My mom and dad were the quintessential blended family. He brought a sixteen year old daughter into their marriage and she brought six hungry boys.

You would think that seven mouths to feed back in the late sixties was enough, but apparently, my mom had a thing for even numbers, so they had me, rounding it out to an even eight. By the time I was two, I was the only girl in the house, because my sister had left home and gotten married at a young age. Yep, it was just me and the boys.

Growing up in a large family comprised of mostly males, I learned a thing or two about how a boy’s mind works. I learned how to climb trees with the best of them, could spit as far as half of them and I kicked some serious hiney in poker. I discovered that breaking things just to fix them was called “being mechanical” and that if someone hurt you, all you had to do was put your fist through something and it immediately caused you to forget the original problem.

I was the girl in high school that had mostly male friends, because that’s just who I identified with and understood the best. Boys were so much easier to be friends with because they didn’t care if you had a spot on your shirt or if you wore makeup or not.

I was not allowed to officially “date” a boy without a chaperone until I was sixteen. Of course, that had never even been an issue, because all the boys I liked simply saw me as their “sister” (or one of them) – something I was good at being.

Oh, and the fact that I still had two brothers at home that lived to make my dating life miserable. One time a boy called me on the phone (and I really, really liked him, too) and one of my brothers happened to answer. Instead of handing the phone over to me, he said “Well, Karen can’t come to the phone right now – she’s sitting on the pot.” He never called me back. Wonder why.

Now that I have a boy of my own (a middle child with two sisters), I often think back to the days of growing up with my brothers. There is a balance to be struck there somewhere, I am sure of it.

While I want him to be tough and tenacious, I also desire for him to be tender and softhearted towards the women in his life. I want him to respect his sisters in a way that I was not by my brothers. I was their “little sister”, someone of little significance in their world of finger wrestling and frog giggin’. Oh, they included me in many things they did, but now that I am older, I am more aware of the fact that it was mostly at my mother’s insistence, rather than their inclination to have me around because I was a kick in the pants.

My heart’s desire is to raise a godly young man who is much like my brothers in the sense that he knows what its like to enjoy being a boy, but who isn’t afraid to let his true feelings show at any given time.

I don’t want to raise a sissy. I don’t want to raise a macho male chauvinist, either.

I am sailing in what is unchartered waters for me and it’s a tad bit intimidating. I can see the curve of the earth and it sometimes feels as though I’m going to drop right off the edge, only to find out there’s another vast sea of obstacles to navigate my way through. As each course is completed, I am a little closer to victory and the finish line — oh how I want to finish this race as his mother well.

Even more so, I want my son to finish well.

What are some things you do with your boys to encourage them in this area? How do you teach them to strike a fair balance between the extremes?

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9 Comments on Raising Boys Ain’t for Sissies

  1. Lora Lynn
    August 4, 2008 at 8:28 am (15 years ago)

    Well, my boys certainly aren’t that old, but I’ve given this some thought. I let them run and roll and do daring deeds. But when it comes to their sister, they must remember that she is a “lady.” Not a girl, a lady. She is to be treated with respect. Their daddy models the way gentlemen treat ladies by how he treats me. Ladies first, don’t wrestle with ladies (this is mostly to protect me, who can’t defend myself from three squirrely boys), etc. We teach them that gentlemen have honor, integrity. They protect women, they do not torture them. It may be a bit old-fashioned, but my fellas are so black and white at this age, it’s easier to explain in those terms. My boys are basically animals with a soft spot for their sister. That’ll do for now.

  2. yertle
    August 4, 2008 at 9:09 am (15 years ago)

    I only have boys, and they are very young (1 and 3). I encourage them to be active and to get dirty and play outside, etc… I also already talk to them about emotions. Sometimes I worry that I will make them wimps, but I want them to be able to access and talk about their emotions and to be able to be in touch with themselves. It is a hard, especially after having taught at an all boys school for three years and seeing how they can treat each other. My goal is a healthy sense of self, and I have been told that the best way to give them that is to get it myself, so I am working on it.

  3. Ashleigh (Heart and Home)
    August 4, 2008 at 9:41 am (15 years ago)

    I’ve got nothin’ at this point–my boys are two and 9mo–but I’m eager to cash in on any suggestions you get here. Parenting boys feels like such a huge task. I’m so glad the Lord knew what HE was doing when he paired up us and our boys.

  4. Shara
    August 4, 2008 at 11:11 am (15 years ago)

    I have been very blessed with two very mild-mannered, very sweet boys that are now 14 and 12. As they’ve grown up, I have struggled with letting them do things that boys should do that scared me half to death. Thankfully, my husband has been around to help me with that issue. After he read “Wild at Heart” by John Eldridge, he consistently reminded me to let them be… wild at heart.

  5. Rachel
    August 4, 2008 at 11:17 am (15 years ago)

    Tough call, girl. I want that too. I have two boys under the age of five. Yes, they are/can be wild. I am a tomboy, too so there is no sissy la la stuff in my house. I guess we can just hope and pray that we are doing it right.

  6. Megan (FriedOkra)
    August 4, 2008 at 11:51 am (15 years ago)

    I like Lora Lynn’s answer. Al and I were just discussing this issue (in particular the treating his sister well, like a lady, and his mother too). I think so much of it is in role modeling for them. They’ll model what they see. Not ONLY what they see, but that’s certainly a big part of it. Can’t help but be.

  7. Scattered Mom
    August 4, 2008 at 12:08 pm (15 years ago)

    Actually, I’ve never thought about it. I have a 12 year old and we’ve just concentrated on teaching him to be the best person he can be.

    His Dad gives him a fantastic role model on how to treat women. I give him a little coaching now and then, too… (“burping at the table is rude and if you even do that on a date, the girl WON’T like it”)

  8. I am Boymom
    August 4, 2008 at 6:15 pm (15 years ago)

    My biggest fear in life is that I will wreck my kids. Having been brought up in several dysfunctional homes, I want something different for my boys. Problem is, I’m not always sure how to achieve it and give the the best shot at adulthood that I can. Their dad is good at teaching them boy and men stuff, but not so good with the sensitivity training. Guess we’ll know in about 10-15 years how we did!

  9. grammy
    August 5, 2008 at 9:44 pm (15 years ago)

    I’m a little late but I wanted to mention a great book on boys. Dr. James Dobson wrote Bringing up Boys. Also check out fishmama talks about her four boys and the club they have with their Dad.

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