The Difficult Grit of Raising Boys

Parenting isn’t easy business. There are weeks when I cruise along and life is smooth. There are other weeks when I’m drowning in the stress of it all. I wonder at times, is it only me? Why does this feel so difficult? Am I ill-equipped to raise three boys?

It was during one of the hard moments when I wrote the poem below. I was at my wit’s end. It was a moment of doubting my capacity to do what needs doing. None of my strategies were working. My boys were each grappling with different end of school year transitions and the accompanying unease. Daily life was full. The sibling rivalries were kicking. Separation anxiety was rearing its head. Mother’s patience was waning. Every day seemed to usher in a new fight and new difficult moments. Meanwhile, the summer heat had arrived and school was out. Energies were high and my boys’ motion was ceaseless. I found myself daily contemplating the difficult grit of raising boys. And so, this poem was born.

It’s a window into one dimension of my experience raising boys ages 3,5 and 7. Of course they are kind and sensitive and full of sweetness. They are full of imagination and energy. They defy any attempt at categorizing or containing. They also confound me daily with their intense energies and a need to bump physically against their surroundings (and one another). They wrestle. They take a baseball bat to my roses one minute (!?!?) and carefully save a spider the next. They tend the garden the next moment and then make a game of throwing pinecones or rocks at each other’s heads. One moment they are contemplatively sculpting creations out of play dough and the next they are dismantling said creations, stomping on them and throwing chunks up in the air.

On and on this goes. It’s a seamless and fast dance to keep up. When do I pick my battles with them? How do I hold together the structure needed to foster safety and clear boundaries? How do I let them run a bit free and wild while also ensuring they are decent and kind? On some days, I’m interfering all day long. “Don’t do this! Don’t do that! No! Stop!” I keep thinking: there must be a different way. But what is it?

The journey of parenting keeps me on my toes. When one thing isn’t working, its indeed time for another.

—-

Ninjas!
Warriors!
Purveyors of sharks.
Devouring reason,
You trample on life’s delicate,
Well-mannered
Moments.

You spin chaos,
You unfurl conflict.
Wielding everything as a weapon,
You destroy.

 Your ocean of energy defies all attempt of containment.

This is the difficult grit of raising boys:
I want you to be free and wild,
But I also need you to be decent and kind.

I want you to live into the best of being a fierce protector,
defender of what is right.
I want you to use and feel your full body, while also understanding limits essential for a life of well-being and peace.
When I’m at a loss as your mother, I want the arms big enough to embrace it all.

In moments of chaos we head to the hills.
Under the sky is the space needed for all of us to breathe.
There is no problem here.

Its only that the world too often enjoys boxes and walls and so much structure –
with little boy souls needing curling and hurling and bending and unfurling,
a mirror to nature’s perfect playground where wild energies can truly run free.

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3 thoughts on “The Difficult Grit of Raising Boys

  1. Chloe

    Deborah, I can assure you it is not just boys! Boys have their own unique qualities (though which I have observed my friends with sons) but my two girls (7 & 2) are a complete handful. The simplest household task or errand can frequently evolve into a disaster. My youngest is wilful and independent. My oldest is 7 going on 14 (loves to argue and back chat). They are high energy and they too seem to defy attempts to have calm moments or be contained. Either that or they are ridiculously tired and losing the plot. This in itself brings challenge in managing their sleep needs. I too often find myself ill-equipped. Or I end up frustrated and shouting and regret it a few hours later. Anyway – I’ve been following your blog for years and find it so meaningful and honest. Thank you for your warmth and insight.
    Chloe (Perth, Australia)

    1. Thank you, Chloe! It is always good to connect with other parents who are going through similar travails. And yes, I hear you that it is not just boys! Thank you for writing and for walking this path with me from afar. Wishing you the best – along with deep breaths as we navigate these years! – Deborah

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