Mothering Boys into Men

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The most reasonable thing to do is set back and let the natural process of a boy’s ‘manly development’ take its meandering course through childhood. As a mother of twin boys (now 31 years of age) I wasn’t reasonable.  I thought I could tweak into being what they would become by persuasion & suggestion. As it turns out — that wasn’t so true. A few times of big-eyed gasped surprises told me this. No matter what I did the boys would not skip a beat in embarrassing me to death.

This was never truer than the day I looked around to see who else was watching my boys climb the side of a downtown two story brick building —- Public beware my boys are near —- clearly, on that day, they were not what I’d desired them to be. Or the time they decided to unfasten their seat-belts as the car rounded a corner (thankfully, the car behind me stopped in time to avoid hitting them) and slid out onto the pavement—-bounce-bounce-bounce—-to the sound of my screaming. I didn’t sleep for two nights after that one! All I could see when I closed my eyes was them sliding off the seat and out the door. The following day their father finally fixed the faulty latch on the door, finally!

As the saying goes: Boys will be Boys —- I’m here to tell you that boys will be men some day so us Mum’s might want to 86 the notion that “he’s just being a boy” and get down and dirty with some fanny whacking time to insure that good men emeruge out of boyhood. I’m not one to advocate beating a child but a good whack never hurt any child, especially when the ‘whack’ realigns risky behavior. And my boys occasionally needed realigning whacks.

“What was that four?” one would say after a flick of my finger on the head; I’d reply “because you needed adjusting! Now stop giving high-fives to the grocery store isle signs, and other such things they would do”  Awe, to be the mother of twins. What one imagines two accomplishes.

Here’s a story for all you  young parents who think some behavior is cute at two only to find out it isn’t so cute at twelve:

Once Upon A Time years ago, a Juvenile Court Judge in Miami County, Ohio, Judge Kay Wagner, whom I think was a long lost sister of Judge Judy (television’s Manhattan Family Court Judge Judith Sheindlin whom we’ve all grown to have a love/hate relationship with) and I became friends after my boys had a need to appear in front of her. During one of our respective rant-it-out times she hit the nail on the head with this statement that has stuck with me over the years. She said “It seems to me a lot of parents are turning a blind eye and becoming unaware enablers. So much so that sometimes, honestly, I’d like to send a few parents to Juvenile Detention instead of their kids. You know what Marilu, If the parents would tend to their children better I might never need to” I seconded that notion.

Although, truthfully, sometimes it is harder to tend to a wayward boy than you might think. Mine would look me straight in the eye, nod in agreement, and do as they pleased anyway. Some boys are more challenging than others, I guess. I finally realized that if I were to get anywhere with my twins I had to take them on one at a time, individually, never together  (because I swear to you that they could have a non-verbal conversation with each other right in front of me plotting their next move. I saw it in their eyes and tilts of the head towards each other.) 

What’s to do when you have a boy who thirst after all forms of risky behaviors as mind did. After my boys first run in with Judge Kay I thought that she was being too harsh on both of them. And, sad to say, I wanted to cuddle them because this is my nature, to fix, to cuddle, to love my kids. But, the thing is: you can not fix stupid with cuddles! Boys need to learn how to be good men, therefore, boys need to learn how to be better boys.

“When did you first think it was a good idea to taunt a police officer” ask Jude Kay “In who’s realm of reality does a fifteen year old think this is a good thing to do?”

No reply was given. Just a hung head awaiting her gavel and what was to follow by the court and by the home.

What had the boy done? Well, he’d spent the night with a friend. It was very hot that August evening and it was around ten thirty in the evening, maybe a little later. The boys were outside in the friends front yard. There is a curfew in the small Ohio town we lived in for anyone under a certain age to be inside or if outside to be within the property boundaries of their house after (I think it was ten o’clock in the evening) a certain time each night. On the night of the incident two police officers were foot patrolling the friends neighborhood and had stopped on the corner to watch the three boys in the front yard. I am sure the officers did this out of protocol when kids were outside during curfew hours. The boys saw the officers. Instead of waving, being friendly and showing the officers there was a non-issue with them — which is non-risky and reasonable behavior — one of my boys took it upon himself to walk up to the property edge and place one foot outside of it, and taunt the officer with it, which the officer quickly noticed. The officer approached and questioned my son. The boy was hauled off to the police station. I was called. Not only to pick up the offender but his twin as well for sassing the officer for hauling off his brother. Should the boys been taken to the police station, should one have been charged and given a court date to appear at a juvenile hearing or should the boys been severely reasoned with by the officers is any ones guess. I was not there. I can say this: when I got to the station to retrieve my twins they both were scared out of their wits, were sorry and did not have an attitude. If they had had an attitude with the officers it had certainly passed by the time I’d gotten to them. I suspect they did. I suspect this is what lead the officer to handle the situation legally instead of with a stern reprimand.

We appeared a few days later. And I thought this was the end of this behavior in my boys. A lesson learned. Over and done. I was wrong. I should have not thought Kay was being too harsh. I should have been harsh right along with her. Stood my ground. Not cuddled or coddled. I should have whacked the dickens out of them both. Therefore I got to see Kay several more times before I was done with seeing Kay, and not for bantering over coffee either. The next couple of years were simply awful for me but I cause a great deal of it myself —- so beware not to do the same.

Royce told me a story the other day about the day his father chased him with a switch for back-talking. I think the chase took a mile or so during the summer heat of the day in the Arizona dessert. In Arizona it gets pretty hot during the summer months! He told me that he was switched to and from and afterwards for sassing his Dad and as he licked his wounds in his bedroom after the ordeal, his mother came into the bedroom, not to give sympathy but to suggested that he should go outside and help his father in the field where he was planting stating that his Dad needed the help. She did not coddle, nor did she scold. Royce did as she’d asked. He said he and his Dad worked side by side without a word was spoken until the task was done. But, that silence spoke volumes to him, and he ended the day learning a lesson he’s never forgotten. It was days like this that fashioned who he became, respectful, hard working, honest. Royce is a good man and I think he was a good boy because his parents were not in any fashion enablers.

Not every boy is a challenge. Some are more than others of course and most all are a joy to raise. Mine were a joy to raise even if I did spend a little time during their growing years handling situations I’d rather not have had to handle. In the end I learned that (1) you can’t fix stupid with coddles (2) standing firm on some things is the best policy (3) and that no matter what you do to make your kids mad at you because you say NO WAY IN HELL they will still love you. Mine do and I’m blessed that they do.

I’m happy to say my boys have grown into amazing men, in spite of me.

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