As a boy mom of two who are 21 months apart, my momma heart has been awash with all kinds of gooey goodness over the years doing life alongside my sons.
The early years were full of wonder and mischief as they leveraged their proximity in age to team up and take full advantage of their vivid imaginations.
Like the day they made a Harry Potter magic potion from household cleaning products and remnants of mother nature and almost poisoned their little sister before an astute neighbor ran outside to stop the experiment.
Or the day they decided to fill up buckets of water and pour them all over the bathroom floor, trying to make a river to play in because the tub wasn’t big enough.
Gah. Such is the adventurous life with boys.
Each day with a son is an adventure.
Every day feels like a magical tale when they are young. Our soul never gets enough sticky finger moments or filthy-faced grins. Our windowsills never tire of holding what’s birthed from their pockets: heart-shaped rocks, wilted flowers, and battle sticks. Their wide-eyed amazement, curious spirit, and endless energy scoop us up and keep us whole.
We get lost in their gaze and dream about ways to keep them young and innocent—free from the harshness of the world we know will compete for their still-tender spirit.
And then things start to change a little bit.
Then the tween and teen years come and threaten to break our bond with moments of icy silence, mumbled responses, and curated distance.
But, as boy moms, we have a superpower to see right through the bravado and into the mushy underside of all the toughness they are projecting as they carve a place for themselves in the world. We know those little boys are still in there. The clairvoyance helps us wade through the pangs of deep sadness that come with the transition, however we’re best to allow ourselves the necessary grieving these growing pains demand.
It’s difficult to let go of the longing for the little boy who loved to curl up in our lap and the grade schooler who couldn’t wait to get home from school and yammer a mile a minute about his day. It’s a challenge to accept that the 11-yr old who felt we could do no wrong is now a teen who thinks we can do no right. The pain is real. But so is the need to hold on to hope because hope does not disappoint.
Our teen boys still love us the mostest.
They’re simply lost in a sea of hormonal onslaught and peer pressure, trying to survive and figure out the beat of their own drum and how they fit in with the band at large.
So, our best course of action is to lean in harder and love them deeper, remembering that the changes we are experiencing are not personal, just natural.
The truth is our precious little boy is still very much inside the young man marching into independence. If we look long enough, we’ll once again be captivated by the endearing nuances of their littleness constantly peeking through the veil of their grownupness.
Then we can stand in awe of who they are becoming while being deeply absorbed in who they’ve always been as they use their gifts and talents, find their way, and share their heart with others.
This is what we need to remember as our little boys are growing up.
The child who giggled non-stop, rolled around on the floor, hung on your leg, begged you to read one more book, played with you until dusk, and lit up an entire room with a smile simply because you entered their field of vision still exists. The lighthearted joy bomb who wanted your never-ending attention and chatted both your ears off is still very much inside their more grown-up body.
The child who had no idea embarrassment was an emotion or any concept that ‘being cool’ was a thing is just taking a pause. They simply need to find their place in the world. Right now they are learning to deal with big emotions, social complexities, and how to maneuver through internal changes and external pressures. Once they’ve found their own true north, they will find their way back to you.
And then our little boys turn into men.
As our sons leave the nest and we begin to do life apart, the hope we held onto burns bright because the profound bond between us begins to deepen and mature. The push and pull subsides and settles into an abiding connection steeped in penetrating love and all-encompassing knowing.
This type of knowing is something only a mother can understand. She feels it deep in her bones.
The book How to Raise a Boy is written by psychologist Michael Reichert. He draws on his decades of research to challenge age-old conventions about how boys become men and explains how the paradigms about boys needing to be stoic and “man like” can actually cause them to shut down, leading to anger, isolation, and disrespectful or even destructive behaviors. The key to changing the culture lies in how parents, educators, and mentors help boys develop socially and emotionally.
Are you in the thick of raising your tweens and teens? You may like this book by Whitney Fleming, the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens: Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love: Essays about Raising Teens in Today’s Complex, Chaotic World.
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