I woke up one day in 2003 as the mother of three boys under the age of 5. No matter how many times I rewind the tape, I’m still not sure how it happened.
I soon found out that everything with boys is a competition. A walk to the car was a duel to the death over who could touch the door first. No prize was necessary; pride was in the victory and the ensuing gloating.
I decided that if I stood a chance of surviving the next 18 years or so, I was going to have to speak a language my boys understood.
As veteran youth coaches, both my husband and I were comfortable forming the most important team we would ever foster. Our house was the playing field and the philosophy was less about winning and more about contributing to the greater good of the group.
Much like sports, my kids had individual assets to add to the mix and each team member had a stake in the success of his teammates.
Having same sex children makes it very difficult not to draw comparisons, but we managed not to. Yes, there were times we wished for a smoother road for one of the boys if they were struggling, but never to the point of wanting them to be more like anyone but themselves.
And when we didn’t make comparisons, neither did the brothers. Weaknesses and differences were recognized and celebrated. For instance, instead of being viewed as the less athletic, aggressive brother my middle son was celebrated for his big heart and cheerleader qualities.
The older boys were required to help their brothers tackle new tasks and navigate the game of life. No one knows the playbook like a veteran player. My oldest taught the second one to sleep through the night and when he graduated to his own room, the middle one took over and worked with the youngest.
Additionally, they are required to attend each other’s extra-curricular activities whenever possible and show support. They all perform better knowing their siblings are there to cheer them on.
We also make sure each child gets frequent one-on-one time--a private training session if you will- with a parent. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, just a time to shift the focus from the team to the individual for a while.
The competitions are still fierce and plentiful. Basketball on the mini-hoop and who gets to ride shotgun are intense battles that we are careful not to squelch. This competition and the bickering is natural and healthy. However, the battles are fleeting and good-natured because each child is confident of their worth in the family dynamic and that self-assurance translates outside the house as well.
Our role as coaches is to come up with a game plan, assign the positions and make adjustments as necessary. The game is always changing and sometimes the best you can do is go back to the drawing board together committed to finding a new strategy.
My house is loud. And chaotic. And often reeks of sweat like the average locker room. But underneath all the rampant testosterone is a crew of three boys who adore each other.
I’d say that is winning.