I take my role as “mother-of-boys” quite seriously. It’s a big deal to be charged with raising these two little dudes to be responsible citizens in a confusing world. I want my young men to bright, inquisitive, active, caring. If not for the world, then to make good on a promise I made my teenage self. I’m dedicated to raising boys who would have been “good enough” for me and my friends.
My husband’s taxed with a bit of this. He’s in charge of: table manners, general decorum, and chivalry… things I’m not skilled in. His main focus lies in, “can we take you anywhere?” “are you capable of meeting the parents?” And, at the end of the day, he leads by example. He’s a good boyfriend. He often (sometimes) models good boyfriend behavior for the boys.
I take my job more seriously. I work harder at this. I think about all the crappy things boys can be, and I systematically try to browbeat those traits out of my boys. While at the same time developing those skills that the archetypical Best Boyfriend should possess.
They have to have great taste. Great taste in music, in clothes, in food. The boys are pretty good at this. They know the difference between ska and dancehall. They know they love Michael Jackson, and the Ramones, and New Order. And they know that Mom’s Ipod is infinitely more listenable than Dad’s. That’s a good start. Xavier knows that he likes looking neat and clean. Jalen knows that hats always look cool. And they can go out to dinner. They try different food. They know how to eat more than just chicken fingers.
They can’t be boring. They must have a sense of adventure. This can be an uphill battle. The boys tend towards inertia. They love sitting at home. They love playing their video games. And so does their dad. It’s a struggle to rally them, to get them up and going. But once they do, they’re up and moving. And they like doing tons of stuff: biking and soccer and rock climbing and museums and ice skating and exploring. I try to never say no to an adventure. I try to always say, “why not?” If they want to jump in the fountain (even without a change of clothes); sure. If they want to go to the zoo (just to see the gorillas); okay. If they want to go to the movies (even though it’s dinner time); we can eat later.
They must be brave. Both physically and emotionally. It’s hard to let your five year old climb the highest tree or let your eight year old walk to the end of the cliff. But, they have to learn how to swallow their fears and take a deep breath and leap. They need to know how to speak their mind and stand up for what’s right. And they can’t be easily embarrassed. They need to know how to act the fool without any fear of judgement. I want them to be men who will do crazy things, who will jump at any opportunity, who will sing karaoke in a noisy bar or cut a rug on a crowded dance floor.
They can’t be needy or incapable of caring for themselves. Young men these days have been so often coddled and babysat and excused for their behavior. My boys are going to learn to work for what they want. So often, I have done stuff for boys because it’s so much easier than waiting for them to do it themselves. I’m stopping the madness. These poor kids… Some days, I’ll come home from a particularly frustrating day, my husband will look at me and say, “Boys, back away slowly from your mother and get your own snack.” They will learn how to be responsible for their own care and accountable for their own actions.
They will think about others. And, they will be kind. I can’t stress this enough. My boys will know how to empathize with others, how to put themselves in other’s shoes. How to be non-judgmental, and caring. How to ask, “How was your day?” and really mean it. How to give someone a hug when they really need a hug. And how to be a good friend. And how to listen carefully and deeply.
Ugh. I sound like a beast. I sound like a tough cookie. But, I try hard to model this behavior too. To be kind, and responsible, and empathetic, and brave. To act the best that I can so that the boys will learn how to be. And I want them to learn one more important thing; maybe the most important thing of all. I want them to learn how to love a hard-headed woman. How to be with a woman who speaks her mind and has strong opinions. How to respect and challenge and keep up with a lady who is fierce.
And, finally, how to love themselves enough that they can love someone else fully and completely without holding back.