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Posts Tagged ‘mothers’

From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a mother. I had a bevy of babies that I would wrap up, feed bottles to, change diapers, and talk to, including my actual baby doll, Jill, three Cabbage Patch kids, and an assortment of stuffed animals. They are some of the very few things that I saved from my childhood. I loved playing mommy, it was always in me, and I looked forward to the day when I would have my own real babies.

When those real babies began arriving, I was exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed or irritated, but totally and completely in love. I still am, even though they’re all bigger than me now. My job was very simple to me: I was entrusted with these new souls, these helpless little squishy beings that I brought into the world and depended on me for everything. It was my job to protect and nurture them into becoming caring and wonderful adults one day. Did I and do I continue to make mistakes? Oh, yes, indeed. There are things about raising them that I would go back and do differently if I could, times when I let adult problems overwhelm me and I would lose focus, times when I was just too tired to play or I didn’t listen properly. But I will tell you this: I tried my best to make sure that they knew that they were loved and wanted, no matter what. I hope they felt that way, I hope they still do, because I wouldn’t trade them, or the experience of raising them, for the world

That being said, I know that not all women are geared that way and I get that. I have dear friends who have always loved on my kids and the kids of other friends and family, but are very content not having any of their own. I admire that, because, let’s face it: there’s a lot of pressure for not only women, but people in general, to have children. Kids are a humongous life change and commitment, but society pressures couples to have them anyway. Women especially, who choose to remain childless, are often called selfish or unnatural if they choose to not have kids, a totally unfair judgement. Society doesn’t make it easy to make those decisions permanent, either. Women of childbearing age who seek out voluntary sterilization are often turned down by doctors, told that one day they may change their minds. How insulting! Sterilization is a pretty intense operation for a woman, I seriously doubt that anyone would go through that on a whim, not to mention that it is incredibly condescending to question a decision like that, but I digress.

So, why am I writing about this? I read an article the other day that infuriated me about parents who regret being parents, which again, I understand that someone could feel that way.  In a perfect world, every baby would be wanted and born into a loving environment where all of their needs are met. Unfortunately, not every child brought into this world is wanted or loved. People have children sometimes because they feel like they are supposed to, because of restrictive birth control issues, or because it’s expected, rather than having a real desire to parent. It would be a terribly difficult situation to be in, one that isn’t true for me, but I definitely have sympathy for those who find themselves there.

No, my beef isn’t with parents who regret having children, it’s with the parents who regret having children and then publicly tell the world about it at the expense of the feelings and well-being of those children. That second part is definitely not okay.

There have been several articles written in the past few years by both women and men who regret having children and then decide to write about it, using their own names and stories, such as in the case of Corinne Maier, author of No Kids: 40 Reasons Not To Have Children.  Google it, it’s amazing how many sources there are. As much as I think that those feelings of regret are legit for a lot of people, is it really ethical to air those grievances when those very children will very likely hear or read them one day? Simple answer: No! No, it isn’t. It’s never okay for a child to hear that they should never have been born.

To be fair, many of these articles contain comments from parents who are remaining anonymous or who are using pseudonyms. There are even closed Facebook groups for parents who regret having kids, with the idea that it is a support group. Again, I understand that those feelings are real, even among parents who initially wanted children, and having an outlet to discuss those feelings with others could definitely be therapeutic. In fact, I think that therapy is an excellent idea in general. But it was shocking to me to see how many parents did not bother to conceal their identities, who openly stated that their lives would have been better if they had never had their kids.

Normally, I’m all about being open to ideas and feelings, truly I am. I draw the line, though, when airing those ideas and feelings can only serve to hurt innocent people, especially kids. Kids can’t fight for themselves, they need adults to stand up and do it for them. If your own parent doesn’t accept you, how does that shape your self-worth in relation to the rest of the world? Articles and statements like that are extremely damaging.

Children have no choice about whether they are born or not. They come into this world as innocents, helpless and needy. Part of parenting is to not only fulfill their physical needs, but their mental and emotional ones. When those needs are not met, the emotional damage is extreme and lasts a lifetime. I’m no psychologist, but I’ve had the very eye-opening experience of working with children who were victims of abuse and neglect for most of their lives. Underneath the exterior of violent outbursts and abusive speech, they were still children, desperately looking for someone to trust, for someone to love them. The child who had cussed me out right and left and tore my room apart one day would come into my classroom the next day, lay his head on my shoulder for the entire lesson, tell me that I was the best teacher ever, and let me mother him a little. As damaged as they were, that instinct to be taken care of, to feel that someone out there gives a damn, was still present, as it is in all children.

