Thursday, May 14, 2015

Raising Humans

Before I had kids, I never thought much about being a mother. Sure, I presumed I'd have a family one day, but that vague notion was as detailed as it got. Until I became pregnant. Then the tomboy in me kicked in.

I grew up in a neighborhood that was mostly boys. I had one brother, and our three male cousins lived next door. When I was young, I saw us all as equals--kids who liked bikes, bugs, fishing and baseball. And at that age, I was right.

But when I became a teenager, everything changed. I was nothing like other girls. They wore makeup and flirted with boys and smoked and drank and knew things. I didn't know anything, especially about boys. Sure, I could put a worm on a hook for a boy or throw a football around with them, but that other stuff? Pfft. Clueless. Whoever passed out the "How To Be A Girl" manual definitely missed my mailbox.

So when I became pregnant, I realized that I desperately wanted to mother boys. Only boys. In fact, the idea of raising a girl was so foreign to me that I was in a bit of a panic. I'm the type of person who learns from experience. I didn't even know how to be a girl. How could I be successful in raising one? Even in my twenties, all my best friends were male. When I sat down to consider what skills I had to raise a girl, I came up with bupkis. I was completely ill-prepared for the task.

I got lucky and had sons. But I have friends who have both daughters and sons, and they tell me they are the opposite of me: completely comfortable raising their daughters and in foreign territory with their sons. Of course I can understand exactly what they mean. But I started thinking about what kind of mother I am that makes me more suited to raising boys over girls, and the only thing I felt strongly about was that I'm comfortable with who I am and confident in my convictions as an adult.

So? you might say. That doesn't sound gender-specific at all. And you'd be right. In fact, if anything I'm more girly now than I was when I was younger. I hate bugs and video games and sports (well, OK, not hockey). I love flowers and pretty shoes and sappy, romantic movies that make me cry and dressing up. These are not exactly traits I share with my boys. And when they want to go camping, I tell them to go talk to their father.

But here's what I figured out: I'm not my sons' friend, so it's OK if I don't share certain interests with them. I love them with all my heart and I'm here to teach them how to be confident, capable, respectable and self-sufficient. But I also want them to be compassionate, fair, tender and thoughtful. And the best way to do that is to teach by example. I set standards for their behavior and I live by those standards myself. I'm not hypocritical and I'm always willing to listen to their side of the argument. Don't those parenting skills cover both genders? I think so.

All this tells me is that I would probably have done alright raising a girl. Sure, I might have had to call in the experts for some things. But the stuff that matters? I've got that down. The rest, they'll figure out on their own just like I did. I'm not teaching them how to be men and I wouldn't have to teach a girl how to be a woman. That's biology and it will happen regardless of what type of parent I am. I'm raising humans. Sure, it would be nice to have someone to help me do my hair and nails and watch weepy movies with once in a while. But as long as my kids grow up to be respectful of others and their world, and they build lives that they're proud of, I'm OK watching chick flicks alone.