My boys turned 6 and 9 in the past few months. They seem really really big to me lately. Firstborn is mainly getting taller in his neck, ankles, and wrists, because clothing fits everywhere but those places. He looks more and more like me, not just because he has my eye color and hair and skin coloring in general, but he just looks so much like I did as a kid. (The fact that I was female didn’t make it into God’s memo until I was about 16; before then, I looked a lot like a boy.)
Little Man all of a sudden has the posture of his father as an adult, and he seems very grown-up–able to help me in the kitchen in ways I didn’t realize he could, and refusing to clear the table just like the teenager he is.
A few things have not changed, though, as my boys age. I wanted to share my observations in the hopes that it will warm the hearts of mamas with kids older than mine, and give encouragement to the moms of kids younger than mine who wonder what will happen when their babies get older and bigger.
1. Mama is magic.
I used to be the primary comforter for my boys. It made their dad nuts, I bet. He’d be caring for them and meeting their needs, but one big fall or bump on the head, and I was screamed for from wherever I was on the planet. Mike correctly pointed out many times in the first years of our sons’ lives that I would never know what it felt like to be pushed away in favor of him, but he knew well what it was like to be pushed away in favor of me.
Now that the boys are older, and now that I returned to work, and now that I am divorced and don’t have my boys every day and night, their dad is who they often go to and he’s marvelous with them in all ways.
But sometimes they still want me to hold them if they are sad or hurt, even if Dada is right there. It feels good to know that I still have that magic for them. Usually, I try and hold the embrace WAY too long and they start giggling and squirming and I know to let them go then, but for that one second when they are done being comforted and I’m not done comforting, I remember how fragile that connection will be as they get even older and bigger and more self-sufficient. It makes me so emotional to think about it.
2. Mama’s chest is magic.
When my boys were breastfeeding (which ended more recently than you’d guess; Little Man stopped less than two years ago), my milk-making machines were magic, or so I thought. Anything that happened that made little people sad was fixed at the breast. When they were hurt or lonely or mad or scared or hungry or needing comfort, I didn’t have to wonder what would help. I just put them to the breast and–voila!–all better. It seriously never failed for the combined almost seven years of breastfeeding I did. Magic. (A great kids’ book about this magic is “Breastmilk Makes My Tummy Yummy.”)
But now that mama’s breasts don’t have the mama juice anymore, I feared that I wouldn’t get the cuddles and sweetness that comes with breastfeeding toddlers especially. Wrong.
When my boys are super upset or super sad or super affectionate and loving, they love to be held close. Doesn’t matter that there is no milk; they just love to be held close. (Although they both love to joke that they really think there might be a little and what would it hurt to try?) They love their dad’s big bear hugs, too. The torso works no matter what. The chest is still magic. Hugs always work wonders.
3. Boys will be boys.
I don’t like the original meaning of this phrase. I once saw someone post on Twitter that this expression is often used to excuse or dismiss illegal, immoral, offensive behavior, and I for sure don’t intend for that to be the meaning!
My sons are very gentle and sensitive and cautious. They always have been, and their dad is the same way. People assume that because I have boys, my life is chaotic and I’m always in the ER and that they are messy and whatever else people assume about boys, but my boys are none of that.
However! They do like wrestling. And swords. And trolls and goblins and monsters. And they laugh hysterically at the word “booger,” and they love fart sounds, and they also love any and all sports, and they really think it’s the best thing ever when someone is talking and they accidentally burp in the middle of what they were saying.
Are there girls that love these things? Of course. I’m speaking generally, so please don’t get your gender equality self all upset about this!
What the phrase “boys will be boys” means to me is that there are things about my sons that I can’t control because they are genetically programmed to be male. They are male. I can’t stop puberty from happening, but I sure can hope that their father answers all of the questions about puberty that I can’t speak from experience about!
Having boys has been a wonderful adventure and it’s allowed me to participate in things that I didn’t fully experience in my own childhood because of gender barriers. I love swords, for example. And wrestling. And trolls and laughing when people burpspeak. I get to have those things in my life with my boys.
I am prone to melancholy and sentimentality. I often look at my boys and I start to cry just because.
Because their skin is so delicate and free of blemishes and they are just mine. Because when they sleep they look exactly like they did as babies. Because when they are vulnerable, they are my babies all over again.
Sometimes I cry because the world is so scary and big, and they are so innocent and small. And sometimes I cry because I wish they could take me with them for all of their adventures. I want to be like a camera in their eye as they see the person they first fall in love with. I want to see them ace their first college exam. I want to see them propose to someone. I want to see them get married.
I want to see them look at their child for the first time after he or she is born, and I want to see them care for me when I am old and cannot care for myself.
But I try not to worry and cry too much. Because I know I will be there, tucked safely into the four-chambered organ that beats inside of them with the constant reminder: You are loved. You are safe. You are mine.