Children not only want, but need to feel loved and accepted by their parents; it’s a basic life necessity. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen. Families can be dysfunctional. There are so many world problems that it can be difficult to be present with kids and to give them everything they need. But what purpose does it serve to tell a child that if you had to do it over again, you wouldn’t have had them, that they should never have been born, that they should not exist? It’s selfish and destructive, no good can come from it. I can’t even imagine it’s cathartic for the person saying it. What comes next after that moment? What do you say when your child reads in an article or a book that your life has been dismal since he or she came along? How would you ever repair that? I don’t know if you could.

We live in a society where everything is overshared. Social media provides an easy platform for us to get things off our chests and say things online in the heat of the moment, especially when we’re angry or frustrated. I know that I’ve been guilty of that, especially when social media first started becoming a thing. Opening up about things, speaking one’s mind, and speaking truth are all very trendy, but I firmly believe that there are some things that should not be publicly shared. Telling your kids that you regret having them is one of those things.

So, what to do then with those feelings if one has them? Again, therapy is GREAT. I should know, I’ve been in it long enough. There could also be underlying problems that a therapist could diagnose that might be contributing to those feelings, such as depression or anxiety. From what I’ve read in these articles (I tended to be a bit obsessed once I started reading), there are also support groups where one can talk about these feelings without hurting the children involvedHopefully, actively addressing those feelings and having a support system instead of taking them out on kids will help temper the angst into something more manageable.

A wise neighbor once told me that with children, the days can be long, but the years are short. As parents, we only have so much time with our kids, especially when they’re little. We think the sleepless nights will never end, the diapers will never end, baseball season will never end (oops, maybe that one’s just me), but it all will and one day, they’ll be gone and the house will be empty. Depending on who you are, this might make you happy, or, in my case, you will tear up every time they leave after a visit home. Whatever the case, a parent’s job is to turn out grown kids who are prepared to be a contributing member of society. If a child believes that he or she should never have been here, what motivation will they have to believe in themselves, to be joyful, to have a happy life?

To wrap it all up, parents have good days, parents have bad days. It’s a parent’s job to raise the children they have to the best of their ability, whether they regret having them or not. It can be a tough racket at times, mistakes will be made, but if you brought them into the world, you owe it to them to give them every possible chance at having a successful life. That starts at home, in the heart.

Until next time.

 

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We told Oldest Child back to college today after spending a really nice, but short, summer with him. His first year was wildly successful, he adjusted very well and did a lot of exciting things, like being able to attend a dinner where Bill Clinton was speaking. Early on this summer, he got to spend five weeks in the UK as a kind of class, boosting his credits up and making him a junior after one year of college. I’m proud of him to the point of bursting, so forgive me for bragging just a little.

In many ways, dropping him off today was remarkably similar to how it was last year, except that we brought Middle Child and Youngest Child along. It poured down rain again while we unloaded the cars, but with five of us, it went pretty quickly. The rain cut our planned walk around campus short, although we did all go out to lunch together and visited a wonderful old book shop that Marty Man used to frequent when he was a student there. All around, soggy students and their families were busy unloading, visiting, and saying their goodbyes, just like us.

But when it was time to leave, it was much more casual than it was last year. There were no tears, yet, anyway. Will I miss him as much? Yes, absolutely. I miss him already. We had a really good summer and I enjoy his company immensely. I love seeing this independent person getting himself up and out the door for work in the morning, doing his own laundry, taking charge of his own life. At this point, Marty Man and I are pretty much bystanders who help when we’re needed, but he doesn’t need us to do much for him anymore. He will be just fine.

Anyway, today has made me think of my job as a mother now as opposed to, oh, say, ten to fifteen years ago. Things have definitely changed. As a parent of young children, there is so much physical work that needs to be done: diapers, feedings, baths, carrying, dressing, car seats. Little by little, it gets easier physically, but it gets more difficult in terms of setting limits and guiding them through the process of growing-up. There are difficult ages. I’ve blogged in the past about the age of eleven at our house, but there are hurdles at any stage. Grades, girlfriends, friends, chores, and family relations can all be sticky topics. There are days that any frustrated parent can be tempted to walk out the door, but you don’t because you’re the adult, you’re the parent, and raising these kids is the most important job in the whole world, because you are their whole world. Then, the crisis is over and the tears have stopped, emotions calm down. There’s talking, there’s hugging, there’s love, and you start all over. It’s always a new day with kids and thankfully, they can be more forgiving than we are.

