The Loud, the Physical, and the Messy: One Mom’s Life with Three Boys

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Over the next few weeks we will take a look on both sides of the blog at how we – as both youth ministers and parents – might love and disciple our boys and girls well and with prayerful and thoughtful intention, within their God-given genders. This week, we will begin with a look at boys.

Dawson Cooper has three boys, ages 13,8, and 5.

My husband and I didn’t find out what we were having with any of our children. In my mind, I thought our third baby was going to be a girl. It was a total shock to me to hear “It’s a boy!” that morning. My fate was sealed to be a boy mom. If I am being honest, there was a time when I felt sad that a little girl wouldn’t be in the plan for our family. 

To say that there has been a learning curve going from growing up with one sister to being a mother with three boys would be an understatement. I find myself asking my husband, friends who have brothers, and other moms of boys questions about the enormous intake of food or body odors or just physicality of their fighting. It is humbling to realize how much I have to learn about my boys. Like all circumstances in which I feel my inadequacies, raising sons thankfully pushes me towards greater dependence upon the Lord. 

One of the ways God has helped me is through other mothers, because as it turns out, being a boy mom feels like being in a club. Boy moms have stories, experiences, trials that are similar. Our households are probably run differently than all-girl homes, even down to things as simple as having ready access to foot odor powder and large volumes of Oxiclean. I feel so different from everyone else in my home because I am the only female. When I talk with other mothers of all boys, I feel a lot more known in my parenting style, struggles, and joys.

We boy moms are amazed that boys are so physical. I am really thankful that I enjoy – and am able – to be active with them. My boys are the happiest when they have been playing outside as much as possible, whether with an organized sport or just riding bikes in the neighborhood. 

I have found that as my oldest son gets more into the teenage phase, physical activity before school has been really beneficial to his day. Waking up at 6 a.m. to attend a group fitness class that he has chosen requires discipline. But he feels like it is a privilege to be there, and he is encouraged by other adults at a time when he desires to be seen as older and different from his younger siblings. Similarly, my middle son loves to play basketball with his friends before school, which means I have no problem getting him out the door – and he exerts energy before he has to sit still all day.

Boys often express emotions physically. I have heard multiple stories of teenagers punching a hole through the wall when they are upset. I have found it helpful for all parties involved for my teenage son to exert energy when he is frustrated, which means that sometimes he walks home instead of riding in my car, or finds something to punch outside. We were at the lake recently, and I wouldn’t allow him to ride on a sea doo with a friend. He was furious. He stormed upstairs, he stormed downstairs. Before I knew it, he had taken his younger brother’s wiffle ball bat and was hitting the rolled-up Maui Mat as hard as he could. No damage was done to anyone or anything, and I realized then that I probably needed to purchase a punching bag for occasions such as this at home! I am thankful that he is starting to be able to recognize some of his emotions, to see that he is mad and to find an appropriate outlet to vent his frustrations. 

From my experience, boys are not as verbal as girls. This is a challenge when they are frustrated and can’t, or won’t, verbalize problems or emotions.  We mothers can help with this.  I hope that by laying a foundation of open communication, trust, and respect when my sons are young, they will trust that I always be a safe place for them. 

For example, I have to be specific as they begin to engage in relationships with girls. When my son is texting a girl, be it a friend or someone he “likes,” I cannot assume that he will know what is appropriate or inappropriate. It may seem obvious to me that you don’t text “Hey, what’s up” ten times in a row when you don’t get an immediate answer, but it is not obvious to him. And on a more serious note, boys need to be told that young men do not ask for, receive, or forward inappropriate words or photos. They have to learn how to behave when peers are disrespecting a girl in locker room conversation or on a phone. I hate that I even have to have these conversations, but if my husband and I don’t explicitly teach about this in our home, who will? This is so uncomfortable for me and my sons, but I am learning to push through the discomfort because the stakes are too high not to. I think traditionally this is a father-son conversation, but I have felt encouraged that it actually should involve the mother, too. Our sons learn about God’s image in their sisters in Christ. This begins with them learning with and through their mothers. 

As parents, it is our responsibility to teach our boys what it looks like to treat women with respect — whether by their Dad’s example or by my words and insights. I know they are watching the way my husband treats and talks to me and my response to him. They are learning what it looks like to pursue a woman by watching our marriage. Grace stemming from the Gospel reaches throughout marriage and throughout parenting. 

Even as we give loving and clear boundaries to our boys, it is important for them to know that there is grace for them in Christ for their mistakes, struggles, and temptations. Christ came to shine light into the dark places not only of the physical world but in our hearts as well. Through my words and actions with and around my boys–be it hard conversations or the fact that Sunday School and church are priorities in our week– I pray that my boys see the centrality of faith in God in the everyday activities, relationships, and places in which our family has been placed. 

On the good days, I thank God that he gave these boys. On the hard days, I might ask God why he gave me these boys. But the truth I come back to is that He gave me these specific children, and in our case three messy, loud, rough and tumble boys. When I don’t know what to do or what God is possibly up to, I trust Him and His plan both for me as a mother and for my boys. 

Also check out this week’s articles about biblical masculinityministering to boys, the value of co-ed youth group, and our podcast on discipling boys well.

 

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