and only the 5th grader has to look up to me when he speaks, but my voice in this house carries weight, because I have never backed down from issues or made myself appear as anything less than physicall and mentally able. Is this the first and longest and most run on paragraph in this post? Yes, it is, because this one is the most important of what boys need from their mothers.
 
Some boys will not want to talk as much as you do. Very possibly true. You may feel the need to ask and jump to the emotional right away, they may not. You know your child, his eyes will tell you if he needs some nudging to talk more. Otherwise, if they want to be left alone for awhile, try and oblige and give them that distance. Always with one eye to their hearts, open.

Say nice things to them. They may roll their eyes, but it still sounds like honey on toast. Drop them off at school with a "Knock 'em dead, handsome," and a "Whoa! Here's some sunglasses for those lethal blue eyes!" They'll think you're a cornball, but inside, they love to hear someone is that gaga over them.

Always always always and always, let them know how glad you are they were born. No matter what. Never say you can't wait till they're gone or they move out or leave for college. No matter what the day has been like, NEVER say that.

Tell them you love them, and like them. At least twice a day. Via phone, text, email, notes left on the kitchen table, it all counts.

Teach them how to graciously give, and receive, an apology, by modeling it yourself. 

You're the sentinel at the internet gate. Have your household screens password protected and be the administrator for downloads/uploads on their electronics. Censoring? You bet it is. What they fill their minds with, stays. While you're in control, plant the seed of a conscience. 

Monitor their time on screens with a timer. 

Remind them that they exist because the world demands their presence in it, please, take part in your world, children.

Be visible in their schools or extra curricular activities. They feel pretty proud when it's their mom reading in front of the classroom, or teaching Sunday school, or the one on Friday afternoons teaching JA, or the boy scout leader, or the forensics coach. Parents are needed in so many places in and out of school. Don't let the same ones always be doing the same work, you get on in there. Your boys will beam that it's you.

Find out who their teachers are, the people they eat lunch with, and what they have for homework. Ask them about one of these things, every day.

I'm writing this paragraph again, it's the most important one. Teach your boys to respect women and how to treat women. Women are, on the average, physically smaller and shorter, but this is only the physical. Mentally, and person value wise, women are equal to men. It sounds ridiculous to have to teach this, but it's what we as mothers have to do. I turn off commercials that show women as less than capable or inferior or needy, because actions speak louder than words. I comment on magazine covers or ads that show women feeble and manipulative. I am now the second shortest person in my house, there are three taller than I am, and only the 5th grader has to look up to me when he speaks, but my voice in this house carries weight, because I have never backed down from issues or made myself appear as anything less than physically and mentally able. Is this the first and longest and most run on paragraph in this post? Yes, it is, because this one is the most important of what boys need from their mothers.

Remind them to wear their seat belt. Every day, every time they leave. Say, "Please wear your seat belt. It's safer that way." Don't forget.

Ask them what they'd like more of, from you.

Talk to them about drugs, alcohol and sex, even if that's not your thing. Tell them what drugs do to a young person's brain and body, tell them what alcohol does to a young person's brain and body, and tell them what too early sex does to a young person's heart and soul. Also say, "Just because you're physically able to do something doesn't mean you should."

Teach them the difference between assertive and aggressive, by showing them how to ask for things they want. Model the behavior of cooperation seeking, rather than bullying and tell them that asking for something is the best way to get it. Reassure them in their attempts and encourage them to speak up for themselves. You can begin this with their interactions with teachers, and later on when talking for themselves at Dr. appointments. 

Congratulate them on their accomplishments, attempts, grades, projects, events, races, meets, competitions, papers, debates. Tell them you're proud, you see the work they did, and how impressed you are with their dedication and self direction. Never take the good in them for granted or as a given.

Let them know your expectations. Set the bar as one of value, perseverance, effort, and challenge. Share your stories of when you pushed beyond your comfort zone, and how you triumphed, or not. Let them know that it's in the push that we see the glory. And the glory, is in the effort.  

