Why I Love Being The Mom of Boys

A lot of people have assumed this pregnancy that I’m hoping for a girl. They have suggested that since we know we are having our third boy that perhaps we should try again for that elusive girl. While I’ll admit that girls seem easier to name, I don’t feel an ounce of disappointment that I have been blessed with three boys. Nor do I feel my family is incomplete until a girl is added.
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My older son was initially hoping for a girl. I think this is due to his desire to care for them. He tends to think girls need more protection. He was constantly getting frustrated with the smallest girl in his Kindergarten class—there were things she struggled to do and he tried to help her. She is a bit of a spitfire and wanted nothing of his help. This did not fly well with Lucas. “Why won’t she let me help her?! She can’t do it herself!”

So when he received the news at the ultrasound that it was another little brother for him, he laid his head on my belly and shed a few silent tears. After a little conversation in the car, he started to brighten. “Hey! I would have had to play princesses! I might have had to play tea party! Now we can play Lego and fire trucks! I’m glad we’re having a brother! I don’t ever want a sister!” Leave it to a 5 year old to state things in absolutes.

Once he recovered from his disappointment, I felt free to enjoy the news myself. Another little boy. Awesome.

I once read an article about how you can spot the difference between moms of boys and moms of girls at the playground. While mothers of girls look coiffed and put together, the mothers of small boys tend to look slightly disheveled. Why? The boys climb all over them, perch on their heads, are in their faces. I had to chuckle. I still do when my boys scale me like a playground and I remind them, “I am not a jungle gym.”

I know you have to be careful about drawing stereotypes of genders and boxing kids in. I try hard to give my kids freedom to choose what they are interested in. For years that meant everything in our house was purple since that was the colour of preference. Is it a boy’s colour? Technically no but did I care? No. Each child has a fuzzy pink duck in their beds. Does that matter? No. I did not steer them towards trucks and dirt and rescue heroes and rough and tumble. They naturally and strongly gravitated toward those things on their own. So this is just my list of things I enjoy about my boys, letting them be who they want to be.

1. I’m the girl in their lives. My oldest son has picked up on the fact that I like jewelry and accessories and girly things. In his mind, bigger is better and more bling expresses more love. So for birthdays or special occasions, he takes it upon himself to find the gaudiest, tackiest fake jewels. Sweetheart that he is, when he goes to Chuck E Cheese (shudder), he saves his tickets to buy me plastic rings. There is something about them noticing and affirming my femininity that I love. I can teach them how to treat a girl well.

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Perhaps hard to see but do you notice the bling on my finger?  I couldn’t even bend my knuckle from this birthday present!

 

2. I don’t have to worry about hair and wardrobe. The thought of being responsible for someone else’s style who may really care about it terrifies me. The thought of my child wanting me to be really trendy also terrifies me!  My younger son really does love hats and shoes and choosing his own clothes but it is not difficult to match a polo to jeans, pop on a fedora and go. Leggings and tunics and boots and scarves and when to pierce ears and ratty hair—this all I can do without. On a deeper issue, the idea of teaching appropriate modesty in this day and age seems like a scary thought. Of course, I’m on the flip side—teaching respect and decency which I imagine is not clear cut either.

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Micah loves when we both wear hats!

3. Dirt is fun. Dirt is not the enemy. If you have a dump truck and a bulldozer and a pile of rocks or dirt, you are set. For some reason, this is deeply satisfying to me, this ability to let mud squish between toes and get sand under fingernails and stain the backsides of light coloured shorts grey. Good old organic fun. PS If you add noise, the fun just gets better.

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See? Nothing wrong with pink!

4. They still want to do things together. Just because boys are boys doesn’t mean we can’t read stories, bake cookies, make crafts or do things that may be labelled as girly. Our stories may be about fire trucks, our crafts may be minions or ambulances or paper mache airplanes but we still have a grand old time together. If you genuinely allow a child into your interest area and give them some space to explore, almost anything is possible.

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5. Building. With my little boys, building is everything. Anything is possible if you have blocks or bricks or better yet, Lego. I love co-creating with them, taking an idea and piecing it together. It is a metaphor for me of life—we’re just building together toward common ideas. Sometimes our ideas work better than others. Sometimes there are no instructions. But when we sit together on the floor and start to work it out, we’ll build something great every time.

