10 Challenges All Moms of Boys Face

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There are few things I consider myself an expert on — I mean, I have to Google “how to hard-boil an egg” every time I do it (it’s hard to remember, OK?!). But I’ve had an all-boy household for the last decade. I have been immersed in boyhood for that long; literally 24 hours a day, I’m with at least one little dude. And that’s taught me a lot about mothering males. So, in addition to those 10 things that moms of boys must do, I bring you 10 of the challenges brought about by raising a person of the XY-chromosomal-persuasion.

1. Say “so long” to silence. If I had a nickel for every time I shushed someone or reminded them (for the eight millionth time) to use their “inside voice,” I’d be enjoying an early retirement on the beach in Ibiza. With a boob job and a tummy tuck. And a frosty drink and a personal masseuse. Wait, what? Oh yes. Little boys are loud, is my point. Even when they’re within a one-foot radius of each other, they still feel the need to bellow. Especially if they’re excited … which boys almost always are, about one thing or another. They may not talk as much (unless it’s about Minecraft, in which case they never shut up) but they are always making some kind of noise or sound effect. And P.S.? Their toys are loud too. Yay!

2. Good luck being gender-neutral. In a valiant attempt to make my boys as well-rounded as possible, I have provided them with a slew of baby dolls, kitchen playsets and other toys typically geared toward girls — which they’ve loved, and played hard with. I have made repeated, impassioned speeches about how there are no “boy colors” and “girl colors,” but simply colors, period, and how it’s OK to wear whichever one makes you feel happy. They’ve asked me to paint their fingernails and toenails, and I’ve gladly obliged. But as they get older, they are leaning more and more toward activities of the masculine persuasion (and are downright disgusted with anything they perceive as “girly”), despite my best efforts to quash a “boy stuff vs. girl stuff” mentality. Short of keeping them isolated from the rest of the world in a plastic bubble, or actively trying to inhibit their natural tendencies, you can’t change the facts. Most boys are … boyish. It’s something a boy mom has to accept. Which brings me to number three …

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3. Rough is routine. One little boy can be plenty rough all by himself — but put him with a male friend or family member (or several) and it’s a recipe for a wrestling match. They push and shove and punch and pounce and tackle and wallow. It doesn’t mean that they’re angry; in fact, 97% of the time it’s just the opposite. (Note the smile on my son’s face as one brother sits on his head and another tugs at his undies.)

boys underpants sits on head

While a perfectly natural occurrence, this roughhousing can also be problematic for two reasons: first, they lose track of their surroundings and damage your crap (I’ve had holes — multiple — in my walls and a broken TV screen, among countless other things, to back up that claim). And the second reason? …

4. The ER staff will know you. Intimately. You know how they say kids are expensive? They’re not joking. When you have a boy, you should automatically tack a couple hundred bucks onto your monthly expenses for out-of-pocket medical costs (and, at the very least, a bunch of Neosporin and gauze). Concussions, chipped teeth, broken bones, nasty gashes and road rashes — boy moms encounter a steady stream of these, and must be prepared accordingly. Well, as prepared as you can ever be when your kid comes to you with a blood-dripping injury that makes your stomach turn. Two nights ago, one of my boys kicked his brother’s tooth right out of his mouth during a routine wrestling match. (It was a baby tooth, thank the lawd, but still — it hadn’t even been loose!).

bruised legs

broken arm

Should I also mention that the frequency and variety of said injuries will make you secretly panic inside every time, sure that this time someone will report you to the authorities for abuse? Yeah. It’s like that. I’m pretty much always mentally composing an explanation in case Child Protective Services comes a-knockin’.