Our job isn’t done once they’re grown-up, of course, we’ll always be parents, but the job description is constantly changing. Someday, they won’t need us to provide for any of their physical needs, even money (please, let them eventually stop needing money.), but hopefully they’ll still want to come around just to talk and to spend some time with their parents. And not just on holidays.

There are things from when they were very small that I miss dreadfully, so much that it hurts: the baby smell (oh, that smell!), the sweet, sloppy, whole-mouth kisses, rocking them in my arms until their long lashes droop closed, kissing boo-boos, squishy little hands and feet, kissable cheeks, talking attempts, and my absolute favorite, the belly laugh. You know, the one that comes right up from their toes? It’s the best thing in the whole world and if you can’t at least grin at one of those laughs, you’re not human. These things are gone forever with my boys.

But there are things that I love about them as big kids/young adults that won’t disappear with time. Things like their sense of humor. All of them. They are just a weird as I am and we laugh at the same things. They can hold all sorts of fabulous conversations on any topic: current events, politics, sports (ugh), introspective, technology, and strange things. They are such interesting people and I love hearing their perspectives. They’re all bigger than I am now and the older ones are protective of their mama. While I think I handle myself pretty well, it’s nice to see that they have my back, just in case. My boys are turning into amazing young men and I love them so much, more than they can ever know.

Are they perfect children? Oy, no. We fight and argue over curfews and appropriate movies; they can say ugly, hurtful, things to each other and sometimes to us, like any other teenagers, but in the end, we still love each other. We’re a family, and we know that no matter what happens, someone will apologize and life will go on because that’s what we do. It’s all a part of them growing up.

We dropped off Oldest Child at college again today. Let the parenting adventure continue.

 

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I watch the Today Show in the morning while getting ready for work. Sometimes it’s background noise, sometimes they have stories that I really listen to. I tune out a lot of the political stuff because I’m sick of hearing about Donald Trump and all of his insanity. The cooking segments are okay and I listen to the headlines, but my favorite things to watch are the human interest stories, stories about real people in different situations and how they handle them, in good ways or bad. The human psyche fascinates me. I am endlessly curious about the motivations people have, what circumstances in their lives led them to act the way that they do.

I was watching on Tuesday when a story came on that caught my attention. Apparently, Old Navy had put out an advertisement that portrayed an interracial family: an African-American mother, a Caucasian father, and their little boy. It’s a really cute picture, as many advertisements are, with everyone smiling and happy. When I looked at it, I  thought that it was a cool thing for Old Navy to show an interracial family, a reflection of our modern society. As I found out, though, the reason that that advertisement was being shown on the Today Show was because many people didn’t feel the same way.

I went on Twitter to read the comments. (I know, I know, the comments are scary, but if you’re going to take something on, you should know your enemy.) I’m not going to put even a fraction of them on here, they were that horrible, but they range from “disgusting” to some extremely vile things. I was really (unpleasantly) surprised that so many comments had something to do with “white genocide” Huh? Genocide? Um, no. Genocide= what Adolph Hitler did to the Jews. Genocide= what is happening to certain groups of people in the Middle East right now. Genocide= what happened to the Tutsi in Rwanda, 1994. Genocide≠ people of different races marrying and having families. The ignorance is staggering and more importantly, frightening. Here is an article from the New York Times, if you’re so inclined: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/05/us/upbeat-interracial-ad-for-old-navy-leads-to-backlash-twice.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0 You can also see the controversy on Twitter and most news sites.

I don’t understand the mentality of people who have been posting those inane responses. Some of them are so evil that I’m surprised they’re walking among us, but most of them vowed to never shop at Old Navy again. Really? You’re not going to shop at Old Navy any more because they used an ad of an interracial family? Stupidity and ignorance at its finest. If you are threatening to harm people because of their racial background, you should not be out on the street. Period.