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Our first 3-D animal out of Lego–an orca.

These are just a few of the reasons I love my life with the boys I have. What are the great things in your life about parenting girls? Or boys? Or both at the same time?

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An Addendum for the Sleep Deprived

It has been drawn to my attention that there are a few holes in my personality profiles from yesterday.  Here is an addendum.  Any more that I’ve missed?  How do you react?  (Thanks Crystal!)

The Toddler parent

Cranky, temperamental, prone to breakdowns at the drop of a hat.  Will throw fits without warning, require lots of snuggles and snacks.  Does this describe your toddler or just you after being up with him all night?  P.S. Bedtime is at 7:30 and you are not ashamed to admit it.

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The Bristly Parent

Is your rope feeling extra short, your fuse ready to explode?  Do you snap at the smallest things and have no tolerance for ineptitude?  Did you sprout fangs and claws overnight and have no hesitation with using them?  Lack of sleep turns some of us into monsters.  This may be you if people around you willingly offer to let you have a nap for the general good of society!

Parental Sleep Deprivation Personality Types

You may have noticed that there was no post yesterday.  You may have thought it was because I was in the hospital having a baby.  No such luck.  I was just a zombie yesterday due to being up all night with a sick toddler and from having contractions that weren’t enough to put me in the hospital.

I tried to post, really I did.  But I had nothing new.  And I was working and packing a hospital bag and walking and spraying saline up a toddler’s nostrils.  (Fun…go try it.  It will go well, I promise.) 

To make up for yesterday’s non-post, I’ll include a flash back in case you missed it as to what it is like to be pregnant overseas in the country where we live.  (For security reasons I can’t post the country name.)

But last night, during another night of frequent night wakings, I was hit with a flash of inspiration.  Just how does sleep deprivation affect us? (Please note, with compassion, that this was composed while under the effects of sleep deprivation!)

Parental Sleep Deprivation Personality Types

I would suggest there are 6 different personality types that emerge from us in the middle of the night changing otherwise normal, functioning adults into our zombie-like alter-egos.

The Strategizer

In his desire to avoid an endless string of interrupted nights, this parent is bound and determined to FIX the problem.  He may be found in the middle of the night scribbling out sleeping formulas or clandestinely signing a stack of library books on sleep training from the library.  Furniture placement, lighting, bedding and routines are constantly being tinkered with to create the perfect sleep elixir.  This parent must be observed carefully for pharmaceutical abuses such as gravol suppositories or pleading with the pharmacist for the drowsy version of children’s antihistamines under the guise of preparing for a yet-to-be-booked plane trip.

addictThe Addictive Personality

Frequently characterized by obsessive caffeine intake, this parent mindlessly and compulsively turns to any myriad of things in her sleep-deprived stupor.   Scrolling through facebook feeds with no actual memory of the event afterward, drinking pots of coffee, and repetitive actions such as wiping the same spot on the counter over and over are frequently observed.  Attention to important things such as diaper changes, events on the calendar and personal grooming may suffer noticeably.  Twitches and ADHD-like behaviour are common.   Any attempt to interfere or hinder the object of obsession (ie. withholding caffeine or disconnecting internet) will be met with firm resistance and tirades, triggering severe crabbiness.

The Braggart

In an apparent attempt to redeem the sleepless nights, this parent turns into a special type of monster—the braggart.  If you missed 8 hours of sleep, he missed 9.  If your child woke up 12 times, his woke up 120.  If your child had a fever of 101, his had a fever of 110. (Yes, it is medically possible, he insists, even though the child is currently running happily on the playground.)  Your worst night will never outdo his ordinary nights.  He wears dark circles under his eyes like a CFL MVP, proudly.  He is a hero, toughing out the toughest of nights with a soldiered determination, with no thanks, no recognition and astounding humility.

optimistThe Optimist

The rarest of all types, this parent seems to handle lack of sleep with a smile.  He believes that these stages are only stages.  He totes placards with phrases such as “This too shall pass” or “I love you to the moon and back even when you scream all night”.  He has a never-ending repetoire of lullabies and bedtime stories.  He rises smiling and chipper, believing that with the sun, the monsters in the bed turn back into little princesses.  This type is subject to mysterious disappearances if too much time is spent socializing with the other parental types.

