I always wanted a boy. It’s not that I’m into sports, or the outdoors, or even roughhousing, I just thought I’d love a boy. I would see moms with their little boys and think “that looks like a really special kind of love.” I figured, if I get to choose, that would be my choice and maybe part of me needed it to be something so different from my own childhood that it would feel like starting from scratch.
But the thing about starting from scratch is, you basically have no idea what to expect. And while I was busy dreaming of hugs and snuggles and little boy’s stories, I really did not prepare for real-life at all. I had NO idea what raising a boy to be a man would be like.
No one told me about the peeing everywhere, the mud and messes. The stuff breaking or burning, the pen on the walls right next to the dirty fingerprints. The non-stop moving – the climbing too high just to jump off! The yelling and screaming when they’re playing, which is all the time. Try to teach a boy the concept of an “inside voice!” Not to mention the Star Wars lightsabers, action figures, LEGOS, and Hot Wheels and did I mention the noise, noise, noise?
But you know what made up for all of it? Just as I dreamed, his love for me knew no bounds when he was little, and even into the pre-teen years. Hugs and snuggles and kisses and holding hands. I never wanted for any love. Sometimes I even wished to peel his sweaty body off of me but I knew it wouldn’t last forever so I just stayed still.
And now he’s a teenager, and what I know is that parenting a boy is still completely different than parenting a girl. And while some things have stayed consistent, I know that I will keep learning as we take this journey together.
12 Things I’ve Learned Raising a Teenage Boy
No clothes is the best clothes. My son is quite a dapper dresser, but once he walks into the house it’s down to his skivvies and in his chair. Don’t be surprised if you have to head your teenage boy off at the pass as he goes to answer that ringing doorbell! Walking around in his underwear is just NBD to him!
Crass and Crude is the way it’s going to be. So get used to hearing “farts, butt, balls, penis.” And don’t be surprised if picking his nose is a daily habit. (I keep tissue boxes everywhere!)
Get ready for those hormones to kick in. Don’t be surprised when they start rubbing stuff and talking about stuff and making everything they say somehow seem sexy and giggle-worthy. It’s totally normal and they need to know that. Hold on mamas, it’s just a phase!
They need a little help knowing what is appropriate. As much as I cringed when he would ask me questions about sex and masturbating and eeek…yes…personal questions, I knew that not answering him would cause more problems in the long run then answering. Or at least saying sometimes, “you know that question isn’t really appropriate.” But being available and not shaming is going to help your boy grow up.
Boys feel very deeply. We often hear “boys don’t cry” and we inadvertently send that message to them. But the truth is, we need to let them cry, otherwise, they will keep it inside when they are hurting. We need to be a safe space for them to share those feelings so they don’t bury them and express them in inappropriate ways. So when they do come to you LISTEN don’t speak. Let them talk, and fight the urge to fix their problems. Don’t tell them what you would do, ask them what they need. And if all they need is for you to listen, then do that. The gift you will give them will be the strongest connection you can build.
They need freedom! It’s so easy to get worried when they start to do the things “boys do.” But we have to let them build their own campfires or create a science experiment that blows up! Let them climb a tree! Let them ride their bikes into town. They need to know they can trust themselves, and that YOU trust THEM.
Don’t rescue them. If your son fails a test, don’t call his teacher, let him figure out how to talk to his teacher. If he doesn’t make first string, let him figure out what it will take. I promise you he will thank you!
They’re gonna break stuff. I thought as my son got older this would stop. Whether it’s because they’re growing so fast they’re like a bull in a china shop or just plain not paying attention, don’t put your breakables out yet. As I unload the dishwasher I often recall the time this coffee mug got chipped or how this lone glass is all that’s left of a set of 6. But you know what, they’re memories I’ll have forever. (until they’re all broken and I have nothing to remind me anymore)
Let the boys hang out at your house. Trust me, being the mom that knows the scoop on everything is the best mom to be. So say yes to guys night, stock the house with soda and Cool Ranch Doritos, download that Dominos app and smile as you hear the laughter coming up from the “man cave.”
Love what they love. If I want to see my son it all, I’ve learned I need to hang with him on his terms. Most days my son won’t say no if I sidle up to him while he’s playing a video game and ask to watch. Or if I say “what’s so funny?” as he’s scrolling through Instagram or YouTube, he might actually share the laugh with me. You don’t have to be alone to let them become their own separate being, you just have to be with them on their terms.
Give them space. As our boys get older they will start pulling away, and as much as that hurts, it’s totally normal and healthy. And holding on so tight that they don’t want to be around you at all…not so healthy.
Finally. They will ALWAYS love their moms. And when we give them that space they need so badly, sometimes, when no one is looking, they’ll let you come in for a snuggle and call you mommy.