5. Weapons are everywhere. Along the lines of roughhousing and ER visits, parents of dudes must face the fact that little boys can — and will — turn almost anything into a weapon. When my oldest son was a toddler, I swore adamantly that he’d never play with toy guns. Not even water guns. But guess what? Life happens (thanks, well-meaning friends and grandparents), and somewhere along the way he encountered his first Super Soaker and was hooked. Four boys later, and my once weapon-free closets are stocked with a plastic arsenal. I’m telling you now, though, it doesn’t matter if you outlaw weapons: they’ll make them. Out of empty wrapping paper/toilet paper/paper towel tubes. And sticks. And Legos. And plungers. And leftover sticks from corn dogs. And any damn thing that can be aimed, flung, or jabbed at someone repeatedly.

banana weapon

6. Kiss your girly dreams goodbye. I used to fantasize about my daughter wearing my wedding dress. Or bequeathing her my high school journals, filled with stories of my friends, my crushes, and drama. But I’m pretty sure my boys aren’t gonna want to read about the “magical” New Year’s Eve kiss I once received, or the time(s) I faked having cramps to get out of gym. And I can almost bet that nobody’s going to be clamoring to wear my wedding dress (but hey, boys? If that’s your type of thing, it’s yours for the asking). When you don’t have girls, your visions of mother/daughter bonding evaporate faster than rain in a desert, and you have to make peace with that.

But wanna know a secret? It’s not that hard. The worst part comes when people don’t understand that you’re cool with having all boys, and they act unnecessarily sympathetic — like your life is somehow incomplete without female offspring, and you’re going around pining for the daughters you never had. Now that’s irritating. Because bonding over armpit farting contests is poignant and lovely in its own right … believe it or not.

7. Oh, the pressure! As the mother of a boy, you feel a huge — gigantic — obligation to make sure that they don’t grow into that douche-y ex or dating horror story that every woman has. The problem is, you’re not exactly positive what makes sweet little boys grow into bad dates and insufferable bedfellows. There’s no manual that tells us how to ensure that our dudes develop into ideal mates (or at least close) — and if you’ve never been a man yourself, it can be hard to tap into what makes them tick, adult-relationship-wise. So you do the best you can, but it’s all trial and error. And then you have to wait until they grow up to see if it worked. To my future daughters-in-law: I’m trying really hard. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

8. Stains stink. Trying to keep boys’ clothing pristine is like trying to jump into a pool and stay dry. And figuring out how to treat the endless parade of stains — from grass to blood to pudding to mud to Popsicles to poop — is a never-ending guessing game.

little frog

You’ll spend hundreds of dollars amassing a collection of stain removal products so impressive that your laundry room will rival the detergent aisle at the grocery store. You’ll hold your breath as you run the pre-treated item through the wash, and then snarl and swear and grit your teeth as it comes out still bearing the faint trace of spray paint or gum or permanent marker that you tried so hard to banish. You’ll toss out tons of stuff because nobody wants a hand-me-down that looks like you tried to tie-dye it with spaghetti sauce. Yeah, you’ll get to shop for new clothes for your boys, but here’s the next boy-mom issue …

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9. Boy clothes are boring. It’s true. If you want easy, boy clothes are where it’s at: outfits are a snap to put together because there are only a handful of styles, not a lot of trends, and everything goes together. But it’s not fun. Boys aren’t all that into accessories. It’s not like you get to choose ruffly socks or a coordinating hair ribbon or the perfect necklace. The boys’ clothing sections in stores always pale in comparison to the girls’. You might get to pick out, like, a belt or some sunglasses once in a while … but that’s about the closest to accessorizing that you’re gonna get. And forget about a closet full of shoes — dudes are happy with one or two pairs. (Although I have to admit … that’s much easier on the wallet, which makes me happy, too.)

10. Sometimes you just. Don’t. Know. I can comfort my boys when they’re sad or scared, praise them when they do well, correct them when they do wrong, and be happy when they’re happy. But when it comes to completely, 100% identifying with their feelings and concerns, let’s just say that one little thing stands between a mom and her total understanding of her sons. And I do mean one thing — also known as the penis. Because as much as I can empathize with the boys, I will never be able to completely understand why the male appendage requires so much airing out, or the allure of pulling on it all the time, or why its facing the “wrong way” (whatever that is) in your Ninja Turtle briefs is cause for alarm. Don’t even get me started on the questions that ensue on the occasions when it, uh, points north instead of south. It’s hard to teach them about a body part that you don’t have, so I resort to stammering uncomfortably scientific explanations for stuff like that.

