The origin of this post is a mystery. Does this list come from my observation of our granddaughters and my recent speculation about what my life might have been like had I had a girl, just one? (FYI: I never really wanted a daughter, but these precious girls make me wonder why not.)
Or does it spring from my wonderment these days at how utterly different my husband—classic boy—is from me? We’ve been married 35 years, and I am discovering that the divide between us is wider than I ever dreamed it was. The divide, that is, between how we think and feel and process the world around us. The divide that has been there all along, covered in fog like Cloudland Canyon on a November morning. Lately, it’s as if the mist is clearing and we are both in awe of the crafted chasm. It is actually a thing of beauty, and it makes for lively conversation and greater intimacy between us.
Or do these words come from some middle-aged urge to correct all the boy moms out there who don’t “get” their sons quite yet? I hope not. I sometimes wonder, this late in the game, if I’ll ever figure mine out. Or if I’m even supposed to.
All that to say, take these “lies” with a grain of salt. Please.
Lie #1: Boys know what they feel when they feel it.
Early on, I think boys unlearn the language of intimacy. It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. So they have to learn it again when relationships start to become valuable to them, like around high school or college. I remember cooking dinner with one boy perched on the kitchen counter talking about something for which he had no vocabulary. A girl or a yearning in his heart or purpose or adventure. I’d be distracted enough to forebear interruption or interpretation, and he would figure it out in time. I decided then that knowing exactly what you feel exactly when you feel it (as I usually do) can rob others of joining the discovery process with you.
Lie #2: If you’re excited about something, your boys will be, too.
It doesn’t take long for a boy to learn that eagerness is not cool. I think this is why I loved subbing at our boys’ high school. Teenage girls say things like, “Mrs. Murray! I love your haircut!” or “Mrs. Murray! Those are such cool boots!” I needed those exclamation points because the men in my life did not use them. Ironically, a personality test identified me as a “persuader,” meaning I can talk almost anybody into having a good time … except my boys.
The other day I sent them this group text: “Three words: Helium lite app.” To which only one of them responded and with an “Ok?” I wrongly assumed that because only last month they cut open our grandson’s birthday balloons, sucked the helium out, and laughed like kindergartners at their chipmunk-soprano voices, that they would appreciate this information. Clearly, I do not hold the key that unlocks those rare, gleeful moments of eagerness. This is not my job as their mother, and it irks me because it feels like my job in the world at large. (I am fairly certain that if the tables were turned and I was the one who found “What Does the Fox Say?” on YouTube the day it aired they would think it was dumb. Life is just not fair.)
Lie #3: Boys need a dad who parents just like you do.
There have been times when my husband was unyielding, almost to the point of what looked like harshness to me, but that was exactly what our boys needed. There were even more times when what I thought was a punishable offense, he thought was not. This is why neither of us is obsolete in our family equation. Balance, people, balance. Just when you think your husband is wrong, you may discover he was right. Who do our boys respect now? Their dad. They love me, but they respect him. And if there were wounds, and surely we both have inflicted a few on them, there have been apologies and forgiveness meted out in copious amounts. Because grace is gender neutral.
Grace is gender neutral.
Lie #4: Boys know why they do the things they do.
I have this on record from the mouth of our second son, David, when he was 18, and we were discussing a middle school kid who’d done something supremely knuckle-headed. David said, “Why do grownups always ask 14-year-old boys why they do things? Don’t they know we have no idea?” I was beginning to see his point and reminded him that he could extrapolate from his own reasoning that his younger brother did not intentionally lose his stuff … more than once … every day.
Lie #5: Boys never talk.
This is not true, but a mother’s got to wonder. I remember what a revelation it was when I first heard our boys’ side of phone conversations with girls. Lots of “uh-huhs” and “yeahs.” How can a teenage girl not know she is not being listened to? Of course there are the anomalies to this rule, but most boys say fewer words than their mothers want to hear from them. Boys talk, but you do have to wait for it.
Early on, we found bedtime was when our boys would dump out their hearts in actual words. Yes, they should go to sleep and quit asking for another glass of water, but what might we miss if we hurried the process every night? I was dismayed to find the car was not the place for this kind of unburdening. You’d think the drive home from school would equal all kinds of chatty disclosures about their teachers, sports, and girls, but no. I think that’s because in the car, especially with mom driving, they were trapped, and they knew I knew it.
Lie #6: Boys are lazy.
Remember the book about Mars and Venus that popularized the man cave? Boys need time to brood, and early on this is not a very sophisticated skill. It can look like laziness. Yes, they can be lazy. All of ours had a season of sloth, and it drove me crazy, so much so that I wanted to ban couches, TV, and video games from our household. I dare you to ask me about the summer of our boys’ motorcycle “business.” It was hell. Thankfully, they didn’t get stuck there. Future wives, healthy ambition, the desire for independence; these things unstuck them over time. A work ethic, like most other ethics we teach our kids, often lies dormant until the right time for it to push through the soil into daylight. In fact, our boys now lament their sub-par performance in school or their less-than-average summer jobs. But I don’t. I love the miracle of a drastic transformation.
Lie #7: It’s all over when a boy graduates.
I have heard this three times lately from parents whose sons are in their senior year of high school: “This is our last shot with him.” I confess to a similar fear when our boys were making their exits from our home. But boys do not evaporate when they leave home. They are not extensions of your body that shrivel up unless the blood flow—you—is still attached. The truth is, they will probably become more intent learners after they leave your home than they were when they lived within earshot of all that grand parental wisdom of yours. The best host for wisdom, the kind that sinks in over time, is an adult brain and heart. And wisdom is wisdom, whether you impart it or not.
As you must imagine, I have collected these mistaken ideas and messed-up notions from personal experience. And yet, I cannot find any evidence that my belief in lies about them in any way harmed our sons. Again, grace is gender neutral, and aren’t we glad it is?
So, boymom, go ahead and give yourself and your boy(s) some grace now.
Need some more encouragement on those days when you’re really struggling as a mom? Check out this video…