Ten Boy-Mom Challenges

One year ago today, I wrote Ten Boy-Mom Musts: the post that went crazy viral and put my little blog on the map.

... Okay, so maybe it's like a small village on a map of Africa, but still. THE MAP.

There are few things I consider myself an expert on - I mean, I have to Google "how to hard-boil an egg" every time I do it (it's hard to remember, okay?!). But I've had an all-boy household for the last decade. I have been immersed in boyhood for that long; literally twenty-four hours a day, I'm with a minimum of at least one little dude. And that's taught me a lot about mothering males. So, in addition to those ten things that moms of boys must do, and in honor of the post's first anniversary, I bring you ten of the challenges brought about by raising a person of the XY-chromosomal-persuasion.

#1: Say "so long" to silence. If I had a nickel for every time I shushed someone or reminded them (for the eight millionth time) to use their "inside voice," I'd be enjoying an early retirement on the beach in Ibiza. With a boob job and a tummy tuck. And a frosty drink and a personal masseuse. Wait, what? Oh yes. Little boys are loud, is my point. Even when they're within a one-foot radius of each other, they still feel the need to bellow. Especially if they're excited ... which boys almost always are, about one thing or another. They may not talk as much (unless it's about Minecraft, in which case they never shut up) but they are always making some kind of noise or sound effect. And P.S.? Their toys are loud too. Yay!

#2: Good luck being gender-neutral. In a valiant attempt to make my boys as well-rounded as possible, I have provided them with a slew of baby dolls, kitchen playsets and other toys typically geared toward girls - which they've loved, and played hard with. I have made repeated, impassioned speeches about how there are no "boy colors" and "girl colors," but simply colors, period, and how it's okay to wear whichever one makes you feel happy. They've asked me to paint their fingernails and toenails, and I've gladly obliged. But as they get older, they are leaning more and more toward activities of the masculine persuasion (and are downright disgusted with anything they perceive as "girly") - despite my best efforts to quash a "boy stuff vs. girl stuff" mentality. Short of keeping them isolated from the rest of the world in a plastic bubble, or actively trying to inhibit their natural tendencies, you can't change the facts. Most boys are ... boyish. It's something a boy mom has to accept. Which brings me to number three ...

#3: Rough is routineOne little boy can be plenty rough all by himself - but put him with a male friend or family member (or several) and it's a recipe for a wrestling match. They push and shove and punch and pounce and tackle and wallow. It doesn't mean that they're angry; in fact, 97% of the time it's just the opposite. (Note the smile on my son's face as one brother sits on his head and another tugs at his undies.)

While a perfectly natural occurrence, this roughhousing can also be problematic for two reasons: first, they lose track of their surroundings and damage your crap (I've had holes - multiple - in my walls and a broken TV screen, among countless other things, to back up that claim). And the second reason? ...

#4: The ER staff will know you. IntimatelyYou know how they say kids are expensive? They're not joking. When you have a boy, you should automatically tack a couple hundred bucks onto your monthly expenses for out-of-pocket medical costs (and, at the very least, a bunch of Neosporin and gauze). Concussions, chipped teeth, broken bones, nasty gashes and road rashes - boy moms encounter a steady stream of these, and must be prepared accordingly. Well, as prepared as you can ever be when your kid comes to you with a blood-dripping injury that makes your stomach turn. Two nights ago, one of my boys kicked his brother's tooth right out of his mouth during a routine wrestling match. (It was a baby tooth, thank the lawd, but still - it hadn't even been loose!).

Should I also mention that the frequency and variety of said injuries will make you secretly panic inside every time, sure that this time someone will report you to the authorities for abuse? Yeah. It's like that. I'm pretty much always mentally composing an explanation in case Child Protective Services comes a-knockin'.

#5: Weapons are everywhere. Along the lines of roughhousing and ER visits, parents of dudes must face the fact that little boys can - and will - turn almost anything into a weapon. When my oldest son was a toddler, I swore adamantly that he'd never play with toy guns. Not even water guns. But guess what? Life happens (thanks, well-meaning friends and grandparents), and somewhere along the way he encountered his first Super Soaker and was hooked. Four boys later, and my once weapon-free closets are stocked with a plastic arsenal. I'm telling you now, though, it doesn't matter if you outlaw weapons: they'll make them. Out of empty wrapping paper/toilet paper/paper towel tubes. And sticks. And Legos. And plungers. And leftover sticks from corn dogs. And any-damn-thing that can be aimed, flung, or jabbed at someone repeatedly.

#6: Kiss your girly dreams goodbyeI used to fantasize about my daughter wearing my wedding dress. Or bequeathing her my high school journals, filled with stories of my friends, my crushes, and drama. But I'm pretty sure my boys aren't gonna want to read about the "magical" New Year's Eve kiss I once received, or the time(s) I faked having cramps to get out of gym. And I can almost bet that nobody's going to be clamoring to wear my wedding dress (but hey, boys? If that's your type of thing, it's yours for the asking). When you don't have girls, your visions of mother/daughter bonding evaporate faster than rain in a desert, and you have to make peace with that. But wanna know a secret? It's not that hard. The worst part comes when people don't understand that you're cool with having all boys, and they act unnecessarily sympathetic - like your life is somehow incomplete without female offspring, and you're going around pining for the daughters you never had. Now that's irritating. Because bonding over armpit farting contests is poignant and lovely in its own right ... believe it or not.

