There are truly no handbooks out there on the best way to raise boys. Yes, there’s plenty of suggestions and guidance for mothers as they stumble through life determining how to raise young boys into decent human beings. But, in all actuality, we (as in those mothers or fathers out there) just go with the flow, and almost always blaming ourselves for not getting it good enough along the way.
As for me, while I do have two sons, I’ve actually raised three boys. My little brother was attached to my hip as we navigated through our childhood. He and I are thirteen years apart, and our relationships borders on sister to brother, as well as, mother to son. It was a balance for me navigating through those roles. I find that I still am balancing–even though he is now a grown man.
What I’ve realized through the years is I had no damn clue, and I only know that I don’t know shit.
And yet, here’s the thing that I’ve learned about raising boys: I was constantly reminding them of the overall impact of their actions, and also cultivating within them the notion of empathy and kindness. The term “boys will be boys” was something they heard growing up from people who surrounded them, and I realized that I became the constant stabilizing voice that always said, “that is not kindness,” or “you must remember how you made the other person feel,” or “please quit stuffing candy up your nose.” These were all the automatic responses whenever they would misbehave. I’m sure there were millions of moments when they rolled their eyes at me, or questioned why I was such a worrier. That’s all good.
And, through it all no matter their rebellion or the fact they ignored me at times, I did not give a f@ck. I persisted, and I insisted. Because I refused to give up, and allow them to think that their actions were acceptable. I was the disciplinarian on most days, while my husband (brother in-law to my brother) was the balance. My husband was the soccer coach (really, he coached all three of them) who demonstrated how to be a team player, a leader, and most of all–a reminder of also becoming a good father one day.
From my perspective though, there was a challenge raising Filipino-American boys. My brother was the only one of us five siblings born in Hawaii–he had no knowledge of life in the Philippines. The only Filipino culture that he was cognizant of growing up was that of his sisters, the family and friends who often came by to visit, and from our parents. He wasn’t raised in a household that spoke Tagalog on a daily basis–we all spoke English since my twin sisters were too young to even recollect the other language that they once spoke. My brother grew up with Filipino-American values–which in it of itself was something his older sisters also grew up with. But, it’s tough to navigate heritage in a society that may not always be welcoming of it.
On the other hand, my sons are a mixture of Filipino-American, Spanish, and German/Dutch descent. And, that alone is a complexity that requires an in-depth study reserved for another essay.
I raised my boys when there were no iPads or the internet. We spent days at the soccer fields, at the lake, at the park, and any activities that we could possibly find. Did all of this matter? Did it contribute to the person who they grew into and continue to grow into becoming? I have no answer for that.
What I can speculate from observation is from that one moment when I realized my boys were grown men. This was not easy to absorb–it was a beautiful thing to accept, but difficult overall. Because I can still picture them as these boys who at one point who needed me, and perhaps whose world revolved around their mother, and to my brother, his sister. Then, I slapped myself out of that moment of narcissism.
They are their own person. Period.
A professor once told me that sometimes parents have a tendency to believe that our children are an extension of who they are. But, in fact, this is fallacy. Because, children grow up into their own being, and as parents–we are merely the guide.
I think of the great Mama Moose that is prominent everywhere in Alaska. I was told that the mama moose would stay with their babies until they are old enough to survive on their own. Once the mama moose realizes this, she will chase her baby away to face that vast Alaskan wilderness. I’d like to think that she’d whisper, “baby child, make sure you avoid those hunters in September, ok?” as she kisses her baby away.
I, on the other hand, am never going to chase my boys away. I’ve done something more beautifully painful.
I am sticking around to watch them grow into men.
I am comforted at one single fact: as they navigate their journey through this thing called life, they have selected partners who they stand equally next to. Here’s the beauty in that: when a man chooses his partner who elevates him just as much as he elevates her (or him). To those beautiful people that my boys choose to spend the rest of their lives with–my work is done, it’s now your turn.