Today my oldest son turns 12. TWELVE! He is not a boy, not yet a man (someone should write a song about that... it's kinda catchy). As I was thinking about him this morning, I remembered this post I had written a couple of years ago about growing a boy in six easy steps. I slightly modified it, but I still believe it. Oh boy, these boys!
I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't sad when I found out that my fourth and final child was a boy. I was sad. My firstborn was a daughter and we were poor enough that most of her clothes as a toddler were hand-me-downs and gifts. She still looked adorable, mostly thanks to my sister's jewelry line and great style. That little girl of mine always had a cool pearl necklace and a few bracelets on, even when swimming and sleeping.
When we found out we were expecting a fourth child, I was excited to have a new live baby doll to dress. But nope, third boy. I wasn't super excited about more jeans and converse, light sabers and tiny cars, haircuts and dirty pockets. My heart yearned for a tiny dancer and someone who could wear all of those adorable necklaces. But as soon as Rhett was born, my heart changed. I wrote about that miraculous change of heart five days after he was born (here).
I know some people have more than three boys and older boys, but there are some things I have learned in this past decade of trying to grow little boys. Wanna hear?
Here it goes:
1. Boys Love Hugs
Girls are cute, but when that little boy wants to hold your hand, kiss or snuggle with you, you say YES! Something happens to a mother and her squishy heart when her little boy needs her affection. It becomes more squishy, to be sure. It melts and puddles down to the pit of your stomach and you think you could die of happiness. It also does something terrible to your memory: "What smashed window? What dirty sink of dishes? What ruined patch of grass? What torn up jeans?"
But, do you know how much your little boy needs YOUR hugs, too? They might seem tough, but those little boys need your hugs and back scratches and hand holds more than you do. They need affection just as much as your daughters, and I believe it will only make them better and kinder men. Hug your boys, especially when they don't deserve it.
2. Boys Love Sticks
It's true. A stick is a magical gift from the gods. You may spend $20 on a Nerf sword (which my boys all love and somehow we have accrued over a dozen), but a stick can be so much more than a sword. It is a light saber then a rifle, a sword and then a wand, a rope swinging from the trees and then the beginning of a fort. Did you know there are sticks in different shapes and sizes? It's true. My boys are constantly showing me how this stick looks like a machine gun and that stick looks like a boomerang.
Sticks are amazing. Get your boy out and find some sticks.
3. Boys Love Style
It is still fun to dress boys. We had a pair of seersucker pants that all of the boys wore and every time it just made me want to grab and love on them. It is even more fun when they start having their own style. My 12yo is very involved in his hair styles and the cut of pants he prefers. Our 9yo acts as if he doesn't care, but there are a few items of clothing that he refuses to put on and wear outside of the house. Our 6yo is all about the accessories. He loves wearing sunglasses, ties, watches, wings on his shoes, and anything else we will let him wear. Which is a lot. He has more bracelets than I ever did as a child.
Some people have expressed concern over our boys' styles of dress and hair, but I don't worry myself with any of it. Boys like style as much as girls. It is all part of the process of growing and feeling comfortable in your own skin. Take your son shopping and see what he gravitates toward. Boys love dates with you, too. One on one time is the absolute best.
4. Boys Love Work
Well, not really. Most of my boys complain and whine every single Saturday when it is chore time. My middle son rolls his eyes every time I ask him to do anything but play on a screen. But, boys need work. Things are easier now than when I was a kid (and that was easy!), chores are simpler, games are everywhere. Boys need to still work hard, see value in their accomplishments, be prepared to leave your home when they are 18, and open a door for women. I still believe in boys learning to be hard working and respectful. Opening doors and letting women go ahead of them is included in learning respect.
My boys are naturally pretty smart, God-given to be sure. But I tell them often that the most successful people in the world are not the smartest, but the hardest workers. Don't raise soft, lackluster smart boys. Raise boys who can love work.
5. Boys Love Potty Words
It is true for all three of my boys. They love potty words. Throw in a "poop" or "fart" into your story and you are the most hilarious person ever. I have never believed in shushing the potty words completely. Like all fine pleasures in this world, moderation is key with potty words. Boys need to express these funny little phrases more than you can understand, and if they don't do it around you, they are most definitely trying it out with friends. Why? Because THIS.
I don't know when they outgrow seeing humor in potty words. My 40yo boy still laughs heartily at a well-placed "poo" reference.
6. Boys Love Praise
Don't we all? Somehow in the history of raising of boys, we humans have felt this need to make them tough and resilient and we do it by being very selective and sparse with our praise. Allegedly, If we tell them too often that they are strong and smart and kind and good-golly quite handsome, then they will not grow to handle criticism and disappointment. Baloney. Criticism and disappointment will come all over the place as they grow, which is all the more reason to give them love and praise at home.
Don't get me wrong, I reprimand and correct all of my children. I also try my darnedest to tell them how unique and cool they are, how much I appreciate their help and listening, why they are so smart and handsome. A sincere compliment is worth more than the snazziest outfit or coolest Nerf sword that you could ever buy. Give your boys praise and do it as often as you can. All it will do is make him more confident as he grows in this world and prepares to leave your nest for good.
Wait. My boys will leave my nest for good someday?! I know it's true, and yet thinking that in six shorts years my oldest boy will be taking flight is enough to make me stop typing this post and run and give him sloppy kisses and praise for days.
I am so glad I got three boys to follow my daughter. I can't believe I ever doubted that they were exactly what I wanted.