Ms. Buzzed

You know how some kids get hyper when they are over-tired?  Adults are not immune to this phenomenon.  This personality, which tends to manifest itself primarily under short-term sleep deprivation circumstances, is unpredictable, prone to random chatter, erratic behaviour and illogical but often hilarious decisions.  They may revert to childish behaviours, acting wired, and as if they have overdosed on caffeine.  These people should be observed closely (for humor’s sake) and perhaps ought not to be left solely in charge of young children.

desesperadoEl Padre Desesperado

In my own sleep deprived state, I’m having difficulty coming up with an English equivalent for El Padre Desesperado.  The desperate or despairing parent.  This parent has given up.  Why?  It has all failed.  Feberizing, Baby-whispering, co-sleeping…it is all doomed to the same fatiguing results:  there is no way in the world to make this child sleep.  Ever.  This parent feels predestined to a sleepless existence.  7:00pm, 10:00pm, bedtime is no longer is relevant since it makes no difference.  Bedtime stories—futile.   She has failed or, rather, has been defeated by the child.  The crib bars might as well be around her.  She is ruled by a sleepless little dictator and has lost all hope.

It should be noted that all types may demonstrate mental impairment to varying degrees.  We can only hope this is a phase.

When Nothing Seems To Fit

I am 39 week pregnant, due in under a week.  I should be burrowing down, anchoring down, building something around me to settle in with the baby, to nuzzle and raise him in a cozy den.

But every page of the calendar, every conversation somehow reminds me of the other voices that are saying order, purge, pack, prepare, pull up stakes.

I feel pulled in two such opposite directions.  Moving countries and having babies generally don’t go together for a reason.

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What nesting looks like in my world–squeezing baby clothes into ziplock bags.

I sit in front of two Rubbermaid containers and sort my clothing into piles.  Maternity clothes that don’t cover my belly anymore, transition clothes for those lovely not pregnant but still chubby days months and finally, clothes for the heat that I hope will fit when we move 6 weeks after the baby.

Shells, yes.  But how do I know if I can fit.  How will I stretch still?  How will I adjust?  They are just shells, yes, but I feel the swelling of emotion, this buldge in my throat, the constriction of my heart like a waist-band too tight that leaves stitching and hem marks branded deep pink in the soft places like a wound.

It isn’t that I don’t want to go.  I know we are going where we should be for this season.  Back.  I know it will fit again, the language on my tongue, the laundry on the rooftop line, the scrub of soil from vegetables, the dirt from the track packed into the grip of my runners.  It will fit again. 

And this wee one, he will fit too.  I will wrap him tightly, carry him on my chest out of the hospital, past boxes, through customs, to teach him the word hogar, home.  The word will still roll round and full.

We’ll unpack sandals one day and the next we’ll shake cockroaches out of the Christmas tree wrapped black like a mummy.  We’ll catch up, with the local family we live with, as one can, in fragments, circling forward and backwards.

Ya me dijiste.

Oh, I already told you that.

Thoughts of what we’ll miss and are missing will circle like whirlpools of snow outside the lit windows.  Less places set at the table this year.

The stretch and the adjustment—I want to separate these—baby and moving.  I want some space between.  But maybe they fit afterall.

My citizenship isn’t here.  It isn’t as though Canada is really my home.  I can still burrow deep, deep into hugs while I have them, deep into the smell of freshly washed baby skin, soft.  I can burrow into the covers with my boys to tell stories as if the bed weren’t the only thing left in the room, to peer out the window of the plane as if it were the first time.  I can burrow deep into the rich comfort of Christ—the one, who by his birth, left his home, the one who understands.  And he offers me an invitation to take two disparate pieces and stitch them together.  In them I can find new understanding and a new way of being understood.

What are the pieces in your world that don’t seem to fit together?  How do you hold them in tension? 

