Sometimes I am not 100% certain what God was thinking, sending me so many boys.
I look at the other moms I know who have lots of boys and I can see how they are good boy mothers. They love sports, for one thing. They are patient with and even actively participate in the rough housing. They just seem to have that boy thing down.
Quite often, though, I feel like I don’t. Like I’m failing at being a mom to boys. I mean, look at my life history. I grew up in a family with four daughters and a dad who showed he loved us by leaving us to our mother. My mom is sort of on the men-really-suck side of the feminist spectrum. I wasn’t friends with any boys when I was a kid, and even though I have a few boy cousins, none of them are near to my age and we weren’t close to our cousins anyway. And my experiences with teenaged boys? Oh my. Totally disastrous. They were like aliens to me, nearly literally. Like creatures from a different sphere of existence. Fascinating (endlessly!), but terrifying.
But God gave me boys.
And oh, how I love them. Even though I’m not really that mom. The one who is really, really good at sons. Who delights in all things boyish. Who doesn’t go to football or basketball games just because she wants to see her boys play, but because she loves football. I confess: I really hate football. I think it’s too violent but mostly I hate society’s adoration for it, especially in high school. Basketball is a little bit better as far as the actual sport. But the sound of basketball shoes on the wood floor—that very specific squeak—makes me highly anxious, a mix of memory (my mom yelling can’t you turn that down? to my dad) and PTSD from the year the Utah Jazz almost won the championship and Kendell was a grumpy, pissed-off mess for months afterward.
I like soccer.
Anyway, I’m not that really-good-with-boys mom. I don’t always know how to relate to them. Sometimes, now that I have teenagers, I feel again that sense that they are aliens, even though I love these ones of mine.
But being given boys has stretched me. It has made me a better, more well-rounded person. It has taught me that not every one of the male persuasion is mean, abrupt, cold, and/or hungry for control. Sometimes I look at them and I am so overwhelmed with how much I love them that I have to just sit down. These boys give me the opportunity of relationships that will strengthen me for all of my years. Having sons helps me understand my husband better. It helps me look back at my dad and my grandpa and see them in a different light. These boys of mine bring me to experiences I would never have otherwise.
Like this weekend. Kaleb wanted to play catch, which is something we’ve done together since he was little. We found the football, and convinced Nathan to come outside with us (Jake was at work), and we threw the football around the yard. Nathan was laughing a little at my throwing “technique” and I told him that my dad didn’t ever teach me how to throw a football. Then I stopped, right in the middle of playing catch, and told my boys that my dad didn’t teach me how to throw a baseball, either, or how to hit one, even though he played baseball and had a brief goal of trying out for the minor leagues. He didn’t teach me how mow the lawn. How to plant a garden. How to change a tire. How to tie a tie. I almost got a little bit teary eyed, right there by my apple tree. How could my dad not teach me all the stuff I need to know to raise my sons?
Nathan said, “Well, what did he teach you?” and I said “He taught me to love reading” and then I thought of a bunch of other things he also taught me. Non-tangible knowledge that has nothing to do with gender, and I felt better.
Then Nathan came over to my point of the playing-catch triangle. He showed me how to hold the football correctly, and which foot to lead with, and how to throw it properly. It was still a pretty bad throw, and probably always will be, but it didn’t matter because Kaleb still caught it.
There, right there, that moment: throwing a football on a gorgeous autumn day. I wouldn't do that without sons. And I wouldn't have that insight about my dad without that moment either. They brought that to me.
So maybe what I don’t know about raising boys also doesn’t matter. What I don’t have. Maybe the fact that I get anxious when they rough house and annoyed by dirty socks all over the house and frustrated by the perpetual bathroom mess doesn’t matter.
Maybe not loving sports doesn’t matter.
Maybe what I bring to these boys is enough. Just myself. Maybe their bodies’ natural athletic prowess is being wasted, but sports aren’t the only thing. I give them other things that also matter. I will shape them in ways that no one else can, and maybe that is what they need. Maybe that is why God gave me not just any boys, but these boys. Maybe I have exactly what they need, despite my shortcomings.
Maybe they’ll still catch what I toss them.
Because I know this. Even when they make me crazy, when they break things and make loud noises and leave strange smells behind, I love them. They are teaching me about the other half of the world, the half I never was able to glimpse before I became their mom. Two of them tower over me now, and call me “little momma.” They bury me with their enormous hugs. They tell me jokes and teach me what they learn in school and astound me with their mathematical prowess. They are rough and they are also tender, they are smelly but also sweet, they make me laugh and cry and yell and talk and throw cheese out of frustration.