What really floors me (and makes me smile to myself) is that many of the people who are so opposed to racial mixing are possibly of mixed race themselves and don’t even know it. During the period of legal slavery in the United States and its territories, thousands of children, often the result of rape from white masters. were born to slave women. Some interracial (and illegal) couples also lived together consensually and had  children. If those children, or their children, could “pass” for white, they often did in order to have a better life. Many times, their white families didn’t know and still don’t! A good example of this is Bliss Broyard’s fascinating read, One Drop. The title comes from the premise that if a person had only one drop of African blood. he or she was classified as black and was treated as such during the time of slavery and many years thereafter. Her father, Anatole Broyard, an acclaimed New York Times columnist, had come from a racially mixed family but decided to pass for white when he was a young man. It wasn’t until he was literally on his death bed that the truth came out and his children were introduced to a whole new branch of the family. It’s a fascinating story.

The TLC show, Who Do You Think You Are?, and PBS’s Finding Your Roots have both surprised a few celebrities with DNA test results showing that they have an unexpected racial connection. Ty Burrell, who stars on Modern Family, was surprised to find that the family whisperings of having a black ancestor were true. Several African-American celebrities uncovered white ancestors. Some were surprised, some were not. The truth is, we all have quite the mixture of races in us already, there is no such thing as a “pure” race. People who perpetuate the myth that there is a pure white race need to check their facts, and possibly their DNA.

My own roots are pleasantly jumbled. My father’s side of the family is pretty straightforward English/Scottish/Irish with some Swiss and German thrown in for good measure. My mother’s side, however, is a bit of a mixed bag. My maternal grandfather, Grandpa Nick, was born in Sicily. Poor Sicily, while now part of Italy, has been conquered many times by other empires: Arab, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Northern African. It is difficult to say what our racial background actually is based on Sicily’s history. His son, my uncle, took a DNA test several years back. It showed that we have northern African cousins, in Algeria and Sudan I believe, but it didn’t say how far back in time we were related. It could be 200 years ago or 1000 years ago. Like I said, it was an older test, but my sons and I thought it was cool that we were part African. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, I’m a sickly pale about ten months out of the year, but I have some African roots.

The point I’m trying to get across is that the idea of race as a kind of a club is stupid. Sure, I love looking up my family history and learning where my ancestors came from (especially the English, for the simple fact that they kept amazing records in their parish churches), but equally intriguing for me is finding the different cultures that dwell inside. How exciting!

I taught 5th graders for several years and that is when they begin learning about slavery in United States history. Many of my students would self-identify as their religion, so we always had to have the talk about the difference between race and religion. One can be born and raised into a certain religion, but that is a choice. One’s racial background is not a choice, it’s just how you are born. You can’t choose it before you are born, you can’t change it, it’s something that is a part of you forever. We talked about being proud of whatever background we had, but also how it was important to respect the identities of others and how different cultures contribute so much to the world. We also talked about how it was not okay to disparage somebody because of their race. You see, children are taught racism, it’s not something that they’re born with. Something to think about…

The term “race” has been used by bigots as a way to separate people, to create divisions and animosity, instead of simply being used for historical or scientific purposes. That never made sense to me, seeing as how science and religion agree that human beings both started in northeastern Africa, even if their ideas of how we began are different. Differences developed in response to our environments. A translucent-skinned person like me would burn to a crisp on the African continent today, my lack of melanin meant to soak up Vitamin D from the sun in northern climates. My northern European genes have won out in that respect. My Grandpa Nick, however, had what one would call a “swarthy” complexion, necessary in sun-drenched Sicily to protect him. I look more like my father’s side of the family, but I have just as much DNA from my mother’s side as I do his. What you look like doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on what your roots are. Remember, with every generation back, your number of grandparents doubles: two grandparents, four great-grandparents, eight great-great grandparents, and so on. Unless you are a careful genealogist, you really don’t know all of your racial background. Maybe that’s worth taking a look into. You might find out some really cool things!

Open your mind and think. You’ll be surprised at actually makes sense.

A presto.

 

 

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Dear Mama,

I’ve been your child’s teacher for a quite a while now. He has been at this school since he was small and the staff knows him well, for all the wrong reasons it seems, mostly.

We have talked, day in and day out, about his behavior. About how impulsive he is, how disrespectful, how unfocused he is. He gets sent back from special classes because he doesn’t listen and because of his incessant talking.  His card gets flipped constantly for disturbing the class. He is, in fact, a difficult child. We agree on that, you and me. There is no question about it.