When applicable, “Ask your dad” can be a boy-mom’s best phrase. And if all else fails, just remember: when you’re dealing with boys, a well-timed burp can defuse any awkward situation.

Related post: Appreciate That Farts Are Funny (And Other Things Moms of Boys Must Do)

A Plea for Boyhood and Rough Play


angry kid

Boys will be boys.

As simple as that might sound, it is the utter truth. Boys and girls are not the same: not physically, not psychologically, not even spiritually. The spirit of a little boy is a burning desire to touch, build, fix, destruct, fight, and love. My son is a co-sleeping snuggle bug who loves fiercely. He often gifts me with pine cones and other treasures, and he wipes my tears when I cry. He’s a gentleman.

And, he’s a rough and tumble little boy. He likes to play with sticks and rocks and throw things and splash water and push and be pushed and chase and tag and flip and flop. He’s loud. Sometimes his dinosaur roar even scares the little ones. And I know how people feel about his behavior because I see the way they look at him and me: as though we are wild criminals who have fled from an asylum just to come bother their perfectly-behaved child. Like it or not, those perfectly-behaved children are most often little girls. Comparing a girl to a boy is like comparing an orange to a shoe. Just don’t. Save your time; there is absolutely no point.

boys will be boys

I know that gender differences are a touchy subject, and I fully respect that there certainly can be a gray area. But there isn’t always a gray area. One of the most surprising parts of motherhood thus far has been the amount of apologizing I have to do for my son acting like a… boy.

I know that there is at least one mom reading this who has a very cautious, sensitive little boy; she’s probably rolling her eyes and muttering to herself about gender being taught. I know. I thought that too. And moms of daughters are reading and thinking that if I just knew how to effectively parent my son, he wouldn’t act that way. See, I thought some of those things myself, and sadly, I questioned the true nature of a boy.

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I, too, am a girl. And some girls are rough and tumble, but I wasn’t one of them. I’m emotionally introverted and, as a child, was anxious and slightly shy. I can’t recall a single incident at a playground when I hit someone. So I used to stare at my son in complete disbelief and shame. I have watched him hit others in his attempts to play. He’s a rough tagger and tough with a pool noodle during a chase. I understand why people look at us and think there is something wrong with us.

A big part of that equation, in my opinion, is our society’s lack of acceptance of unstructured play, physical touch, and big body play. Children do not necessarily need or want to be an adult’s ‘arms distance away’ from other children. And the ones who do will typically walk away from that type of play. It is just as normal for my son to be rough and tumble as it is for your child not to be. Children are unique people, each and every one.

kids looks at water

Two summers ago, we were invited to a sand and water party at an acquaintance’s house. Perfect, I thought. My then 2-year-old son can get messy and have a blast. There was only one other child there, a sweet little girl. While she made perfect little sand castles and sorted her toys by category, my son proceeded to sit in the water pail in his diaper and smash sand all over his body and face. The host was stunned and annoyed by his behavior and asked me if I wanted him playing that way.

When I looked over at my son, I saw the most joyful, fulfilled child I have ever seen (honest, it was moving), and I looked straight at her and said, “Yes, I do. That’s exactly what I want for him. That’s all I’ve ever wanted for him since the day he was born.” While she noted that he did seem happy, she complained about the clean-up (on their driveway — give me a break) and stared at my feral child in disbelief.

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Since that day, I can’t help but wonder if rough and unrestricted play is simply inconvenient for adults. It’s true, it can be messy. And rough and tumble does need to be monitored to some degree. But are we restricting our children because of real beliefs about what good behavior should be, or because other kinds of behavior don’t fit neatly into our schedules? I studied Gender Studies and Child Development in college, and I’m concerned that our boys are suffering, because it’s in their nature to get loud and fast and messy. Girls, too, if you ask me. But girls are generally forgiven faster for hitting and other forms of rowdy behavior because it’s considered out of their nature (so it must have been provoked).