#7: Oh, the pressure! As the mother of a boy, you feel a huge - gigantic - obligation to make sure that they don't grow into that douche-y ex or dating horror story that every woman has. The problem is, you're not exactly positive what makes sweet little boys grow into bad dates and insufferable bedfellows. There's no manual that tells us how to ensure that our dudes develop into ideal mates (or at least close) - and if you've never been a man yourself, it can be hard to tap into what makes them tick, adult-relationship-wise. So you do the best you can, but it's all trial-and-error. And then you have to wait until they grow up to see if it worked. To my future daughters-in-law: I'm trying really hard. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

#8: Stains stink. Trying to keep boys' clothing pristine is like trying to jump into a pool and stay dry. And figuring out how to treat the endless parade of stains - from grass to blood to pudding to mud to Popsicles to poop - is a never-ending guessing game.

You'll spend hundreds of dollars amassing a collection of stain removal products so impressive that your laundry room will rival the detergent aisle at the grocery store. You'll hold your breath as you run the pre-treated item through the wash, and then snarl and swear and grit your teeth as it comes out still bearing the faint trace of spray paint or gum or permanent marker that you tried so hard to banish. You'll toss out tons of stuff because nobody wants a hand-me-down that looks like you tried to tie-dye it with spaghetti sauce. Yeah, you'll get to shop for new clothes for your boys, but here's the next boy-mom issue ...

#9: Boy clothes are boring. It's true. If you want easy, boy clothes are where it's at: outfits are a snap to put together because there are only a handful of styles, not a lot of trends, and everything goes together. But it's not fun. Boys aren't all that into accessories. It's not like you get to choose ruffly socks or a coordinating hair ribbon or the perfect necklace. The boys' clothing sections in stores always pale in comparison to the girls'. You might get to pick out, like, a belt or some sunglasses once in a while ... but that's about the closest to accessorizing that you're gonna get. And forget about a closet full of shoes - dudes are happy with one or two pairs. (Although I have to admit ... that's much easier on the wallet, which makes me happy, too.)

#10: Sometimes you just. Don't. Know. I can comfort my boys when they're sad or scared, praise them when they do well, correct them when they do wrong, and be happy when they're happy. But when it comes to completely, 100% identifying with their feelings and concerns, let's just say that one little thing stands between a mom and her total understanding of her sons. And I do mean one thing - also known as the penis. Because as much as I can empathize with the boys, I will never be able to completely understand why the male appendage requires so much airing out, or the allure of pulling on it all the time, or why its facing the "wrong way" (whatever that is) in your Ninja Turtle briefs is cause for alarm. Don't even get me started on the questions that ensue on the occasions when it, uh, points north instead of south. It's hard to teach them about a body part that you don't have, so I resort to stammering uncomfortably scientific explanations for stuff like that.

When applicable, "Ask your dad" can be a boy-mom's best phrase. And if all else fails, just remember: when you're dealing with boys, a well-timed burp can diffuse any awkward situation.


  1. You are so entertaining to read and as a new mom of 2 boys it really helps to get advice on what lay in store for me. Thank you so much for your blog it is so helpful and you are so funny!

  2. Dear God, are there hidden cameras in my house that you've been watching? I am living EVERY ONE OF THESE for 8 years now. Although, I have a couple to add:
    1. Potty training. Teaching them how to use and aim a body part you don't have it interesting. Very interesting. And you will need to clean all toilets. Daily. Maybe hourly. They cannot aim, especially when nature calls at 1am and they are not really awake or aware. My boys had to start cleaning the toilets by age 3. I went on strike.

    2. On the potty note, taking your boy to the public restroom becomes a real trip when they reach the age they are embarrassed to go in the women's room with you, but too young in your opinion to go on their own. Some places are simply non-negotiable, but others I have stood in the doorway, foot holding it open, to make sure they are safe and not in need of assistance. I have been walked in on while holding my too short little men up to the sink to wash their hands (or, on occasion, a too high urinal) in the previously deserted men's room FAR more times than I'd like to admit. Thankfully, men are much more chill about that little surprise than women would be in the reverse. Thank you, Men, for understanding.

    3. Ceiling fans. They are an enigma. See, you need them because little boys are always hot and sweaty. Always. Dead of winter, -20 degrees, you're in so many layers it's the best possible birth control to sleep in, and they are in nothing but undies, covers thrown off and sweating. So you need ceiling fans. But ceiling fans are also a no-no. EVERYTHING is fun to throw into a ceiling fan. EVERYTHING. And many things gain a LOT of momentum when thrown into a moving fan, and go flying around the room at unsafe velocities. (See previous comments about holes in the wall and your crap broken).

    4. You'll love it. A lot. Maybe too much. Boys love their Mommies, even when they say they don't. I get more compliments, gifts and flowers from my boys than their father has ever dreamed of giving me, and he's a good husband/father. And you will melt. Every. Time.

    1. Your number 3- no ceiling fan experiences yet (my three boys are 4 years, 2 years, and 4 months old), but I have had to climb up and remove a stuffed elephant from a chandelier while visiting family.

  3. Laughing at #9 and thinking of my friend with three sons and then a daughter who pitches an absolute fit when her parents try and put her in anything other than her brothers hand me downs! She's a hoot and totally gorgeous, as are the big brothers :)


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