Friday, October 9, 2015

Talking To My Younger Me

 My first born is a daughter any mother would love to call her own. And yet, over the years, I've come to think of myself as more of a Boy Mom than a Girl Mom. Not because I enjoy doing boy type activities (Hardly- my idea of "roughing it" is having to drink coffee without Splenda), but because my three youngest kiddos are 100% boy, 100% of the time. 

 Early on, as the mother of these three monkeys, I recognized I basically had two choices. Either I embrace the happy chaos that comes with raising boys or I would be forever exhausted trying to squelch it.  Boys are fabulous, stinky, crazy, warmhearted, messy, and loud creatures. They are unpredictable and always on the move. But now that my sons are getting older, I look back at those chaotic years with clearer eyes. I wish I could tell my "younger me" what the "older me" now knows. This is what I would tell her.

Boys have a driving need to want to challenge themselves. They are wired to attempt anything and everything that, as their mother, you think will be too difficult. Case in point, they will play roller hockey in a freezing garage in shorts and no shoes. They will convince their 5 year old brother to play goalie while they shoot hockey balls at him from less than ten feet away. And what would I tell a younger Cindy? What Graham knew then and convinced me to do against my better judgement at the time. Do not interfere. Let them do it. Although it is rough and tumble, they're learning to overcome adversity when the odds are stacked against them. It teaches them to keep trying, even when they're unsure of the outcome. And bonus? Your 5 year old will strut around the house all week, feeling like he's Patrick Roy.

Another thing I would tell myself is this. There will come a day when your boys will be able to eat more food than you think is humanly possible. It's okay. Totally normal. Don't worry so much about when they eat and focus more on what they eat. I promise you, when they are teenagers, you will seriously google the word "tapeworm" and wonder if that's what you're dealing with. I have seen my boys devour a mammoth bag of pretzels in one sitting and, less than an hour later, eat an entire large pepperoni pizza. If your sons are still little, map out your closest Costco and start saving for a second refrigerator - it will help you stay ahead of the game. Feed them good, healthy food as often as you can and everything will be okay.

One of the toughest parts of being a Boy Mom is boys get hurt- a lot. Despite your constant care and attention, they will fall off things, skid on the pavement, and bonk their noggins. There will be entire stretches of years where they will be walking bruises and every family picture will have a boy face smiling back at you that has some kind of scab on it. I used to sweat it, worrying that our holiday and birthday pictures weren't "perfect". I tried incessantly to keep them clean and still before we took photos. So much wasted energy on my part and completely unnecessary. It is not the "perfect" pictures I love to look at over and over again. It is the goofy, "unperfect", and sometimes eyebrowless  ones that I hold dear and that bring me the most joy. 

There is one thing "younger me" did that I wouldn't change, although I do wish I had figured it out earlier. By the time my red headed kiddo showed up on the scene, I began to understand an important concept crucial to raising little men. I would like to take credit for this nugget of knowledge, but the truth is, 38 Special came up with it first. With boys, it's best to hold on loosely, but don't let go. This sometimes went against my natural instinct to maintain order, but if what they were doing didn't hurt anything or anybody, I tried to stay hands off. This sometimes resulted in my living room becoming the home to a 4 foot tall coffee cup pyramid for days at a time. And more than once, I went grocery shopping in HEB with a child in full football gear - helmet and pads included. But by giving them a little bit of leeway and a little bit of control, it helped to keep the power struggles at bay. There will be times you have to pull in on the reins and squash their plans for their own benefit. But if at all possible, let them be in charge of their own choices.  Grab your girlfriends, pull up a chair, and enjoy their enthusiasm. 

Even if sometimes that enthusiasm results in your youngest showing up in the kitchen sporting brown markers, bushy eyebrows, and belly buttons.

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