When we say things like “Hands off!” and “Quiet down!” to our boys, we are asking them to suppress something innate inside of them. When they attempt to roughhouse and get in trouble for even brushing past another child, we are telling them that they are wrong and bad. And while I fully agree that bullying is one of the worst qualities we can allow in a child, there is a HUGE difference between bullying and rough play, which is why it’s important that we learn and acknowledge the difference. Rough and tumble play is a critical part of a child’s development, and I stand strong that we need more of it, not less.

This post originally appeared on Indianapolis Moms Blog, part of City Moms Blog Network.

Related post: Your Penis Won’t Fall Off And Other Things Boys Should Know

What a Mom to Boys Really Wants to Hear

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Fellow Parents, Grandparents, Friends, Family, the Grocery Store Clerk, and the Computer Repairman,

By now you can probably see – or more likely hear since they aren’t exactly quiet – that I have two boys. Yes, boys. Other than me and a spunky little dog, there are no girls in our family. This is not necessarily the way that I pictured our family looking (I’ll admit, I imagined hair bows and twirly skirts), but alas, this is the family that I have. And I LOVE it. I LOVE THEM.

I do not, however, love some of the comments that are said to or about my sons. Let me start by saying that I understand that many of your comments are innocent and well-intentioned. Like when you ask us if we are trying for a girl. (No, we’re pretty happy with the children that we have.) Or when you presume that because we have boys we don’t deal with drama or sensitivity. (Believe me, there is plenty of eye rolling and door slamming, dramatic tears and rage-filled outbursts, around here.)

I also understand that many of the things we hear are small talk, chit-chatty things, like when you ask my son what sports he’s interested in. Some things might even be meant as a compliment, like when you say, “Wow, you sure have your hands full!” (Sigh, I really do have my hands full – in the best possible way.)

I won’t get into all of the other comments that sometimes rub me the wrong way. Admittedly, I have been known to be a bit oversensitive at times. And the comments are nothing new, either; there are countless what-not-to-say lists out there. So instead of focusing on what not to say, let’s talk about what we can say, shall we?

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There really is only one thing – ONE THING – we moms of boys want to hear. In fact, it’s probably the same thing that every parent wants to hear. And some days we’re downright desperate to hear it. There are days when we feel like we have no idea what we’re doing. There are days when we’re just so sick of the noise and the fart jokes and the pee-covered toilet seats. And there are days when we can’t imagine not having boys.

When you get down to it, we just want to do right by our sons. We want them to be strong, sensitive, confident, curious, loving, kind, and caring boys, and we want to help them grow into strong, sensitive, confident, curious, loving, kind, and caring men. We want to know that we aren’t alone, that we aren’t totally fucking this all up.

So what should you say to a mom of boys? It’s pretty simple, actually: Smile, ask how she’s doing, and then, regardless of her answer, tell her: “You’re doing a fine job. Those boys are lucky to have you.

We will most likely smile back and say “thank you.” We might blush a little or brush your comment away.

Or we just might hug you.

Because you have totally made our day.

It’s just that simple.


A Mom to Boys

Related post: 10 Things Moms of Boys Must Do

What It’s Really Like Being The Only Female In A House Of Males

little-boys-on-swingImage via Shutterstock

I always just assumed I’d have a daughter. I grew up as one of two girls and took for granted the fact that one day I would have an awesome mother/daughter relationship like I do with my mom. Instead, fate gave me two sons, and I won’t be having another child just to try for a girl. Having all boys is awesome, but when I first saw those teeny weeny peenies appear on the ultrasound, I admit I was nervous about what my future would be like surrounded by three men, four if you count the cat. Here’s what it’s really like being the only female in a house of males…

Expectation: Boys are way grosser than girls.

Reality: Boys are no grosser than girls. All toddlers have less than savory habits, but it seems to be personality rather than gender that determines this. One of my boys is a dainty eater, the other ends each meal looking like Dexter after a messy night’s work. I have friends with daughters and the things that come out of their delicate little bodies both shock and amaze me.

