Confessions of a mother of boys

You know you’re a fully fledged Mother of Boys when you find yourself alone at home on a Friday night – your kids are in bed, your husband’s out – you ignore the mind-improving book on the arm of the chair, you flick on the TV, scroll past the worthy documentaries, the hospital dramas and reality soaps, then completely voluntarily choose to watch the rugby … the whole game, including the captains’ interviews. The following day you’re able to offer a useful commentary on the match along with predictions for your team’s overall chances for the season, as well as an informed opinion on who’s on fire and who has to go.

It happens – a lot more than you’d think. And it’s happened to me.

Like most mothers of boys I started with very little idea of what was ahead. I was just a mother of two beautiful children, determined to help my sons achieve their potential with as few trips to Accident and Emergency as possible and preferably without stockpiling an arsenal of plastic weapons. But somewhere along the way things changed. Not them. Me.

The ‘no guns’ policy lasted a couple of years – until I realized that the boys were improvising with sharp sticks and feeding their addiction at other people’s houses. I gave in to the inevitable and added a couple of water pistols to the toy box. And before you accuse me of being too quick to relinquish the moral high ground – a note of caution: A friend of mine held out longer on the ‘no guns’ rule. But one day, son number four came into the kitchen asking for a glass of water for his older brother. She went to investigate what was making the boys so thirsty and found them making weapons with scrap wood and a bench saw. Two things come out this. Bench saws should be kept well away from children and most boys really, really like guns. As a mother of boys that’s something you have to manage.

Mothers of boys have a whole host of things to endure that mothers of girls might avoid completely  – the constant noise, endless fighting, comedy flatulence and an aversion to basic hygiene. The difference between girls and boys is a well-worn topic.  But what does this mean for mothers?

Once a year mothers of boys gather in Brisbane for a lunch to celebrate their ‘special’ status (details here). It’s a fund raiser and an awareness raiser. Over the years, speakers have highlighted some of the key issues that young men face – bullying and road accidents are a couple that come to mind. But if you do a pink wash, you’re not welcome. This is just a gathering of mothers of boys. A founding member was famously booted off the committee when (after three sons) she had a girl. At first I thought this rather excessive. But the older my sons get, the more I realise how different it is – just having sons. No one in my house is ever going to need a dress for the school formal, heels and some bling to match. No one is going to share the curse of PMT or moan about boyfriends. And I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing, but it makes things different. It also means that to avoid feeling like a stranger in my own home, I’ve had to embrace some of my boys’ interests.


Apart from an unnatural interest in rugby, I have developed an inappropriate sense of humour. I laugh at Fat Mamma jokes. I laugh at toilet humour. I even made up my own orifice-related jokes for my  tween adventure series, Hazard River.  It was hard not to. I inhabited the mind of a ten-year-old boy to write the series – a few vomit and bottom anecdotes were inevitable. I’ve considered following this up with a series for older boys, but the idea of invading the mind of a teenage boy has me worried. It’s dark, scary and mysterious in there.

Hazard River series

I’ve just opened Steve Biddulph’s book Manhood for some direction on what lies ahead. Now I’m really scared. While we’ve been busy empowering girls, young men have been drifting along in an underfathered parallel state – getting drunk, getting violent, getting arrested and taking their own lives at an alarming rate – because they don’t know how to be good men.

Gulp.

Sadly, the one thing mothers can’t do, according to Biddulph, is teach boys how to be men. We can nurture them, support them, remind them to take a shower, and laugh at their silly jokes. What we also have to do is make sure we’ve got a good man around to help teach our boys the right way to live.

rugby injuryAlso see Welcome to the Mothers-of-boys tribe 

 

Shotover JetboatAnd  The Definition of fun: holidaying with boys in New Zealand

21 thoughts on “Confessions of a mother of boys”

      1. Hi Julie,
        I have tried that link, but no luck. Is there somewhere else I can find out about the lunch?
        Thanks
        Helen

  1. Great article Julie! I too had adopted a no gun policy until my son received a few nerf guns for his birthday. Now we have targets drawn on our sliding glass doors 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing. I commend you, myself, and all mothers who can look forward to the rewards of their challenges that have been overcome and those to be. I an a mother with two boys still at home (14 &15), two boys/men recently moved out again (boomerang generation) , and our oldest is in heaven. I have always noticed that I do not fit the typical soccer mom equation. We, mother with all boys truly do have a different way; sense of humor, ruggedness, just not the same. Thanks
    for reminding me that there are moms like us
    all around…just watch for the ladies with the Mona Lisa smile when the flatulence jokes .

  3. Hello, Julie–Great article. I really enjoyed it. I currently live with three teen boys, and my life is very different than it was before my daughter grew up and left. You are right, though–I did have a chance at the daughter stuff! Now it’s just boys, and I can imagine what it would be like had it always been. Keep striving! I have recently published an article on raising teen boys. Check it out if you’d like–http://outshelling.blogspot.com

  4. Hi Julie and fellow MOBOs. There is absolutely no denying the huge difference in the way male and female brains work! I grew up in an all-girl family (except for poor Dad who longed for a son to play rugby with!) and now I’m a MOBO. My MOBO career began 12 and a half years ago with the joyful but noisy arrival of my eldest son (and he’s still as noisy!) and I’ve been a MOBO of 3 sons for 8 and a half years now. And I am still perplexed every day by these busy but fascinating creatures in my care! Both my sisters and several cousins and girlfriends have girls only and they too shake their heads in bewilderment at the undeniable differences between their girls and my boys. Fortunately I have numerous MOBO friends who help keep me sane! I’d love to attend the Brisbane MOBO gathering this year. Please tell me where and when and i’ll gladly be there for some time-out from the constant boy-noise! Thanks for your initiative.

  5. I love this summary of my life! I think I have let go of my main justification for the accumulation of some nice bling – ‘an inheritance for my daughter’. since there is no daughter – I don’t need the bling. Not really. Now I am busy embracing the idea of adventurous holidays instead of bling – something I have also always enjoyed and I will enjoy even more the thrill of sharing adventure holidays with my boys. It is a much better way to spend money!

    One thing that I have had to get used to is the judgement from others for the behaviour of three boys. My boys are close in age (5, 6 and 7 years old), they are lovely boys – but they are also loud, busy, physical and a bit overwhelming for the feint hearted. Boys need to be boys. they need to challenge each other, they need to be competitive and rumble and yell. I am frantically busy teaching them about appropriate behaviour – right action, right place, right time. But they are young boys, and it is disheartening to have people complain about their noise, about a loose ball going astray into the wrong yard, about tears in the playground (the nature of boy play is that someone inevitably ends up hurt – not maimed for life, but hurt). I hope they will become the kind, curious gentlemen I am trying to teach them to be, but it is a long journey.

    1. Thank you Tania. I can certainly relate to boisterous boys. Organized sport is a great outlet for their energy but they still love to wrestle. Thankfully they also know how to be polite, articulate young men. Good luck with your boys. Julie

  6. Missed the May lunch…interested in the next one ? I am the mother of 4 boys that are now young men…

  7. Lovely article Julie, so true! I’ve got 4 boys, and love being a boy mum (after a bit of mindset adjustment!) Don’t be too alarmed by the Steve Biddulph books on boys, he has a particular angle and seems well-meaning, but the scary stuff can be really OTT and Mum’s role quite devalued. Maybe try Nigel Latta’s ‘Mothers Raising Sons’ – a bit more balanced I reckon. I’m a clinical psychologist and that’s the one I recommend to my patients! Thanks again for a great read.

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