Sometimes you just need the comfort of hearing some tips for moms from moms who have been through all this before, because, as they say, “Mother knows best.” Right?
It was one of those days. One of those weeks, really. The kind where everything is crazy at work, and at home, there are dirty socks on the kitchen floor, pee splatters on the toilet seat and wall, smelly feet on the couch, and lack of patience as my three sons repeatedly called “Mom! MOM! MOMMY!” all at once. I’m exhausted and I’m wondering — does this ever get easier? It’s one of those weeks when I sure could use some perspective and tips for moms . . . from other moms.
I decided to turn to the wisdom of moms with boys older than mine to see how they got through it all. I contacted some amazing moms who have made it through these young years with flying colors: [Bonnie, mother of two boys ages 26 and 22; Caroline, mother of three boys, ages 18, 16 and 12, and Jean, whose youngest of 5 sons is 46 years old). The tips for moms that I learned from them is priceless, so I’m sharing here with you:
It will be crazy. Embrace it. Don’t wish it away.
Childhood is a phase. The years of having young, rambunctious boys may be exhausting, but they will be full of laughs, too. And those years go by fast. All of a sudden, you’ll wake up and the boys will be men. So don’t wish away the childhood years. They are precious. And full of adventure. Jean remembers it making her absolutely crazy when the boys were so loud, sooo noisy, fooling around in the house. With five boys, I can’t even imagine the noise level! She remembers they used to fall down the stairs on purpose, and she’d sternly say “No horsing around in the house. Go outside.” They’d laugh and try their stunt again.
The innocence of childhood is fleeting. These moms caution us that rougher roads may lie ahead, that “the issues are so much bigger and harder as they grow up,” said Bonnie, while Jean talks about her sons having gone through relationship troubles and other hard times, and Caroline is in the thick of the “how to talk honestly about sex” era. Eeek. I guess I have those milestones to look forward to. For now, I’ll enjoy building with blocks and being chased in the yard by boys holding squirmy worms. Surely, I can handle that.
Boys will do things that don’t make sense to us. Don’t question it.
Go reread the falling-down-the-stairs sentence above. Enough said.
But in case you want more examples: wrestling, farting for fun, frequently having their hands down their pants . . . but these boys grow into men, who become responsible, kind, experienced human beings. They may surprise you, like when Caroline’s son recently ran and errand at a store and asked Mom first whether she needed anything there.
Boys will be boys . . . . but don’t over-stereotype. They are each individuals.
This one is so important! My own three boys are like fruit salad — each colorful and sweet in his own way, but so, so, sooo different from each other. In Caroline’s wise words: “Don’t try to fit them into the same mold. Every kid is different. Encourage them to explore any kind of interests, like letting their hair grow long or considering certain career options even if you think they’re inappropriate. Help them understand natural consequences (good and bad) because you are not always going to be around to make their choices for them.”
In Jean’s house of five boys, she got them into lots of different activities — tennis, swimming, football, break-dancing (!) . . . with the benefit of them being completely tired out at the end of the day!
Boys DO stay in contact with their moms. It’s an individual thing, not a gender thing. So don’t worry about it. Not too much, anyway.
I remember Brad walking in to me sobbing while nursing R when he was just two weeks old. “Why are you crying?” he asked me. And I said, “Because someday, R is going to get married and move far, far away from me, and I’m going to miss him.” “NOW? You’re crying about that NOW?” he asked. Yes. Indeed I was. Because that baby held my heart. My boys are my heart.
“The hardest thing for me in the last few years is finding my purpose,” says Bonnie. “It has always been to be “Mom,” but now that the boys are grown, they don’t need me in the same ways.” But that, of course, doesn’t mean they don’t need her at all.
I think Jean may have struck gold. Between her daughters-in-law, and her sons who call — even if just for a minute while en route to the airport for a business trip, she has a lot of contact and a lot of love being channeled her way. One son even sends her a card every week to tell her what he loves about her. This has been going on for over a year now. Yep. Read that one again and then grab a paper towel to clean up the mess your melted heart left on the floor.
She also notes, though, that she believes boys … well, men … don’t necessarily arrive home at the end of the day and think, “I’ll call Mom” as much as women do. Her boys lead very busy lives and have families of their own, so she is thankful for the calls she gets, even if they’re super-quick.