Expectation: As the only woman in the house, I will be treated like a queen. Breakfast in bed every weekend, never having to lift heavy things or deal with large bugs.

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Reality: If by queen, you mean “chambermaid” then this is totally accurate. I really hope this changes once my boys get older, but as for now they refuse to acknowledge my royal status as the sole lady round these parts. Never mind saying “Mama” to show home much they appreciate me, they prefer words with infinitely more significance in their lives like “tent”. And as for heavy lifting, I can manage to haul five plastic bags of groceries plus a toddler into the house in a single trip from the car to the kitchen, while my husband takes two bags filled with lettuce and then drops the keys in an effort to unlock the front door.

Expectation: Hide your lamps! Boys will destroy everything you own with their roughhousing.

Reality: See below.


This is what happened when I stepped out of the room for however long it takes to turn on the Keurig and add Pumpkin Spice creamer to a cup of coffee. I know people use the phrase “This is why we can’t have nice things” ironically, but seriously, I can’t have any of the things, let alone nice ones. Other recent destruction not depicted- one iPad mini shattered (Who?), one pile of unidentified green something mushed into the carpet (What?), two curtain rods yanked down (When?), the charger for my Kindle (Where?), two broken Tiffany & Co. necklaces (Why?) and one soaking wet and traumatized cat (How?). They haven’t even hit the terrible twos yet, so if you see me wearing a neck brace in a few months, odds are you’ll know why.

Expectation: Boys are too rough and tumble for hugs and kisses.

Reality: Horrible mother confession time: I sometimes plead with my kids to get off me. Maybe this will change as they get older, but at 21 months, their favorite game is “Lapfight”, followed closely by “Let me mush myself against you and refuse to let you get up for hours on end.” Not going to lie, the snuggles are kind of awesome. Plus, they provide a handy excuse as to why I didn’t get to the laundry.

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Expectation: Boys toys are boring. I will be surrounded by action figures and a million tiny Legos to step on.

Reality: Toys are toys no matter the gender. Before I had kids I didn’t realize how many toys are universal. Things like blocks, books, stuffed animals, board games and crafts are basically the same as they were when I was a little and my boys love it all. Right now they are really into play cooking. I cant wait for Christmas because I loved my play kitchen set when I was young and I’m excited to relive that with them. Even the more stereotypical boy toys are still familiar to me, there’s not much of a difference between a Spiderman figure and a Barbie.

So maybe I’ll always have to take out the trash myself. All things considered, the reality of having sons is pretty awesome, and at least I’ll never reach for a tampon to find the box unexpectedly empty.

Related post: 10 Things Never to Say to a Mom Expecting Another Boy

This piece first ran on Mommyish. Read more here.

25 Rules For Raising Feminist Boys

little-boys-walking-hand-in-handImage via Shutterstock

“If you want something in life, you need to put yourself in a position to provide those things for yourself,” my dad said to me about 20 years ago. “Don’t count on anyone to provide them for you.”

We had been standing next to each other finishing up the dinner dishes — he dried while I put them away — and he was likely responding to some whiny teenage request for a purse or new shoes or a pair of Guess jeans. Whether intentionally or not, with those words, my dad gave me my first lesson in feminism: Be independent, take control of your life, and be the master of your own fate. And just as importantly, he was reaffirming his confidence in me as a capable, competent and self-reliant person, just as worthy of respect and opportunities as anyone else.

As parents, we are constantly teaching our children something — whether it is what to do or not do, what is important and what is not, how we feel about ourselves and what we think about the world around us. And because these little lessons have a way of leaking out, in dribs and drabs and whether we realize it or not, it is important, I think, to constantly remind ourselves of our own ideals, values and intentions so that these are the lessons that come through.

Despite the fact that on the outside our family looks like something straight from a 1950s sitcom (my husband works and I stay at home with our young children), I am without qualification a feminist for the simple reason that I believe in equality. And though I have two sons (no daughters), it is no less essential that my children learn what feminism is and, perhaps even more importantly, how feminism and gender equality play out in the world around them.

