When I started having children, I wanted to have girls. All girls. I knew in my heart I was a girl mom through and through. I was going to outfit my future daughters in sweet dresses with shiny shoes and pretty hair bows and they would grow up to be smart, independent, and beautiful women.
Never mind that I was a tomboy through and through and knew absolutely nothing about “girly” stuff.
I had no sense of style, no clue about fashion or hair or make up. I wore jeans and baggy sweatshirts and I liked myself that way, but I wanted girls and I was lucky enough to have one. She was a gorgeous tomboy through and through. After her, the boys tumbled into our lives: one after another, after another, after another.
I became a boy mom. Ready or not.
As each of my sons were born I had a purpose. I would raise them to be smart, strong, respectful boys. I believed it was up to me to teach them how to think for themselves. I would guide them to treat girls with respect and encourage them to choose their friends wisely and they would have a quiet confidence that only a mother’s love could instill. They would be gentlemen. I would make sure of it.
My boys would be hard workers and would play equally hard. They would focus on their schoolwork and get the best grades that their best effort would earn. They would try every sport and never quit anything. My young men could decide what they enjoyed and they didn’t have to do something they didn’t like more than once, but once they started something they had to finish.
They would be examples in our community. Every other mom would want her child to be friends with my sons. That is how ultimately GOOD I was going to raise my boys to be. It was a good goal and one I still have, but it has shifted some. I am no longer focused on raising my boys. I’ve looked at them, at what I believe their future holds, and decided that my original idea of raising my boys is short sighted. My boys are only going to be my boys for a very short time. It is a tiny, fleeting moment of their lives that I live in the center of and I intend to soak up every second of it. I won’t take any of it for granted and I will do my very best to savor the joy and sweetness of their childhood, even as they run like hell straight on through, but I’m not raising my boys anymore.
I’m raising someone’s husband.
I’m raising the fathers of my grandchildren.
My daughter has grown and is on her way out into the world; I know how quickly these moments move away from us. I have what feels like less than a finger snap of time to teach each of my sons what really matters in life: how to make his wife feel safe when her world feels upside down, how to make her feel like she is the only person in the entire world because she is the most important person in his world, to understand that it is his privilege and honor to partner with her in life rather than rule over her. I want each of my sons to understand how to love and cherish his wife above all others and second only to God.
I will have the blink of an eye to teach these young men how to be a father to their own children. How to love and discipline in patience and kindness. How to both succeed and fail as a parent because fail they will. I have to prepare them to know when and how to say “I’m sorry” to their children when they screw it up, this parenting gig because they will make mistakes.
My goal as a mom is different now than it was when my children were born. My sons have not been the perfect image of gentlemanly excellence that I had imagined. They spend too much time on video games, they get into fights with each other on a regular basis, and one of them spends a great deal of time trying to jump his bike off of things like the steps of the police department and roof of the middle school. They get into trouble, they get scraped up and bruised, and they get dirty. All of their rooms smell… weird. Bad. I try not to go in there.
They also do all of the other things I had hoped and prayed for. All of the GOOD things.
Essentially, they are normal.
As I watch them grow into the men I know they are yearning to become, as I see the set in their shoulders mature, it is easy to imagine their babies riding up there one day. I can picture them standing side by side with a wife, a partner in life, and knowing how to honor her.
They are still boys and they still need the guidance from their father and me, even as they fight against it, but every day I see the men they will be shining in their eyes and I am happy to have changed my course as a mom. Raising boys isn’t what I thought it would be. Oh, we’ve had our share of dead animals, bugs, dirt, and dump trucks, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the weight of the responsibility of preparing them to be the provider, the head of the household, the life partner, and each a man of God.
I’m in now. Ready or not.
Originally published in the book "The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Life With Boys."