Growing up the oldest of three sisters, I was surrounded by everything that was stereotypically “feminine.” We loved to play house, to style our dolls, to put on performances and play dress-up. I was the antithesis of a tomboy – I never really excelled at any sport I played and I usually preferred the company of girls to boys. Even in high school, though I had friends who were boys, I usually experienced them in social settings; I never saw how they lived when girls weren’t around. Boys were, in reality, pretty foreign to me.
The first time I really got to experience boys in their natural habitat was when I began to date my husband almost ten years ago. He is twenty years my senior and has two sons from a previous marriage, who were teenagers by the time we started dating. I was fascinated to see how they all behaved when they were together. It was so different than how I acted with my mother and sisters. They would watch a football game and only talk about football, no gossiping about who in the family was dating who or what everybody’s weekend plans were. They even went whole periods of time in silence. I was shocked – I didn’t know that was possible!
While I was fascinated by my husband and his relationship with his sons, I was also scared to death. I had no idea how to form a connection with teenage boys. It felt unfamiliar to me to sit with them and rehash a sporting event, so, at the urging of my aunt, a psychologist with years of experience working with children from divorced homes, I did what came naturally to me; I asked them questions about their dating life. That became one way I could bond with them on a personal level and slowly, I began to form my own relationship with each one of them.
I learned I was pregnant in 2012 with our first child, a boy who was born in August of the following year. Twenty-months later, we welcomed our second son. I’ve spent the last four years learning to be a mother to boys. This experience has been a process of learning patience and practicing serenity, two virtues with which I have always struggled. My boys are energetic beyond belief. They never slow down, even when watching tv they still manage to jump, kick, punch, and roll around as they pretend to fight “bad guys.” To say they move about constantly would be an understatement. They are aggressive and exhausting but also so entertaining to watch. They don’t understand emotion the way many girls their age do; they don’t read my facial expressions as quickly and easily, which can often result in tears and frustration when they mistake my seriousness for joking. We work on “listening” and “reading Mommy’s tone.” They’re obsessed with “potty-talk” – they are forever laughing at butts and everything disgusting (which usually has their dad and older brothers in hysterics). It’s been quite a trip to try to understand how their brains work, and I’ve enjoyed every second of the journey. They are the most loving, kind, adorable little creatures who treat me like the queen of our castle. Kisses and hugs and “I-love-yous” abound in our home, and I am never left wanting for attention and affection.
Last November, my husband and I discovered we were pregnant unexpectedly with our third child. Everybody I know wished (and told me over and over again) how much they hoped I would have a daughter. But deep down, I knew from the beginning this child was probably a boy. When a ten-week blood test confirmed it, my husband and I got ready to welcome our third son (and his fifth) in July. While others were disappointed for me, I wasn’t. I live in a world of boys now. It’s what we do in our home – we raise boys who are loving, strong, empathetic, kind, respectful, creative and passionate. At least, that’s what we’re striving towards. Time will tell, but I’m trying my hardest.
When I was younger, I imagined a life with daughters. I envisioned decorating paper dolls with my girls or watching them play dress up in my wedding gown, just like I had done with my own mother. Today, that is so far from my reality, and that’s okay with me. I’m sure raising girls would have presented its own joys and challenges, but I believe God gives you what you need; being a stepmother and mother to boys has helped me to grow in ways I didn’t know were possible. It may not have been what I expected or hoped for years ago, but now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been given the gift of raising sons. I’ve had this opportunity to glimpse into the world of boys, to learn from them and grow as a result and to raise them into the kind of men any partner would be lucky to have.