Have to say the obvious here -- let them know the tried and true of Do your best, Work your hardest, Honor your commitments.

Smile often, and tell them how much you enjoy being their mother. They don't need to know about the intricacies of your adulthood, just let them know being their mother is the highlight of your life here.

Don't think you don't matter. OH BOY, you matter. Attend any of their events when you can. When they see your face there, they have to stop themselves from bursting into a full grin. Even if you don't see it. That's what I tell myself, "Oh if he could smile that pearly smile right now, he so would."

 If they act like they don't need you, it's because they don't. Not always. Take your cue, assess the situation. Look into their eyes and read between the lines of their voices. They're biologically wired to seek independence and lead, but a well placed, kind, "Just let me know, I'm right here," is a reassuring encouragement for new endeavors.

Boys are the opposite sex of what their moms are. They're not our carbon copies, remember this when you have times when you can't understand them. Hormonally and biologically, they're not female. The hormones testosterone and estrogen have separate purposes.

Make your house an emotionally safe, accepting place. Promise them you will always listen, then never break that promise. Whatever they come to you with, zip your lip, and listen. If you want your children to come to you and speak freely and openly, they've got to trust you.

Make your house a physically safe place. Don't invite danger in. In all its forms.

Take a deep breath before reactions. Don't think parent/child, think human/person to person. This is especially important when they get older.

Squeeze in the little things they like, do it. Whatever it is. Sometimes that means getting up earlier, going to bed later, not finishing that book like you want to, but make the pumpkin bread that he loves in the fall. Fifty minutes of your time, but he smiles when he knows what he sees when he comes home from school.

Loving your boys physically, verbally, emotionally, will not make them mama's boys. It'll just make them feel secure that they matter in this world.

Teach them to value themselves and every bit of themselves. Let them hear you say over and over, "Don't give yourself away lightly."

Find a common hobby. Bike riding? Walks? Trips to the library? Reading books silently side by side? Looking through cookbooks? Seeing scifi movies together? Watching soccer plays of the week? Tennis at the playground or against the garage door? You can find something. Don't give up. 

Guide them into independent decision making. Ask them what they think and why. Tell them you trust what they'll do, and let them own that decision.

Teach them to not waste water, use leftover water to water plants, and turn off the shower while you soap up. Give them a conscience about what needs to be treated with wonder and respect.

Tell them they can call you anytime, from anywhere, if they find themselves in a place/condition that is not right. You'll come, no questions asked, you'll fly there faster than Superman. Stick to that promise.

"Accept your child for who he is, and watch him blossom." I've kept this in my heart, ever since my children were bitty toddlers and I read it in a parenting magazine. "Accept your child for who he is, and watch him blossom." 

I keep those words at the ready, every day, and it's the filter I speak through.

So much love to all you parents. xo

__________________________________________________

30 comments:

  1. I so needed to read this this week. Parenting is hard. Parenting teenagers is proving damn near impossible.

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  2. So many of these can easily be attributed to girls as well, children in general, as you say. Hell, some of these need to be done for husbands and wives and friends. But your boys will always be able to return to this place to see your words further ingrained into them. They will witness how much your words mean to those of use who love and read you.

    I know what I'd add: teach your boys to be able to do household chores. Not just to be able to "help out" when they potentially live with or marry someone, but to be able to take care of THEMSELVES.

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  3. I love your list, Alexandra. The theme that runs through this list, and all your posts, and your Facebook updates, and your tweets, is that you cherish your sons. You enjoy them. You like them as people. I think that is such a gift - to know that you are cherished by someone.

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  4. Love this. I need to work more on that "Take a deep breath before reacting" thing. SIGH.

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  5. This is a great GREAT list. There is so much I could gush about but I will just say: Yes. I love it.