“What can I do?’ you plead with me day after day and I, with a heavy heart, really don’t know what to tell you. I manage to say that every day is a new start, that we will try again and hope for a better day, that I will praise him for his good choices and remain calm during his bad choices that make me want to scream with frustration or anger over his blatant disrespect and disregard for anyone’s feeling but his own, but, honestly, I don’t know how to fix this.

I’ve been teaching for several years, and even though I know each child has an individual personality, I also know what children his age are typically like. They’re able, for the most part, to follow directions, to control the urge to bolt out of their seats and to not have stomping fits almost every day. They’re generally able to learn from their mistakes and are able to understand why they received a negative consequence. Your child can parrot back all of the rhetoric, but can’t put it into practice. He’s not able to see that he is responsible for his own actions, blaming his poor choices on others, sometimes to a ridiculous extent.

I know, in my heart, that here is something amiss with this child that I cannot change, not even with the most patient of teaching skills. This child needs something more, professional help, and I try and hint that to you in ways that will keep our relationship from falling apart, that will keep me from being perfectly blunt because I see the pain in your eyes every single day and I don’t want to be the one to twist that knife. I’m also not sure what I’m legally allowed to suggest to you, other than perhaps you should take him to see his pediatrician and describe what’s been going on for years. Please don’t keep asking me for a diagnosis, I can’t give you one. All I can do is gently try to make you see that his behaviour will soon be beyond anything we can help him with at school.

I know this isn’t what you planned on. I’m a mother, too. I know the joy of learning that you’ll be bringing a new life into the world, of dreaming what that child will be like: beautiful, intelligent, perfect in every way. Your plans were no doubt like my own. Your baby would excel in school, be the perfect combination of nature and nurture, win the love and admiration of everyone who met him. Spending countless hours with the teacher and the principal conferring about that sweet baby’s bad behavior is not something that was on your list of hopes, I know. All new parents soon realize that parenting is not easy and that the little prenatal angel that they had envisioned is capable of being stubborn and naughty at times, but I don’t think it enters any new parent’s mind that their child would need professional intervention down the road. I know that hurts, I know that’s hard to digest and nothing I say is going to make it go down any easier.

I haven’t had to go through that with my own kids and I’m not going to pretend that I know what your pain is like. I don’t. I don’t know what life is like at home behind closed doors. I don’t know what caused him to be this way. I can guess, I can speculate, (and, honestly, I do think about it on those days when he’s giving me a run for my money), but that fact is that I just don’t know. That’s not my area of expertise, nor is it my business. My business is educating my classroom full of children, all of them, teaching them what they need to know, giving them hugs when they’re feeling sad, listening to their problems, doing my best to help them be happy and secure with themselves and, believe me, I try my best. But I’m realizing that I can’t give your child the kind of help he really, truly, needs.

Please don’t be discouraged. Please don’t feel ashamed. I know that those feelings are hard to avoid, you tell me almost every time we talk. But I see determination in your face, too. I know that you love him, he is your precious child and the most important thing in the world to you, as he should be. He’s lucky to have you. I’ve seen similar situations where the parent is not so involved and the child knows it, but you tell him and show him that he is loved, no matter what and that is what touches me the most. I am convinced that you will get him the help he needs to be successful. Don’t give up on him, he needs you.

Whatever you decide to do, we’ll make the best of it, together. I know you have a rough road, but you were chosen to be his mama for a reason. I admire your strength.

Sincerely,

The Teacher

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Dear Child (Any particular one),

There are things that I’m thinking about when I look at you and you say, “What?”. Here’s some insight as to what may be running through my mind. You see, memories from when you were very new stay with me, and I love to go back and revisit the flashes of you that I still see today.

Things like:

– Taking a pregnancy test to prove your father wrong, happily finding out that it was me who was wrong.

– Going to the doctor because I thought I broke a rib riding horseback, only to find out I would be a mama.

– Taking a pregnancy test because The Wizard of Oz made me sob.

– The secret, flutterby, kicks that made me smile.

-The never-ending waiting for you to be born. Christmas doesn’t hold a candle to a due date.

– Tiny. So, so, very tiny.

– Baby sighs and phantom smiles in your sleep.

– Those baby giggles when I pretended to sneeze.

– The absolute contentment when you would fall asleep on my chest, warm and cozy.

– Baby feet.

– The smell of your baby skin. Intoxicating.

– The way you wanted only me, reaching your chubby little arms out, saying, “Mama!”

– The protective instinct. I could quite easily kill anyone who hurt you, even now.