Male anatomy remains mysterious, despite its seemingly constant presence in conversation and activities.
Remember I said Jean’s youngest of 5 sons is now 46? She still found it top of mind to tell me she couldn’t stand that every single toilet seat was left up all the time. And Caroline dared to ask one son when he was 12 why boys are always “adjusting” themselves. The answer was clear: “It’s not comfortable when your thing sticks to your leg, Mom.” Who knew?
Find happiness, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
I think being a mom makes you stronger than you ever knew you could be. Whether it’s letting each son find his individual activities, or learning to let go, we are stronger for having shared our hearts with our sons. Hearing Jean talk about one son who doesn’t call as often as he used to — but she knows it is because he has found happiness — and that makes her truly happy . . . .wow, it was such pure pride and love coming through her story. Sure, she misses his phone calls. But at the same time, she doesn’t — because she knows he’s out there living a happy life, and that is what matters even more.
I think one way to make sure I can do as good a job as Jean has at letting go when needed is to take Bonnie’s advice: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s not worth it. Relish the moments of sanity and togetherness.” (with the implied — because there will be years of much less togetherness, so soak up every minute of it while you can.)
What kind of “small stuff” should we not get too stuck on? “Don’t make them wear a coat or hat or long pants even if there is snow on the ground,” says Caroline. “If they are cold, they will figure it out!” (obviously, when they’re babies/toddlers/little kids – please do the right thing to keep them warm!). “Let them make as many choices on their own as they can. Don’t worry too much if they are picky eaters – you really don’t want your dinner table to be the battle zone. Let them go to overnight camp for two weeks or the trip to Europe, or even live away from home for the summer (at age 16). Ultimately the goal is to raise fully functioning adults, so empower them as much as you can.” Gulp. Caroline has reached a much braver stage than I’m ready for, but her guidance is inspiring and makes sense!
And then there’s belly laughter. Remember when these boys were little, and a little tummy tickle could trigger a big belly laugh? Always remember that. And continue to find things to laugh over together.
Brotherly love is strong. Be thankful for that support network.
It makes me so crazy when my boys fight and argue and yell and scream over seemingly ant-sized problems. The moms I talked to feel the same, citing “when they fight” and “when they don’t get along” as the things they remember making them crazy when the boys were younger. But as Caroline puts it, brotherly love is strong, and it lets them go from “I hate you” to “Wanna play together?” within minutes. “Sometimes it’s best to not mess with their hierarchy,” she explains.
“My boys think the world of each other and look out for each other, and that gives me such pride as a mom,” says Bonnie. Knowing that they’re out there supporting each other and spreading kindness brings comfort, so keep up the good work trying to foster that brotherly love.
It’s hard these days, with the way families juggle work and family time while constantly having the pull of their cell phones or a gazillion other sources of distraction. But we have to be present. I know from Caroline’s social media posts that, while she is a very busy working mom, she loves to attend her kids’ sports practices and games, fundraising events, and anything else she can. And, having been a single mom for many years, she truly understands the value of time together to build a strong family and help shape her sons’ lives.
“The time you spend with them is so important,” Jean advises. “That’s what they’ll remember.”
Be proud. You’ve got this.
Does this raising boys gig get easier? Maybe yes, maybe no. But these three moms had a strong message for those of us with younger boys: We’ve got this.
“People used to ask me “HOW do you do it?” Jean said, as friends watched her with her five boys in tow. “As if I had some magic or something, or a secret,” she says. “I think you young moms today have it harder, honestly. There is so much in the world now to get the boys in trouble — phones and internet and social media. I think it was simpler when I was raising my boys.” Kudos to Jean for commending us on parenting in an era with added complexity from cyberspace. But I bet she had her share of challenges back in the day, too, and probably handled them so well that they are not even sticking out in memories now. “We always just had such a great time, ” she recalls, and then laughs and admits, “I guess if you had called me when I was in the middle of it all, I would have said, “Don’t talk to me today about it.”
She made it through the “don’t talk to me about it today” days, and we will, too.
You’ve got this, M.O.B.! Cheers to you.