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Women aren’t the only ones impacted by gender inequality — we all are — and it is up to my husband and me to do everything we can to combat the never-ending siege of stereotypes, biases, and inequality that society throws at children from even a very young age. It is up to us to ensure that the lessons of feminism and gender equality (and all kinds of equality, for that matter) are so deeply rooted in our family’s core that they leak out slowly and constantly — during play dates and in sports and, yes, in the kitchen while we put away the dinner dishes.

There is no shortage of lists on feminist lessons for our daughters, but, while many things on these kinds of lists are universally applicable, as a mom to boys, I wanted to find something that related more specifically to the issues that I am facing (or expect to face) with my sons. Coming up short, I did what any independent woman would do — I came up with my own list for raising feminist boys…

1. Feminism does not mean feminine. It means equality.

2. Being a boy doesn’t mean you can’t be a feminist. Neither does liking sports and burgers and action movies. Just like wearing jewelry and makeup, taking my husband’s last name and getting manicures don’t make me any less of a feminist.

3. It’s OK to cry. But as with all expressions of emotion, take care to do so in a responsible and respectful way.

4. Be friends with girls.

5. Girls can like trucks, superheroes and Stars Wars, just like boys can like princesses, tea parties and My Little Pony.

6. The phrases “like a man” and “like a girl” hold no real meaning. Ignore them.

7. Be strong AND sensitive; the two are not incompatible.

8. Your penis does not give you special privileges. It is simply part of your anatomy. It makes you human, with all of the pleasures and obligations that the human experience offers.

9. Hold doors open for women. And men, for that matter. Not because of any sexist traditions, but simply because holding the door is kind and polite. It is just good manners. For the same reason, push in your chair and put the toilet seat down.

10. A girl might look pretty, attractive, cute and sexy, but true BEAUTY comes from within.

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11. Pay for dinner and buy her flowers. Not because that will make her more likely to want sex or fall in love; do it just because it is the nice thing to do. (And if I had daughters, I would also tell them to offer to pay for dinner and to buy him flowers because, again, it is a nice thing to do.)

12. Have sex when you are both ready. Not because your friends are having sex. And not because your hormones are going all haywire inside of you. But because you are physically and emotionally ready to handle sex and its aftermath.

13. “No” means no. Silence also means no. And even “maybe” means no. Only “yes” means yes.

14. Surround yourself with people who invite you to be your best self. Be wary of people who want to change you.

15. Equal work deserves equal pay; equal pay requires equal work. It’s just that simple.

16. Your gender does not define you. Neither does your job or car or bank account. Be kind and brave, be a good friend and a hard worker and treat everyone with respect — those are the qualities that will define you.

17. If you get married one day, your spouse may or may not take your last name. Neither choice has anything to do with how much she (or he) loves you.

18. There are more ways to provide for your family than financially.

19. If you should one day have a family, make your child care decisions based on one thing only: What is best for the family. Consider the financial, professional, emotional, psychological and other factors involved, all of which might change over time. Maybe you share financial obligations associated with raising a family and you both work outside of the home, then share in the household and child care obligations as well. And if you decide that one parent will stay home with the children, don’t be afraid to step up to the plate. Being a stay-at-home parent is hard but good work, regardless of its lack of a paycheck.

20. Even though most commercials and just about every sitcom on television will send messages to the contrary, men are capable of making the bed, doing the laundry, changing diapers and tending to other household chores and child-rearing tasks.

21. Don’t be afraid to apologize. It is not a sign of weakness, but a brave act of courage and strength.

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22. Never take for granted the privileges you have — whether financial, educational, racial, cultural or otherwise — and continue to fight for the rights of those who do not enjoy the same privileges.

23. Be sensitive, empathetic and compassionate.

24. There may be differences between the sexes — just like there are differences between all people. This is a good. Do your best not to over-generalize. And don’t be afraid of the differences; celebrate them.

25. Remember these lessons, not necessarily because any person or group of people needs protection or special treatment, but simply because they are essential for fairness, equality and respect. They can, I hope, change the world — one small step at a time.

Related post: 10 Things Moms of Boys Must Do