Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Word of Encouragement for Mothers of Boys

Before our Boys were adults, it often felt as if parenting could be summed up in a single phrase, one I first spoke when they were newborns and repeated endlessly as they grew older.

Leave your brother alone.

We thought we would only need to say this when the inquisitive toddler had to be stopped from pulling up the baby's eyelids "to see if he was asleep," but we were wrong. We hoped we would be able to remove those words from our vocabulary when they reached the age of reason and knew that grabbing someone else's Legos would result in immediate chaos, but we couldn't. We dreamed that empathy and consideration would keep the teenager from slamming doors just because he knew his brother was sleeping but we were still wrong.

There were days when I thought these Boys would always be more Cain and Abel than Band of Brothers: Non-stop bickering and poking invariably  escalated to shouting and shoving. I remembered, though, that my two brothers had experienced much the same dynamic when they were growing up. At one point my mother decided they were fighting so much that they should formalize the arrangement and she handed them boxing gloves with which they whaled away at each other non-stop. When my brothers reached their late teens, though, they inexplicably morphed into best friends, each other's go-to-guy for laughs, advice, and comfort.

The same inexplicable transformation has happened with our Boys. The kids who couldn't be in each other's presence for five minutes without conflict have grown into best friends, and there is nothing (NOTHING!) that warms a mother's heart like the sight of her children enjoying each other. Seeing Boy#2's face at the first sighting of his brother, and watching him vault out of the car and sprint across the parking lot to exuberantly bear-hug Boy#4 when we reached Far Away University a few weeks ago--well, I suddenly had something in my eye.

Saturday night I came home from my cousins' reunion exhausted. It had been a long day of emotions and driving, and I mostly wanted to sit in a stupor and catch up on backlogged episodes of Chopped. But then Boy#3 and Boy#4 decided to go fly kites at the practice field, and Husband looked at me.

"Let's go watch them," he said.

It was a gorgeous evening and as the sun went down, Three's train kite and its 50 tiny kite-lets formed an arch across the sky. The Boys shouted encouragement to each other and ran before the gentle breeze in bare feet.

I wish I could share that moment with you, mothers of boys who are still in the endless bickering-to-shoving do-loop. One of these days your boys will kick out of that loop, and your hearts will soar like a train kite at sunset.

That moment, that one moment, is enough.


  1. That IS encouraging! I have some verbal-fight pairings and some physical-fight pairings in the household, and I've been on the verge of your mom's boxing-gloves solution. And with summer here---oh dear. I will close my eyes and picture lawn chairs and watching them ON PURPOSE, FOR FUN, instead of "to keep them from killing each other."

  2. I have a boy and a girl, but this post is STILL encouraging because just last night I was wondering how many more times I'm going to have to tell them to stop getting in each others' space, be kind to each other, stop provoking each other, stop taking the bait, blah blah blah. I feel like they are like those double stars who simultaneously repel and attract each other endlessly. Sigh.