– Picking you up from preschool. You were so happy to see me, unashamed to hug me as tight as you could and tell me all about your day.

– The first time another kid rejected you. I never wanted to hit a 7-year-old before. (Just to clarify, I would never hit a 7-year-old.)

– The joy of your joy, whether it was a bug friend, a song you sang to me, or a baby lamb, the sight of you deliriously happy was my whole world.

-You sleeping in a fuzzy blanket, dark lashes on pale cheeks.

-The three of you on the couch arms and legs entwined like a pile of puppies while watching tv.

– The ache of watching you become more independent, knowing that every accomplishment takes you a small step away from me, but knowing that it is meant to be.

So when you catch me staring at you, with a funny look on my face, chances are something like these thoughts are racing through my brain. It’s because I love you. I love who you are, I love who you were, and I love who you are becoming.

Mama

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I am the lone female in a house of four males. I decided that one of the snakes was a girl, just to try and even things out a bit. I really don’t know if it is or not, especially since I would need to take it to a herpetologist to check, but I thought it was fair. Not that “she’s” any help, especially in a Nerf gun war. Then, Oldest Child kept a snake that we rescued and Youngest Child bought a leopard gecko, both males (so they say), so now the odds are really bad. Friends of mine who have girls are always saying that I’m lucky, that girls are more work, and in some ways, they’re probably right, but having the only estrogen in a house full of testosterone does require a bit of teeth gritting at times.

Let me just say that I love my boys unconditionally, madly, and truly. I wouldn’t trade any of them for anything in this world or the next and I am so proud of the young men they are becoming. That being said, while growing up, I always pictured having kids, but somehow I always pictured my children as girls (Well, maybe one was a boy.), especially since I was the only girl in my family and had longed for a sister. That hasn’t happened, and now that we’re done having children, it isn’t going to happen. Having three boys took some getting used to at first, but I love (almost) every minute of it..

Boys, especially for a first-time mom, require some instructions. If you have a new, blue, bundle of joy or are expecting one soon, here are some things that you can expect:

1. Really fast diaper changes: There’s something about cold air that make baby boys decide to spray, and spray they do. They can really get some distance, too. Keep that in mind when you change that newborn diaper. You’ll learn fast.

2. Boys are active. All kids can be active, no doubt, but boys seem to have boundless energy. They’ll fool you. They’ll come to you after a round of light saber attacks, breathing heavily and wanting a snuggle, but it’s short-lived. In no time at all, they’re up and around, knocking the daylights out of each other or jumping all over one another like a bunch of puppies. Of course, there are girls who are also extremely active, a friend of mine has a daughter who is constantly moving, but I know that compared to what I was like as a child. the physical activity level of boys is tiring.

3. You will probably, at some point, wind up in a sports league. I always kind of hoped that one of them would really want to take ballet or something that I could relate to once they got into activities, but I had to wait until they all started band in the 5th grade. Until then, it was baseball. Then, cross country. I’m not a very good sports mom. Actually, I’m not a good sports mom at all. Some moms are gung-ho right from the start. They know all the team stats, have the snack schedule memorized, and could tell you the batting order from the month before, as well as the rules to whatever league level your son is in. I’m lucky if I know the other kids’ names. I’m pretty introverted, so small talk at games with other parents is absolute torture, although it would probably be the same at a dance class. I tried talking Youngest Child into Irish dancing a while back, but he was having none of it. Now they all have some involvement in theatre, which is very cool. And watchable. In the meantime, buy yourself a mitt and go play outside with them. You won’t regret it.

4. Get used to thinking/saying, “What the hell is that?” You will say this as you scrutinize what might be a black fuzzy on the bathroom floor or something else. You will say this as you take clothes out of the washer and dryer. You will say this when you clean the petrified banana out from under the bed. You will say this as you look at something that has been wiped across the shower wall. You will say this so many times while your boys are growing up that you will lose all fear at finding out what it is, but not your disgust at what you find. (Chances are, it’s not a fuzzy. Or a raisin.) Invest in Clorox wipes.

5. There will be weapons. Yes, there will. Even if you don’t purchase weapon toys, anything can be turned into a weapon and it will be. Paper towel tubes, fingers, crayons, chalk, basically anything that resembles the desired weapon of mass destruction will be imagined into one. I don’t allow first-person shoot-to-kill video games in my house, but we are fully stocked with Nerf guns. My hoodie pockets are stuffed with Nerf darts for self defense. There’s something very basic about the need to play-fight and as long as it doesn’t go overboard, I say go with it. At least until it drives you crazy enough to grumpily yell, “Enough! I just want to relax!” up the stairs, as I did last night.

