After our fifth boy was born we decided that our family was only meant for boys. I often get questions of “Are you going to try for a girl?” to which I reply with a smile “No I’m not.” Although I sometimes think I should be sad, and I would love to have a little girl, life with five boys under the age of nine is lively, wonderful and irreplaceable.
Little boys usually come with 5 superpowers which bring excitement, laughter and sometimes disaster. These are creativity, physical play, building, destroying, and love, and I have plenty of laughable experiences and examples to share.
The other morning it was still dark outside, and I awoke to the feeling that someone was looking at me. As I opened my eyes, my 4 year old was standing at my side dressed in soldier attire, complete with armbands, helmet, and breastplate. He said nothing but stood at attention with a slight smile on his face. I think he was sure that he had me fooled. “Oh, Mr. Soldier have you protected me all night? I asked. To which he responded with a nod then turned in an about face and ran off to conquer some unseen foe — all before 6:00 am.
I love to hear the creativity when my boys play together. They often create portals, fight sharks or pretend they are ninjas. In their view, the world is split into two kinds of people, “good guys” and “bad guys” and the good guys always win. After their adventures, they flock to tell me about what happened and how they won. Their narrative is complete with hand gestures, playbacks and spit-flailing sound effects.
Sometimes they can get too creative for their own good. When the twins were 7 years old, they called me into their room in a panic. When I raced to see what was the matter they were both hiding under their sheets. Still squealing with fear they pointed to a mound of blankets piled on the other side of the room. The blankets were made into a blob with a hat sitting on the top and two squinty paper eyes placed on the front. They had literally created a monster. I chuckled and said “It looks like you made that monster.” One twin in a panicked voice cried out “Yes, but we didn’t know he would look so freaky!”
We use this creativity to our advantage at our home. Instead of the normal set of chores we have command posts with assignments. These include Lord of the Laundry, Boss of the Bathroom, Car Commando, King of the Kitchen, and Floor Fighter. Since these command posts are weekly assignments I address the boys throughout the week according to their command post. For example, I will yell “King of the Kitchen please come upstairs.” The boys love the titles and don’t know that chores can be done any other way.
I love the flare that little boys add to the way that I personally interact with them. Since they were young, I have always tried to sing each of them a lullaby. Night after night they beg for me to come and sing, tuck them in or read them a story. I find that it is often a time when they open up about their day or express their latest troubles before they go to bed.
After years of singing the same songs, I finally ran out. Instead of learning new ones, I now ask them to pick a song and then pick a style. The styles include Swedish chef style, concerned mommy style, zombie style, and our favorite — creepy style. Creepy style usually starts with me at the end of their bed, sneaking closer and closer. It ends with them hiding under their blankets and me pouncing in a final tickle. I end up laughing just as hard as they do.
2. Physical Play
Physical play is definitely an added bonus of little boys. The other day while riding in the car my 4 year old randomly cried out. “I’m more powerful than lava!” He had his chest puffed out and is arms flexed. I couldn’t help but smile. The others barely stopped to glimpse at him because it is so normal. Little boys have so much energy at times that it gives them a sense of power. We often start our family nights with a lesson and a prayer but end with a pileup of laughing boys with Daddy at the bottom.
Sometimes this physical play ends in fighting but even in their fighting they still love each other. Once I heard my twins wrestling unhappily. After I pulled them apart they explained that one had bit the other and it had escalated into a mad wrestle. I made them sit together 15 minutes and talk about what they will do next time they disagree. When I came back to hear their report, I asked them what they decided. One twin said, “Next time he bites me, I will give him a piece of candy.” The other smiled and nodded in agreement. They thought they had come up with the perfect solution.
I will readily admit that having boys is fun and games even when it shouldn’t be. We take up an entire long row at our church for a reason. Maybe with a family of adults or even a couple of girls in the mix we wouldn’t need so much room. But because we have all little boys who roam outside the normal movement bubble, it is just better to take up the whole bench. Although mostly well-behaved, they fidget, move around, and rock in ways that can’t always be contained. With the superpower of physical play, we find, as parents, that we need to manage this constant leak of energy in healthy, forward thinking and proactive ways.
I am always surprised at how my boys can make something spectacular out of some random thing that they find in the backyard or our recycle bin. They can easily turn a set of lawn chairs into a spacecraft or an American Ninja Warrior obstacle course. Not a day goes by that a child doesn’t bring something to me that they have created out of Legos, Mr. Potato Head parts, Lincoln Logs or a mix of all three. Most often the things that they create were never intended for that purpose but my boys have the eye and the ability to make it work.
With the super power of building there also exists the superpower of sheer destruction. I am amazed at how most little boys seem to come designed to destroy. I believe that this desire to destroy provides balance and scaffolding to their abilities to create, build and see how things are put together. One year we moved across the country to an empty home as we waited for our furniture and belongings to arrive. We bought an air mattress from the store and only had our clothes that we could fit in the car. I blew up the air mattress and turned my back for just a moment while my four year old was drawing pictures with a pen nearby. You can guess what happened next. He made four pen-sized holes in our new air mattress. Not because he was mad, not because he was being naughty, but out of simple curiosity.
There are millions of stories of destruction at our house where the motive was curiosity. I once went window shopping for furniture with a friend. She was trying to convince me to buy for quality and to get a couch that would last. I explained that nothing that we had was going to last, not through 5 young boys. My best option was to wait until they were at least partly grown before we bought something too fancy. If it is breakable and within arms reach, they will break it. If it is unbreakable, they will break it. It is just how we roll. Each child goes through a phase where he tears, pushes, stomps or crushes.
One thing that I hear often is “You are lucky you don’t have to deal with the emotions of girls.” Although I hear this fairly often I am not sure if this is true. We still have plenty of emotion around our house, but one emotion that I treasure is the love that I feel from my boys. When we sit down for family study there is a sudden race for mom. It is kind of like the opposite of an explosion. When my husband announces that it is time, all the boys rush in from the different parts of the house at light speed in order to try to land a place next to me. I usually curl in a ball of protection until the dust settles.
These little boys have so much love for their mom. I have told them several times that they cannot undo my love. No matter what they do I love them and there is nothing that will change that. I was surprised that at the end of each day they seem to also reflect this sentiment. They don’t hold grudges, they easily forgive. I am sometimes tired and taxed by the wonderful but challenging task of raising so many little balls of energy at once. With these little fireballs close together I often have to cry out in order to protect one child from another or to keep a child safe from himself. I always feel bad after words. While saying goodnight to one of my boys after a harder than normal day, he wrapped his arms around my neck tightly and hugged me. I asked him to forgive me for getting upset with him earlier. In pure, sweet innocence and with a spirit of complete love he said “Mom, I will always forgive you for everything you will ever do.”
The Honor of Being a Mom to Boys
Every day my heart nearly bursts at the joy and love that I feel from raising these beautiful little boys. Their superpowers of creativity, physical play, building, destroying and love bring great rewards to this sometimes imperfect momma. When I think about this sport of raising boys and the patience, practice and strategy that it takes, there is one word that comes to my mind as to how I feel: “honored.” It is a complete honor to be a mom to boys.