So, you’re having a boy—congratulations! Welcome to the wild and wonderful club of being a boy mom. Now, I’ll be the first to admit to a low-grade panic attack when I found out I was having a boy. I mean, I had no experience with being a boy, so how in the world was I supposed to know how to raise one?
I had a lot to learn. First, there were the basics, like how to change a boy’s diaper (prepare for spray and cover), how to potty train a boy (point it down), and how to cut a boy’s hair (provided he wants the one hairstyle I’ve learned from watching YouTube). Those lessons, though, only scratched the surface of my education as a boy mom. Here’s what else I’ve learned.
1. No matter how many times you fail, they’ll still love you.
I fail as a mom constantly. There are the big failures, like the time I wasn’t fast enough to keep my oldest from jumping in the pool before he could swim and he had to be fished out by the lifeguard. And the small ones, like forgetting Show & Share day at school. And then there are the days when I’ve simply exhausted my reserves of patience. I yell. I grab a little too roughly. I slam doors.
Yet even when I’m at my worst, I’m the one they want. Even if I’ve yelled or put them in time out, a few minutes later they’re back onto my lap, wanting a hug and a cuddle. Even if I’ve spent an entire day at my wit’s end with them, when it comes time to read bedtime stories and be tucked in, there’s no question which parent they want. It’s Mommy every time.
2. It’s a constant workout.
I was a quiet child who could spend hours reading and lost in my imagination. And while I’m sure there are boys who are just like I was, those are not the boys I birthed. I got the ones who are constantly running, jumping, and climbing. Rocks are for kicking, puddles for splashing, and trees for scaling.
When my oldest son asks me to play outside with him it basically means chasing each other in laps around the backyard until one of us collapses (usually me). I spend my days in sneakers and athleisure not because it’s trendy but because I’m actually working out whenever I’m in mom mode. I’m exhausted at the end of every day but, hey, at least I’m saving money on a gym membership.
3. I have more in common with my mother-in-law than I thought.
I’ve always teased my husband about how much his mother dotes on him. The phone calls, the gifts, the way she needs fifty-seven hugs from him whenever she visits—it’s all I can do not to roll my eyes. According to her, he’s a perfect human being who can do no wrong. And while my mother-in-law and I get along just fine, I’m sure deep down she thinks I’m not quite good enough for him, because who could possibly measure up to the standards she’s got for the apple of her eye?
And yet… I get it. Now that I have sons of my own, I firmly believe they are the cutest, kindest, smartest, most funny boys to ever grace our planet. And I absolutely plan on continuing to demand multiple daily hugs far into their adulthood.
4. Toxic masculinity is everywhere.
“He’s all boy, isn’t he?”
“He’s going to be such a ladies man.”
“He’ll be fine, boys are tough.”
These are just a few of the comments I’ve heard, both from family members and complete strangers. This puts me in the awkward position of looking them in the eye and saying, “We don’t say things like that in our family.”
Standing my ground like this means I’m often on the receiving end of eye rolls and or accused of being overly sensitive. This used to bother me, just like it used to take all my courage to confront people about their toxic comments, especially family members. These days I don’t give it a second thought because I know how important it is for stereotypes to be challenged—and for my sons to hear me doing it.
5. How we raise our boys is as important as how we raise our girls.
I used to feel a little sorry for my friends with girls. I’d think of all the traps lying in wait for their daughters, like eating disorders, sexual harassment, and glass ceilings. Boys were so much simpler, I told myself. All I had to worry about were skinned knees and the occasional playground bully. Then it occurred to me that, really, I had to worry about all the same things that concerned my girl mom friends—because it’s my responsibility to raise my sons not to perpetuate sexism and misogyny. It turns out it’s not just about protecting our girls; it’s about raising our boys so that no one needs protection from them.
There’s an old saying that you can’t miss what you never had. I have no doubt that if I had daughters I’d love being a girl mom, but that’s not my story. Instead, mine is one of Star Wars Legos underfoot and plastic dinosaurs in my bathtub. It’s Captain America underwear and fart jokes. And Band-Aids. So many Band-Aids. It’s loud, smelly, and wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.