I like to think I am of the adventurous sort. I have white water rafted, rode every roller coaster I could as I child, and have ventured to the rainforests of Venezuela and the slums of San Jose, Costa Rica. While my health may now preclude me from many such adventures, I am blessed with the extreme sport of raising boys. I am not a boy – hence, I have no schema from which to conceptualize the crazy ass things my boys do. I do not have an overload of testosterone coursing through my veins despite the rogue chin hair (seriously, girls – NO ONE warned us about those). I do not understand the need to karate chop inanimate objects, turn everything into a gun, and their obsession with their penis. I never realized how often I would discuss the aforementioned penis with my boys multiple times a day. Is it too big? Is it too small? Why does it grow and shrink? Where is your penis, Mommy? Why can’t I constantly have my hands down my pants in the grocery store? I am learning you never laugh at a penis question. They are dead serious here ladies. Their penis is synonymous to our… hmmm… I can’t find a parallel. I didn’t even know the details of my own anatomy until the summer before sixth grade when I was the youngest of my friends to get her period and desperately wanted to go swimming. I spent an hour locked in the bathroom studying those ridiculous pink and blue charts you get in a tampon box trying to figure it all out.
Recently I had one of those conversations you have as a parent with your child that you walk away from and shake your head in disbelief, as you would not believe the conversation took place unless you had actually been a part of it. I have had some of the most bizarre exchanges with my precocious all-boy boys. This one went something like this…
Scene Setting: Reading at bedtime in Will’s bed. Both of us snug in our pj’s happily winding down for the day. As I read a sweet devotional on God’s love I catch Will studying my chest. Apparently my pj tank top was a little more revealing than my usual attire.
“Mommy?” says Will. “Why are those private?” (He points at my boobs.)
“Because they are. God made women’s chests private.” (I quickly pull up my top to ensure maximum coverage.)
(He reaches for my chest and I pull his hand down.) “Why?” he asks again.
“They just are. They are for feeding babies and, unless you are a baby, only daddy is allowed to see them.”(I left out daddy touching them as I was hoping to steer him away from that thought. But, alas, he is a persistent little sucker.)
“Oh, Mom, will I ever get to touch some?” he sighs with resigned defeat painted all over his face.
I freeze trying to collect my thoughts. Did he really just ask that? I want to laugh out loud but he is very serious about this and I get the feeling laughter is not the appropriate response.
Finally, I reply, “One day. When you are married. Hey, I have an idea, let’s read an extra chapter in the Bible tonight! What do you say?” I change the subject and pray fervently for my baby boy’s future romantic endeavors and the little hussy that may lead him astray.
Wow. I wasn’t expecting these conversations until puberty. However, in puberty he’d probably be mortified to ask me such questions. I hope and pray I handle these conversations in a way that helps my little men along in life. I want to give information – but not too much too soon. I want them to feel free and unashamed – but model appropriate behavior (whatever that is). I want them to love and celebrate who God made each of us to be. I want to build them up as boys growing into manhood. I want them to feel strong, confident, and secure. I want them to feel like super heroes. But, how do I do this? In all those millions of conversations that take place each day, am I inching them closer to my hopes for them or I am sending messages of the exact opposite? It is so hard to know.
Today has been a tough one. Full of testosterone laden tantrums, wrestling matches, and general mayhem. By late afternoon, each of my boys were locked in their rooms (in an extended time-out), after getting their beloved bikes taken away for disobedience and targeted acts of neighborhood terrorism and violence. I prepped dinner downstairs as I listened to their screaming and pounding on doors in protest. At 4:59pm I figured it was close enough to a respectable drinking hour and I grabbed a beer. I chopped veggies, savored my Flying Dog Pale Ale, and prayed silently I was doing right in this whole parenting gig.
Later, after some heart to heart talks, cuddles, and discussion on the finer points of self-control and listening, all was temporarily calm. And even though I had taken away his beloved bike and scooter, imprisoned him in his room for over an hour, and yelled and threw a tantrum myself – my precious boy Will crawled into my lap, cupped my face in his hands and said, “Mommy, you are the prettiest mommy in the world.”
Mikey soon followed, not to be outdone by his older brother, and he showered me with “ten kisses, mommy – hold still!” His sweet, sticky lips bombarded my face with the affection only a son can have for his mama.
I guess I’m doing something right. Not everything – not by a long shot. But my boys are loved and know how to show love. And that’s a starting place. Now, if I could just get a handle on the potty talk and spitting… I will tackle that tomorrow. For now I bask in the glory that I have survived to fight another day for the minds, hearts and souls of my little boys.