Being the eldest daughter in a family of three girls, I knew nothing about boys. The majority of my cousins are girls too… I had NO real concept of men in their element.
When my daughter was born, I knew how to be her mom. I had the girl thing down. I was an incredible mom, ready to write the next best selling book on parenting as a first time parent.
Then my first son was born. From the start he challenged me in every way. He didn’t do the whole cry himself to sleep… no, he cried himself purple and puking, in a matter of minutes, if his tiny life wasn’t going his way.
I knew nothing about raising boys.
He didn’t use words until he was 2, but noises were a completely different story. He’d terrorize his sister, chasing her shrieking around the house, much to my horror & my husband’s amusement.
He managed to build a “garage” for his hot wheels in the arm of my sofa, completely pull apart a CD player, and open locked doors or fences before he could even reach the handles… when he was quite, trouble was brewing… destructive trouble.
He was climbing everything he could get his chubby hands on months before he could walk. We rushed him to the ER more than once for the things he ingested… or got stuck in places on his body they shouldn’t ever be… or for two layers of stitches in his lip after hurtling himself off his bike face first into a tree trying to do a trick… or for filleting his knuckle off while learning the finer points on using a pocket knife to carve with. He rarely backs away from a risk or a dare.
I was constantly on his case for fighting as he grew… whether in play or in anger. The boy didn’t know an opponent he couldn’t beat in his own mind. And more than once took on kids twice his size defending his sister in the neighborhood… not giving up even as he was taking a beating. More than once we were called down to the school’s principals office to find my son sitting there, fire in his eyes, chin defiant.
He is the child that is next to impossible to discipline. Nothing seems to phase him. Staying a step ahead of him is a full time job, and most nights in tougher seasons I’ve cried myself to sleep praying he wont end up in prison as an adult. More than once I was convinced that military school was the only option left for him… I wasn’t cutting it as him Mom.
My son has taken a lot of flack from other parents too. Especially parents raising only or mostly girls, or calmer boys. And I admit I was embarrassed and totally caved to the peer pressure of those parents – who had far better control over their children’s behaviors. My attempts to tame his masculinity all failed miserable.
A wise friend of mine, who is raising two boys and a girl of her own, pointed out that boys are wired to be warriors. Her boys are these awesome wild and rough-em-up little rascals who fought passionately, and fearlessly stood up for themselves and each other. The more we hung out together, the more I began to see my son, and my role as his mother, differently.
As I was learning to release my grip on my son’s testosterone driven personality, that I was failing so miserably to reign in anyway, I read about King David’s 3 chief mighty men.
I had chills reading the words describing each Mighty Man in 2 Samuel 23:8-12, and my son’s more challenging qualities came into focus…
One of them, the chief of the Three, “raised his spear against 800 men, whom he killed in one encounter.”
Next to that guy was the one who stood his ground in a battle when the entire rest of his army fled – and he beat the whole enemy army, fighting so stubbornly that his hand froze to his sword… his army returned to strip the dead bodies… !!!
The last of the three decided to defend a field full of lentils belonging to the Israelites even though, yet again, all the other guys fled, and he won against the enemy’s army.
These are the men who fought beside King David. These dudes are for real. And they stood by their King until the end… completely devoted.
I was rocked. Totally challenged in my thinking about boys in general, and especially my eldest son.
As I watch my now 13, 8 and 5 year old sons I see men of strength with these kinds of qualities being restrained at various stages, in gangly, lean, awkward kids.
I watch them growing up together, tackling life with vicious fervor and courage – and I see my challenging, fierce, tenacious 13 year old teaching his brothers how to stand up for themselves, protect each other and their sisters, and win against opponents twice their size. I see him bringing the man out in my husband, challenging his manhood to new levels of strength and relentlessness.
Now when other parents complain that my son is too rough, I acknowledge them with huge grace, because they just don’t get it. I don’t sweat their disapproval or desire that I reign him in a little more.
Because now I understand that I have the privilege of raising a fully fledged warrior desperately trying to unfold from a child’s body.
Now, I have a whole lot more patience with the less appealing… less quiet… less gentle… less tamed side of him. I no longer see these qualities as things I need to control for the comfort and ease of others, but rather as gifts that will one day, sooner than later, serve the same people who complain about them.
Now, instead of feeling embarrassed and caving into peer pressure of other parents, who aren’t raising my son, I say a little prayer that their kids are lucky enough to have a friend like my son – because my son has his friends’ backs through thick and thin, fearlessly, relentlessly, devotedly.
My son will still be standing his ground, ready to take on an army while more tame children run from the battle.
And that is something I celebrate in him, now.