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10 Things I've Learned about Raising Boys to Men - What worked and what didn't!

Today my oldest son turns 24 and next Monday one of my other sons turns 18.  That means that I have raised three sons, for better or worse, to legal adult status. So this just seems an appropriate time to look back and see what worked and what didn't  - so far - and try to distill all of that down for posterity.

1. Energy. No body warned me how much energy little boy exude!  Those first nine years when I had four little boys age 9 to newborn were tough - especially in the winter time.  I can remember one time, being so exhausted that I put Rocky on the VCR for them and then lay down for a nap.  By the time the movie was over, the walls were just dripping with testosterone and the little boys were practicing all of their best boxing moves.  What really saved my life with four boys was swimming, soccer and then cross country.  Boys need to move and they need to burn off a lot of energy and those types of activities were a God send

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2. Boys like to fight a lot, with each other. Physically.  Don't plan on having a lot of breakables around during the early years.  What surprised me though was the intellectual fighting and mind games they want to play as teenagers!  They'll answer your questions alright- as long as you ask the right questions!  Sometimes that's fun.  Most of the time it's maddening. But it's never dull.

3. Parents cannot compete with a girlfriend. When Calvin was in high school he had a long-distance relationship with a girl and sent my phone bill up to over $200. I even lost a client once because he was on the phone so much. The other boys have done similar things.  You can tell them not to smoke, but if they want to impress a girl, the images of an old uncle dying of emphysema isn't going to stop them! For a girl, they will break curfew, sneak out of the house, lie, and steal money from my purse.  I wish the first time one of my sons said, "Mary and I are going together" that we had come down real hard and said, "No you're not!!"

4. Which leads me to my fourth point - start tough end strong.  Because it's impossible to start with leniency and then build up to toughness. I think we started tough with Calvin, but then got worn down a bit.  Wish I'd been tougher with the other two.

And then I can hear some of you saying, "but then they'll rebel!!"  to which I will answer HA!  They rebelled anyway!  I just wish I'd put more fight into it from my end before the ship went down!


5. Important to watch friends.  REALLY important.  And I would say if you do anything else in the teenage years, try to get them to associate with really good kids with really good parents, and nip other relationships in the bud as soon as humanly possible.

6. Even more important than watching your kids' friends, is watching the parents of your kids' friends. Because what you say is right or wrong at home, will be totally undermined by parents who aren't on the same page with you. From drinking to smoking to sleeping over - I've found that we can scream, cajole, and threaten all we want but if they have friends with permissive parents, we're just not going to win those fights.

7.  Every year, for the past 17 years, we have gone up to Lake Erie to celebrate Calvin and Gabe's birthdays.  It was a tradition, a rite of passage, something we had to do every year or it just didn't feel right.  Or so I thought. Because this year Calvin decided to go to Florida, leaving on his birthday and not even being around for the big birthday weekend.

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Which brings me back to my 7th point - You have to grow a thick skin, swallow a lot of pride and be willing to forget - a lot.  And so far, it seems that I have had to do more and more of it as they get older and older and their decisions seem to be less and less family focused.

yea, yea, I get it.  They're independent.  And kudos to those of you with hearts of stones.  But to the more sensitive types, to which I admit to being, get ready to have more empathy with the blessed mother as your heart gets pierced again and again by your own offspring.

8. I have been told you have to "trust your kids."  That's BS.  Don't ever trust them.  Or if you do trust, be sure to verify! Get everybody's phone numbers and cell numbers, call often, and do drive byes. Make sure you meet all their friends and the parents and get those numbers too.  Be the crazy parent  for a while - it beats all the alternatives.

9. Freedom is earned or bought.  Calvin didn't want to live by our rules, so he made sure had jobs, saved money and then moved out and made friends with other adults who would do things for him like co-sign for a car loan.  So to my mind, he really went out and bought is freedom and good for him. Sam doesn't want to live by our rules, so I started charging him rent.  I felt bad about that for a while, but I feel much better about it now and I'll have no qualms about doing that with Gabe too.

10. Not over til it's over.  I'm hanging on to the fact that the adult male isn't truly fully formed and mature until somewhere between 25 and 30.  And I know that a lot of growing up happens when they have their own kids - so I'm hoping that at that time, the good seeds we planted and nurtured will yield good fruit. Or I'll be dead.  Either way... just sayin.



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Comments

Eileen Miller said…
I have three boys too: 22, 21, and 7. They have certainly been a challenge but are worth it. My older boys are very independent and I do trust them. They make very good decisions...most of the time!
Janette said…
Nodding my head- ah---30! These are good ideas for girls as well. Maybe doubly so!
Trust but verify--- so true
Look at the parents- doubly true.
Help to place them in situations where they can make good, healthy friends and then open your doors for those kids to be at your house. Host those non drinking parties. We did spaghetti dinners on night before meet days.
Make sure there is always a door open for them to walk back in.
In the end- when they choose their partner- work to love that partner. My daughter married a young man who came from a terribly broken family and a town where problems run deep. She could see through to his tender soul. After seven years of me biting my tongue and helping to rudder the boat--- they have worked together to become a wonderful Catholic couple.
I am working with spouse two- one who came from a family whom felt any ask for help is a lack of pride. Not easy.
It may get easier- it may not. You have to remember that you are the roots- they are the trunk of the tree that God planted. I think you have done an excellent job in securing the roots.
That's great Eileen and thanks for sharing that.

The "trust but verify" is a quote from Ronald Reagan. Never understood it completely until very recently!

Best wishes to you and your family.
Thanks Janette. I'm glad your family is doing so well.