I’m a Boymom (3 biological sons, and a co-parent to my foster son).
I am immersed in a chaotic boy-world, even our dog is a boy. This world of mine contains a lot of toilet humor. It’s messy and noisy. But it’s mine and in my testosterone-fuelled circus – I am the Queen.
I’ve often joked that my legacy is never going to be: I raised “assholes”. So I’m not easy on my guys. Don’t get me wrong – I love them hard and unconditionally. But, I’m a stickler for manners, kindness, and empathy. The boys are teens and preteens now and their “brother from another mother” is 25.
Our guys are extensions of me and their Dad. We have expectations. But we don’t have blind expectations. We understand the kids will stumble, fall, and disappoint as they navigate their way to adulthood and eventual independence. We also celebrate their individuality. Our only real hope is that when they venture out in the world – we’ve raised good humans.
My number one piece of boy parenting advice is: talk about EVERYTHING.
In our house – nothing is “off the table” and I literally mean NOTHING. Open dialogue is huge. We don’t sugarcoat or talk around things (Mommy has a potty mouth!), and because that’s our norm – it’s not too cringey. A good platform for chats is the dinner table. Eat dinner together. Ask questions. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll find out.
Encourage Girl Buddies
When the boys were little – I encouraged them to have “girlfriends,” not little crushes. But girl buddies. So we had sleepovers with girls, play dates with girls and the majority of birthday parties were coed. I wanted the boys to understand girls, and to learn how to be friends with the opposite sex. That methodology seems to have worked. Many of their first “besties” were girls. They’ve kept in touch with all their early childhood GB’s and are super relaxed around, and about “girls” in general.
Teach Manners and People Skills
This is huge! I’m always amazed by bad manners (old and young people). How hard is it to make eye contact, say please & thank you, and shake hands with conviction? — (pandemic aside). It’s really pretty damn easy but it takes years of constant reminding. Stay on top of it. Mine still mess up but generally, they have it down.
If kids are visiting my house – I expect them to greet me, and chat me up a little. The ones that do – come back repeatedly. The others, not so often. It’s crazy how many kids don’t have simple conversational skills or good ole fashioned manners. Never underestimate how far good manners can get you – instill them in your kids. Also, chivalry is becoming an underrated practice. Nothing wrong with being a gentleman.
It’s Okay to Cry, Yell or Be Frustrated (for awhile)
We all have our days. You know the ones. Where you spend the whole day battling an uphill shitstorm. Throw in some raging testosterone and you have a perfect shit-storm and possible tantrum. Often when adolescent boys cry – they don’t know why. It’s important they try to identify the root of the cause. Talking it out helps. When they understand what caused the meltdown they can strategize ways to prevent feeling overwhelmed. The ability to problem solve and find a solution or resolution is empowering and can often put them back on track. Knowing your problems have solutions is a good life skill to learn early.
Talk about Sex. Talk about it a lot. Where babies come from is the first step. Use anatomically correct language. Then talk about consent and make them repeat it back until they know that shit cold. Makeup scenarios and ask them how to respond. Don’t leave any gray areas. Address porn, adult content, sexism, STD’s. pregnancy, and pedophilia. Teach acceptance of sexuality and how people identify.
As they get older – naturalize it. After all, sex is the most natural thing in the world. I want my boys to be sexually evolved humans. So it’s never been a taboo topic. Plus, anyone unable to speak openly about sex shouldn’t probably be having it. Speak about how to protect themselves and their partners. Talk about relationships, love, intimacy, and what it means to be a good lover. I am not quite there with the younger boys but quite confident the biggest one has figured the latter out.
Nudity is so not a big deal. Children should be taught to love their bodies and not be shamed by them. Europeans figured this out ages ago. Unfortunately, North Americans have some more evolving to do.
My boys were “nude dudes” growing up in the Caribbean and generally clothing adverse. I was okay with that. Eventually, some boundaries had to be established. I mean let’s face it, little boys like to touch their junk – all the time. However, as they evolve into “bigger” boys – that’s not okay in public. A time and a private place. Their room is a good place to establish as a safe and private haven.
As they got bigger, they’ve naturally learned a bit of polite modesty. Discuss nudity and the internet – “no dick pic ever” is a good mantra to adopt and one we have in this house.
Dammit! Why can’t everyone just be kind? Every person needs to adopt kindness from an early age. When my kids are acting like brats or being shitty to each other. I throw in a gratitude challenge and make them list 3 things they’re grateful for. Almost always, it steers them back to a kinder space.
Some people are natural empaths and others have to work on it. I believe empathy is a huge part of being a good human. My boys are naturally a bit empathetic. But we still spend quite a bit of time talking about “passive bullying”, and how it’s just as bad as outright bullying, and how to empathize with others. My boys are fiercely protective of each other which I take as a huge win. But, I also expect that same protectiveness to extend to their peers, and amid their community. Though charity may begin at home it extends from there. Nobody should turn a blind eye to someone being bullied, or anyone in desperate need.
All kids need boundaries at all stages of their lives. Adults to do! Establish boundaries while they’re young and enforce them. This doesn’t mean you need to helicopter them, nor does it mean breaking their spirit. It means defining their safe spaces and giving them an outlet where they can grow and gain confidence. Let them earn and evolve their way into bigger boundaries. Eventually, when you “cut the umbilical cord”, and send them out in the world – they should be able to handle the curve balls that life will inevitably throw at them and “get” that the world doesn’t revolve around them.
Don’t Blow Sunshine Up Their Asses.
We all want to be supportive of our children. But a child who is good at everything is a rare exception. Push them to try new things, and to explore their passions. But don’t give them unnecessary false praise. Eventually, they will reach an age where they understand their strengths and weaknesses. But if you lie about their abilities and give them false notions – it will tarnish their trust in you. Child prodigies, geniuses, elite athletes, and future Picassos are a rarity. Your children will fail exams, and get cut from the team. They will lose games and tournaments and won’t get the lead role in the school play. They must learn that they aren’t perfect or flawless, and that’s okay. Inevitably, they will flourish in some areas and suck in others. Nobody excels at everything. They also have to learn to fall, so they can learn to pick themselves back up. Learning to rebound from failure is what builds real confidence and character.
Teach Them Perseverance
Very rarely do things fall in our laps – even with immense effort, we sometimes never get there. But we get where we’re meant to be. If you want something bad enough – with a bit of luck, and lots of perseverance – you often get there. But sometimes you don’t – there are no guarantees. But time spent learning or training is never wasted. It’s all part of the process. My foster son is a talented tennis player. A true grinder. He reached a high level of athletic success at an early age. But life threw him a curveball and took him out with an injury. His athletic aspirations were dashed. But the work ethic he learned from his intensive training opened a multitude of doors for him. Where one door closes, another will open. Teach them that giving up will never set them apart and challenges make them grow.
Love them unconditionally and they will follow your lead. Most boys are lovers by nature and with some nurturing they can actually be quite sweet too. Sure they’re super noisy, sometimes gross, and always hungry. But that’s also part of their charm. I adore my boy tribe. People often ask me if I wanted a girl. The answer: I never cared. I certainly don’t feel like I’m missing out. Being a MOB suits me.
There will be so many hiccups on all our MOB journeys. But, like most things, unconditional love and support will see them (us) through the worst of it.