6. There will be hair in the sink. And lots of toothpaste splatters. Again, invest in Clorox wipes. Enough said.

7. They will have noisy friends. You may have a quiet son or even two, but the day will come when they bring that kid home, the one who runs through your house with his shoes one, hollering and yelling like he’s outside, wanting to watch shows or movies that you don’t allow and begging to spend the night. Chances are, your son will be enamored of him, at least for a while. Until, you must be a nice, but firm, mommy and deal with him. After a couple of visits, you can conveniently schedule outings for you and our darling when the small terror wants to come over and hope that the novelty wears off. It sounds harsh, but your nerves can really take a frazzling and you will breathe a sigh of relief when he brings home a really nice kid to play with.

8. They will want to go to Chuck E. Cheese, or someplace similar, for many birthday parties. If you are not aware, these pizza places/indoor amusement parks are actually, I believe, part of Dante’s vision of Hell. Screaming children running about untethered, clanging, buzzing, and ringing machines blaring at full volumes, inattentive parents sitting with pitchers of beer and pathetic pizza at neon-colored tables, and creepy, demonic-looking animatronic characters dancing an singing at full volume. It’s wonderful for small boys who are not afraid of the creepy animatronic characters. They have an absolute blast. Curling up in a ball and rocking on the couch is an option for at least two hours when you arrive home. With a glass of wine.

9. Bodily functions will be a hilarious common topic. I hate talking about less-than-pleasant bodily functions and my boys are usually pretty good about leaving me out of it, but occasionally the dinner table is interrupted by “accidental” noise, followed by smothered giggles that quickly erupt into all out laughter, including Mr. Marty Man. I don’t get it. I never have, I never will. If that’s your thing, enjoy. If not, get ready for the ride.

10. Little boy snuggles are so awesome. Boys love their mamas. There’s just something so special about that relationship. Words can’t describe it. When they still want to be tucked into bed at eleven years old or fight over who gets to sit next to you as teenagers, your heart will just melt into a puddle. There’s no better feeling in the world.

11. Boys have a tender side. Stuffed animals, blankies, even baby dolls can also have a special place in a boy’s heart, right next to the noisy army helicopter and Boba Fett mask. It’s adorable and I don’t care what anyone thinks. They’ll give it up if and when they want to. I encouraged it as long as I could, never teased them for it, and never let anyone else say a word about it. Boys need to know that having loving feelings is perfectly fine.

12. You will love your boy(s) with a fierceness that you didn’t know you had, and with every fiber of your being. When my first baby came home, I loved him so much that I could barely breathe. When he was three, he very enthusiastically went to introduce himself to some older kids, maybe six or seven years old, at the playground. “Hi!” he said. My name is…. What’s your name?” They just looked at him, mumbled something, and ran away. For the first time in my adult life, I wanted to slap a kid. (A six-year-old. I know.) How dare they say that to my sweet little guy??? Didn’t they know how amazing he was? Where were their parents? Swallowing my righteous anger, I tried to hug his disappointment away and attempted to forget my Sicilian roots. After all, shielding him from any pain would not have taught him how to deal with it in a good way. I used it as a teaching moment, but I remember the instant that Mama Bear instinct kicked in, as it has for my two other boys as well. You will realize, in an instant, that you would die for your boys without hesitation. It’s a beautiful thing.

There is, of course, much more to life with boys, but I have to leave you some surprises. There are many who will argue that girls are the same way, that I shouldn’t try to highlight differences between girls and boys. I have to disagree. As the oldest sister, oldest cousin, babysitter to dozens of children for eleven years before I had my own, and as a teacher, there are some key differences, especially the diaper changing part of it. Not every little boy is a Jedi and not every little girl is a princess, but those differences should be celebrated and enjoyed, for the most part. Living in an all-male household has been a good experience, although I do need a good aunt/niece day out now and then. I keep telling them that one of them owes me at least one granddaughter someday, someone for whom I can buy sparkly things and give makeovers to. In the meantime, I will enjoy my boys, my young men who will change the world someday. Now if I could just get them to stop leaving a trail of socks through the house and to clean their hair out of the sink…

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