I had a revelation today. Perhaps it is a revelation most of you already have. I’m a little slow on the uptake, though, so it took me a while. What was it, you ask? This: boys are little men.
“Duh,” you might say. Or perhaps, “They’re just kids.” Hear me out. Boys are men-in-training. They are male, and they don’t magically switch over to “male-thinking” once they hit puberty. As a mom, though, I didn’t think about that. #1 was just a “boy.” A kid. Gender-neutral. Thinking thus, I treated him as I would treat myself, with a little more much and trapeze-artist skills tossed in.
I was wrong. As mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been reading Cracking the Communication Code for part of my Bible study. I have been doing my best to listen to the husband through Eggerichs’s metaphorical “blue headphones,” and it works. I also have his CHAIRS acronym up on my bathroom mirror, a daily reminder of how the husband is different from me. He needs respect, while I need love. I have charged into my marriage relationship full-tilt. But, I forgot that my husband is not the only male I have a relationship with.
Son #1 is also male. Very male. Tooting at the table male. Shaking his junk male. (And I’m banking on your male children doing the same, so that I’m not ashamed that I haven’t broken him of this habit.) He is the climber of any curb or wall, the defender of invisible people, alternately a blue power ranger or a cowboy or Spiderman. He is brilliant, cuddly, and headstrong. He has trouble listening, but will move heaven and earth for a marshmallow. My son is male. (That last thought is just him, not necessarily his maleness.) I haven’t treated him as such. I’ve neglected to treat him right.
If this is confusing to you, you’re not alone. I literally had my thought and sat down at the keyboard to share. I do my best thinking at the keyboard, so I figured I’d hash it out with you. So, how can I give my son the respect he deserves? I will probably use Eggerichs’s acronym, minus the “S.” So, it looks something like this:
C – Conquest
H – Hierarchy
A – Authority
I – Insight
R – Relationship
Of course, in a mother-son relationship these will look different from a husband-wife relationship.
For Conquest, it may be recognizing his triumphs: he stopped his brother from eating a toy, he got the bad guys, he drew a picture, he did his worksheets. Recognizing his achievements rather than giving him a cursory, half-hearted glance followed by those smiles we give, “Oh, that’s great, honey!” This, then, teaches him that his efforts are good and recognized. It inspires him to do it more often.
For Hierarchy, making sure he knows that he hasn’t been forgotten in the wake of his brother’s birth and subsequent dependence. This one I was already working on, because I didn’t want any bitterness between the two boys, but it’s hard. #1 is four years old. That is the Age of Independence in children. They can potty themselves, wash themselves, brush their teeth mostly by themselves, feed themselves, clean up after themselves. There’s not a lot that a mom needs to do for them. Compare that to a baby. A baby can do nothing for itself. It cannot survive without its mother. Their dependence makes it easy to think, “Oh, Older Child is ok. He’s able to function without me always there.” Not so. While my older son can take care of himself fairly well, he still needs love and affection and a knowledge that our previous love for him hasn’t waned because of his brother. If anything, he needs to feel it even more. A lot of this, for me, comes while I make up songs with the boys. I’ve always been a singer (though the quality of the singing can be questionable), and I twist songs regularly to my bidding. So, “You are my sunshine” becomes “You are my #1/#2.” (Names omitted to protect the innocent.) The Spiderman song becomes “#1man.” Etc, etc. They get silly. My kids thrive on silly. When faced with the cuteness that is #2, it’s easy to slip into singing songs just to him. I make sure to add #1’s name in, even if he’s not near or is with his grandparents. Why? Because #2 needs to know his brother is equally important and that he, #2, is not the center of my world. They both are (though their daddy is more central than they are…hierarchy.)
For Authority, I need to let him make more of the kid-friendly decisions. There are some decisions that fall clearly into parental authority: tv shows, junk food, main meals, school, safety. The smaller decisions, though, that aren’t life and death can be made by him. He wants to go to the park? Which of these two? He wants to have a certain cereal? Ok, he has the choice as well as the responsibility to eat it/put it away. He gets the final say in the smaller decisions so he learns how to lead and decide, and learns that his opinion is respected.
For Insight, he needs to know that I listen to him. You would think that, as a woman, this is easy. I find myself often ignoring his suggestions, though. Brushing him off in favor of mine because, of course, Mama knows best. But do I? I’m teaching him that his insight is not worth my attention and is unworthy of my respect. I wonder how many men out there don’t offer their insight and solutions because they weren’t listened to as children.
Finally, for Relationship, I need to just be with him. This one was huge for my husband and I, and it took me forever to figure it out. Men don’t do face to face relationships. They sit shoulder to shoulder. Think about it, ladies. How do they sit when they: play video games, take a road trip, watch football, have a drink, go fishing? Shoulder to shoulder. I need to give my son that, too. Cuddle on the couch while we watch tv. Sit and play legos in his room. Color next to each other. Shoulder to shoulder. It’s so simple, yet so wildly different from how I think.
Up until now, I have treated him like a little me, and even worse, like I was superior to him. I have not shown him respect because of his age and because of my pride. It’s not an easy thing to admit. Really, I feel despicable. Up until now, I’ve treated him poorly. And I can’t do that anymore. I am, as his mother and as a Christian, supposed to raise him in the way he’s to go. That includes how to be a man. I am supposed to model what he should seek for a future wife, as well. How frightening! I can model it with his father all I want, and he’ll pick up some of it. How much more effective, then, will it be if I treat him like I want his wife to treat him some day?
The world of sons is a mighty confusing place, I’ll tell you. I have no idea what I’ve walked into. Their world is so vastly different from the one I grew up in (namely, that of a very girly girl). If you have any advice for a newbie mom of boys, I would so appreciate it. I’m walking blind here, and any advice from those who have already walked the path is more precious than gold to me. I want to do this right. I want to treat my sons like men.