“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had, and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed”—Linda Wooten
I always wanted to be the mother of boys. I was a tomboy myself so the rough and tumble aspect of parenting active males didn’t faze me. However, as with most things we envision about marriage and parenting, the reality was not remotely how I pictured it.
Who could possibly anticipate the ying and yang of boys? It is a delicate dance of empowering and embracing. Of building up self-esteem and tearing down stereotypes. And most importantly, cultivating a tender heart amid all that raging testosterone.
Somehow, I have managed to thrive in that middle-space; the sweet spot of parenting where you reach all of those contradictions in equal measure. Achieving that balance, I believe, is my best asset.
I have always thought that the greatest gift we bestow upon our children is the example we set. Molding young people is a 24/7 proposition and oftentimes kids are unaware that they are being shaped. But they are always watching us and absorbing the way we live our lives..
Through example, patience and a whole lot of work I have raised three young men (now 18, 16 and 14) who are as sweet as they are strong. That’s not to say they are not total knuckleheads sometimes, but they are generally good people.
I have found that it is possible to coddle them while preparing them to be self-sufficient. I choose to make them breakfast every day but made sure they can do it themselves. And they have when they needed to. I pack lunches, pick up socks on occasion and edit school papers but I am teaching as I go along. So when they are on their own, they are prepared to pick up where I left off.
I am the first one to admit I am wrong, share appropriate anecdotes about failure and let them see my faults. In turn, my boys are willing to open up to me. Just knowing that I am insecure sometimes or have overcome a difficult situation makes it easier to have an honest dialogue. Conversely, I will be right there to tell them to shape up, shut up or suck it up when necessary.
Letting them work out their own squabbles and not interfering in social interactions often took Herculean effort but it laid the foundation for co-existing in the world at large. I was always ready with a suggestion or problem-solving strategy but let the boys decide if they acted on it. I did, however, foster strong familial relationships and give them the opportunity to join groups and sports teams as a means of expanding their social circle. I only took an active role when someone crossed a line or was allowing an unhealthy situation to continue.
The parenting middle space is fraught with doubt. When to step in? When to pull back? When to make the kids step up? I have discovered that relying on raw instinct, treating my kids the way I want to be treated and focusing on the end goal of raising productive men who are generous of spirit is the magic formula.
And what else are moms, after all, if not magic?