I have to admit, there is something rather daunting about raising boys into men.
Sure, raising girls has its own unique challenges, but raising men, to me that has always felt heavy. Almost more so now as I’m middle-aged and staring in the face of two very handsome teenage boys that will be leaving my nest soon.
These little boys I adored are growing up into men. They will be fathers and husbands. And I can’t help but wonder every day if I’ve done enough to equip them.
It is often stated how much a boy needs his father, and of course, I agree. A dad has his own unique role in raising boys into men. He can model how to be a strong man. Provide a daily example of leadership and integrity. How to love and respect a woman, day in and day out for decades on end. And how to humble himself at the feet of His Heavenly Father and ultimately surrender it all.
So as a Mom, I’ve had to really think about exactly what they can learn exclusively from their Mama. What will be the mark I leave on them? Everyone’s list will be different, depending on their big picture view. Below is what I’ve found to be really valuable to me to instill in these men and where I try to go the extra mile for them.
- Relationships are not designed for what you can get from them.
I am your Mom. Our relationship began as one where I was the giver and you were the receiver. I made sure your needs were met as soon as you had them. The eating and changing and teaching and training… and then as time goes on, I need to teach you that relationships go both ways. No relationship is meant to be all about you. I would be doing you a huge disservice (as well as your future spouse) if I allowed you to believe it was. And so, I train you. I encourage you to ask me about my day. Think long and hard about my or dad’s birthday present. And when you screw up and lie to me or disrespect me, I allow you to feel the pain of a fractured relationship. Not forever of course. But enough that you know that I have feelings too. That when you don’t take care of what matters to someone- when you are reckless with their heart, there will be ramifications. Those will affect you too. And that distance you feel between us, it can be repaired, but it’s going to be on you to make it right. I will step you through it. Relationships can be tricky, but oh so fulfilling when done right.
- A healthy view of women and sex.
Cringe!! I know it’s the worst thought! I would’ve never imagined the conversations I would have with my teenage boys. I can’t believe I have to do it all again when my little guy comes of age. Here’s the truth of it though: The world is trying to sell our boys a lie. Pornography and promiscuity are pushed on them at every turn. The girls today definitely turn it up a notch from the teens of my day, and quite frankly, I cannot imagine being a boy today!
So, here’s the thing. Nothing, and I mean nothing is off the table for mom to talk about. I have always been that way. When my son was in elementary school he came to me asking for definitions of some pretty rough slang terms. I didn’t bat an eye and told him the truth for each one (and then, of course, got the names of the kids who were talking that way for my mental folders). At the end of it, he looked like he had seen a ghost! And then he said, “thanks mom, I really didn’t want to ask my friends.”
Because we have always been open, I can talk freely with him now about sex and girls. That it will never be appropriate to send or receive “sexy” pictures because that is using a girl visually and devalues her worth. A girl should never feel that the way to keep you interested is to snap you a picture of her boobs. A gentleman would never send one either.
I warn them of the trap of pornography. How it’s like a drug and you will always want more. That after feasting on pornography actual sex seems disappointing. I tell them about the connection between pornography and erectile dysfunction. It’s a real thing. And your wife will be super disappointed.
- Thinking for yourself
Leadership: not all people are natural born leaders and that is absolutely okay. It takes all kinds to make the world go ‘round. What I do want to be sure of is that my boys are not followers. The best way I personally know to combat that is to make them think. When they make decisions, I ask them why they chose that path. When topics come up I ask them “well what do you think about that?” I want them to get accustomed to thinking for themselves and not just accepting what the crowd is doing.
- Impulse Control
It is vital to me that from the time they are toddlers my sons (and daughters) are learning to resist temptation and control their urges. In children this looks like not hitting when angry, not snatching out of your hands, not taking the cookie after being told no, nor screaming and having a fit or tantrum. A grown man lacking impulse control is much more frightening. Its physically harming someone, it is theft, it is forcing yourself on a woman that has told you “no” or declined your advances. This is huge.
I address impulse control issues every single time. Every single time you snatch, you lose the item and get a timeout. Eventually, you learn to delay gratification. Anytime you hit or harm someone, there is a consequence and eventually, you will learn to use self-control and not use your body to display your negative emotions. And finally, every time you do not do what you are asked to do, I will get my overtired mom butt up and force you to follow through with the direction. That my son, that is true love. I am committed to helping you “get” this character trait right.
- I will always be your mama, and forever your safe place
The world can be a scary lonely place. You will screw up, you will miss the mark and occasionally wander off the path. There are times you will give your all, and still not succeed. There will be a girl that doesn’t like you back (and she’s crazy, just ask me!). Things may go totally wrong and it may be completely your fault. And I will always be here. I will always answer the call, return the text, or just be by your side. Your mama may be tough as nails and take no crap…but all moms have this in common: we never stop loving our babies. There is nothing you could do that would make me stop loving you.
I like to think I’ve prepared you for the world like I’m sending you off to battle. With all the equipment I can think of and every tool to succeed. But the most important thing I need you to know; you are loved beyond comprehension. God made you exactly how He wanted you, and I am eternally grateful I was chosen to be your mom. Make sure you call me often, you know I’m a softie.
So, there you have it. Those are my big objectives for raising my boys into men. Nothing magical or mind-blowing. I simply looked down the lens of time and had to imagine “Mommas little baby” as a man and begin with the end in mind. The boys fall short regularly, I get frustrated and overwhelmed…and then I regroup and remind us both of what kind of man he is meant to be and is becoming. Each day is a new opportunity.
If you see a Coleman boy, remind him to call his Mama.