The Word That Changed It All

The day started out almost perfectly. The kids were up a little too early for a Saturday and we had some snuggle squabbles where they both wanted to snuggle the same parent at the same time and didn’t want any intruding sibling’s limbs to interfere.

But our day was planned. It was Fire Safety Day, a much anticipated event in my household of want-to-be-firefighters. They’ve been counting down the days until they get to see the firefighters, the fire trucks and Sparky at the fire station, crawling through the smoke tunnel and watching the jaws of life. Fire Safety Day is practically Christmas.

They watched a Popular Mechanics segment on fire fighting from the library while I put together a favourite breakfast and then we all sat around the table in pyjamas, lingering over strawberries and biscuits, slowly peeling hard boiled eggs, snuggling and laughing. There was no rush to eat, no heavy conversations to be had, no sight words to drill. We just enjoyed. I said to my husband, “A leisurely breakfast with your family where no one wants to leave and everyone is enjoying food you made…that’s about as good as it gets.” We even said wouldn’t today be a perfect day for baby to show up after good time like that.

Not too long later, the boys tromped in from outside and my youngest, just over two, went running through the kitchen in his rubber boots. “Boots off first,” I said and reached to grab him but he went running by. “Micah, stop!” I said, “Boots off.” He didn’t stop. So a standard time-out was issued. No big deal until he dug in his heels and decided he wouldn’t say sorry at the end of it.

My husband and I looked at each other. Now what? You have to say sorry, right? So we explained, “If you don’t say sorry, you can go back into time out. When you say sorry, you can come right out.”

And the timer was set for 2 minutes. At the end of those 2 minutes one of us would sit on the floor in front of him and ask if he was ready to say sorry. And he dug in his heels. At some point in this, right around the time when we were supposed to be leaving for the fire station, it became apparent that our little plan may be sabatoged by pure stubbornness. Stubbornness on his part and on our part.

When you start a battle like that, you have to finish it or you don’t teach anything. They’ll learn to dig in their heels just a little longer than you dig in yours. At least that’s how it seemed.

So the other two eventually went ahead. I explained to Micah he could go too if he said sorry. They would come back and we’d all go together. But no sorry.

An hour and a half went by. Slowly. In two minute intervals. Getting my 9 month pregnant butt up and down off the floor 45 times. But who’s counting? “You are in a time out because you didn’t say sorry.” “Are you ready to say sorry?” “You are in a time out…” The beeping of the timer.

Finally I fed him a banana, changed him, put him in his crib and gave him one last chance. Say sorry and go to the fire station; don’t say sorry and have a nap.
He was asleep in about 7 minutes. I wasn’t far behind him.

I woke up just as the fire station’s open house closed. Micah was still sleeping. Maybe it was that fantastic cocktail of late pregnancy hormones, maybe the stress of the morning, maybe the disappointment of my little fire fanatic having to miss out but this Mommy started crying and couldn’t stop.

Sometimes the enormity of the task of parenting is overwhelming. I want so badly to teach them well, to be level and fair. I want to parent well—not so people can say I’m doing a good job but because parenting should be done well. Children should be parented well. God desires it.

Today it was the two-year-old and the sorry battle. I’ll blink and it will be the 15-year-old and the social media battle. Or the 20-year-old with the questionable partner. This isn’t an easy job but it is a good one and one worth digging your heels in for.

Later, we went on to feed ducks and roll down hills full of leaves (I did nothing of the sort) and crawl around in pjs laughing, tongues out like puppies (I was the pokey little puppy). A few times Micah ran up excitedly and would ask, “We go to fire station now?” And I’d have to remind him that he chose not to say sorry. He’d lay his head on my lap for a minute and then go off again to play.

Did it get through? Maybe. I hope so. Was it hard? Certainly. Do I wonder if it was a good decision? Absolutely.

So my question for the day is how do you, in parenting, or in life, come to terms with the inevitable ambiguity involved in doing the right thing? Do you wish it was more clear cut or do you enjoy the freedom to choose?

The Chai Conversations Day 3: What’s in a Name?

A good name is to be desired more than many riches says the proverbs.  Just ask Pilot Inspektor, Fifi Trixibell or North West.  Some of the celebrity children will have riches to spare but can’t get away from the unique names their parents have given them.