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  6. Thanks for writing all of this out, Alexandra. I always look up to you as a veteran mom and as a fellow mom of boys. There were many good reminders in there for me, especially the final one. I criticize too much, following in my mother's footsteps. It was never my intention - in fact, I had wanted to do the opposite - but I in fact have done the opposite of the opposite...

    I also think that boys and men get a bad rap in our society. I want for our boys to not get stereotyped negatively, and to feel burdened by those stereotypes.

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  7. So beautiful (and luckily "letting your children see you cry happy or sad tears" is on my list) Finally...finally, after reading this, I am ready to believe I might not be doing such a bad job afterall!

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  8. Awesome tips and a touching post. I have two boys and I will need to remember this advice!

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  9. Taking notes. I've done some of these, but not yet all. As I get into this tricky tween stage, keep the advice coming, please!

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  10. this should be must reading for parents...def boys need to hear things from their mothers...and that will go a long way in how they will treat their spouses one day...

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  11. Did you know somehow that I needed to read this today? This week? This month? Thank you. xo

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  12. I really agree with the part about respecting women! (especially when it comes to watching movies, etc... that show women as less than capable or inferior or needy) It was always the "taking a deep breath before reacting" that I struggled with. Still do.

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  13. I just spent the last few minutes whoring this post out because it is fabulous. And if you don't send this one to blogher then I won't pretend that I'm eating this cupcake for you...I'll eat it for me.
    I mean business sister.

    Love this so much and I cannot agree with you more. These are such important life lessons. We are not just moms. We are more than just love and the boo boo fixers and the maker of the cupcakes (see above)...we are shaping a future. It all starts at home. Their life starts at home. We need to nurture it so they can grow into wonderful adults.

    You're amazing my friend. Know that. And submit this to Blogher please. I'm frothing at the mouth thinking of that cupcake...I could eat it in your honour.

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  14. My 12 year old is all of a sudden verging on 16. Wha' happened?? I wish I could fly you out here for a little mom-coaching because I feel myself flailing a bit, wondering how to navigate these adolescent waters in such a way that my boy feels valued, loved, safe, honored....I'm all verklempt. What a lovely piece of writing.

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  15. Love this. So true and something I will strive to remember as I raise my boys.

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  16. This was Boom! Pow! Spot-on!
    xoxo

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  17. ****Always always always and always, let them know how glad you are they were born****

    This must be shaded in deep, vivid YELLOW.

    I have 2 boys. I always always always tell them I LOVE love love them!

    Great Post. Xx

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  18. Aw, thank you so much everyone. Boys, near and dear to my heart. It comes down to this, asking your children what kind of people they want to be in this world. Thanks for your kindness. xo

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  19. Whoa! As a mother of 2 of each gender, I'm bookmarking this page. Thank you.

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  20. "Let them know your expectations. Set the bar as one of value, perseverance, effort, and challenge. Share your stories of when you pushed beyond your comfort zone, and how you triumphed, or not. Let them know that it's in the push that we see the glory. And the glory, is in the effort." We're working on this one right now with our boy.

    I absolutely love this list. A giant, resounding yes from me. I needed to see this today. Love you!

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  22. "Teach your boys to respect women and how to treat women", As the mother of three daughters I deeply appreciate this one. It's amazing to me what some boys are like these days. You're raising fine young men!

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  23. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, lessons, wisdom! My boys are 3 1/2 years, 23 months & 8 weeks old. So grateful to be their momma (loved your thoughts on being momma to all boys at the beginning of this post too!) Bookmarking this post to re-read as needed :)

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  24. Thank you, everyone... it means a lot, to have your encouragement. I am far from perfect, but I work hard at being conscientious in letting the kids know, they matter in this world. xo

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  25. Why am I just now seeing this?? It's excellent.

    Bookmarked it.

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  26. Great, great, great advice. I'm sharing this everywhere. Not only is it important to hear that we should treat our children with respect and love, we also need encouragement and examples for what that looks like on the ground. Thanks Alexandra.

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  27. What a wonderful list! Thank you!

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