Yet, says Shakespeare, famously,

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose


By any other name would smell as sweet.

Now I would argue that Shakespeare is speaking more of titles than of names but some, literature aside, may disagree with me.  They take his words at face value: a name is just a name; it doesn’t change who a person is.

In our naming journey for the three boys we have, two here and one set to make his appearance in a week’s time, we have carefully deliberated sound, pronunciation in foreign tongues, initials, meaning.  The last one—meaning or significance—has far outweighed them all in our decision making.

A few names that didn’t make the cut but were good for laughs…

Tank…

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Pooky…

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Welsh Origins aside…

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We have desired a name that is indicative of who they are, essentially a prayer of blessing over God’s call on their lives and middle names that are markers of what they represent in the life of our family.  More or less…it is hard to articulate the journey that it is to arrive at the name for each child!

But I am curious—how have others done it?  How have you or will you name your children?

 

The Chai Conversations: On the Best and the Good

While it feels highly unrealistic to commit to a blog post a day when I have a baby due any day now, I’m at least giving it a shot, linking up with a 31 day challenge.  

When I think of tea, I think of sharing a pot with someone and having a good heart to heart talk.  My goal this month is to brew a few cups of Chai…to open my heart a bit and invite response.  I’d love to begin a few conversations.  So draw up a chair and muse a bit with me.

 

When you work in the profession I do, living overseas working with people with great needs, people assume you are in it for the love of it.  Living the dream.  The height of fulfillment on a daily basis.  Yes, it may be hard but there’s nothing you’d rather do.

And that’s the way we all want to live, isn’t it.  For passion.  Fulfillment. We want to live the way children run, free, fast, unexhausted.  Where the blood coursing through your veins propels you to live, fully,  sprinting, heart beat pounding in your ears, face wide open to the sky, arms swinging.

People assume I love my work.  Love my life.

And I do.  Some days.  And then some days I want to run away from it, blood coursing, arms swinging, sprinting face first into the wide world of predictable and comfortable and 9-5 and job descriptions and anonymity and English.

Most days I’m just there.  Neither loving it nor hating it but trying to be faithful.

Sometimes we do the right thing because it is the right thing and we train our hearts to follow.  I wish it were the reverse—our hearts know best and if we follow our hearts we will do the right and rewarding and beautiful things.  But sometimes our hearts are lazy.  Sometimes our hearts have good intentions but are weary.  Sometimes our hearts don’t know what to think because they were designed to feel and not think!

So we go back to what is good.  We go back to what is true.  We go back to the things that are pure and noble and worthy of doing them.  And we do them for those reasons, not because we desperately need to feel something in order to be alive.

Parenting is like this.  By our facebook posts, you’d think our children were always smiling in our organized living rooms with combed hair and wiped noses.  But we don’t have our cameras on the ready in the mornings when they’ve put clean undies on top of the dirty ones and won’t hurry up.  When we need to walk out the door in two minutes—or should have walked out the door two minutes ago—we aren’t camera ready, aren’t even really loving it, this parenting of rush and fluster.

Of course we have those good moments too, moments where our kids stand at the school yard fence, too small to be embarrassed by blowing kisses and kisses and still more kisses and catching ours and stuffing their pockets full for later.  We have those early morning snuggles or those mid-day giggles that fill the pockets of our hearts.  We love that.  We can live for it.  But when our pockets get turned inside out by the day and all we have emotionally left is lint for the hungry child, the dawdling child, the defiant child, we keep on being parents.  We keep on acting in love.  We act in love not because we always feel it but because it is right.  It is good.  We calm ourselves by reacting calmly.  We remind ourselves to love by acting lovingly.

I had a conversation with a friend a few weekends ago.  She shared with me a thought a co-worker presented speaking to a group of new college students.  “Sometimes,” this lady said, “we get so focused on doing the best.  On being the best.  Whatever happened to just settling for good and expecting good.  God looked at his creation and declared it good.  Why can’t good be good enough?”

So, I find myself, wondering about good, wondering about right.  I find more peace there than when I strive for all dreams and all fulfillment all the time.

But my question is:  Is that healthy, whole realism or settling for less than the best?  What do you think?