One of my dear friends just had a baby, her fourth. She’s an experienced mom who has gone through the trials of motherhood. She knows the sleepless nights, has mastered nursing in public, and she already knows how to use one hand to feed herself while nursing her baby and correcting an older child’s homework at the same time. None of this is new for her. In a way though, it is. This time the bundle of love lying in her arms is a boy!
As an (ahem) experienced mom to two boys, I have this urge to fill her with advice. I had to stifle myself when I was at her house for a visit to meet the new little one. I wanted to shower her with my words of wisdom, an avalanche on her tired brain.
I grew up in a family of girls; I’m the youngest of five. When I gave birth to a boy, I had no idea what to do with one. I knew how to play Barbies and dress up; not just from my own upbringing but all of my sisters had daughters of their own.
My friend is a phenomenal mother, I watch her with her children and I’m amazed by her patience. But this new gender in her family dynamic is going to shift the way she has always parented. And it’s going to make her notice things in our society about gender, what is expected of her son but not of her daughters. Expectations of his behavior and family traditions that weren’t addressed before he was born will suddenly become important to certain family members.
What would my advice be?
I’d tell her to breathe him in, to stop multitasking and enjoy each moment. To treat each milestone as if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen a baby smile, talk, walk.
I’d tell her to embrace all that he is, including the tutus that he will surely wear because he has three older sisters. The looks she will get from strangers as he insists that pink and purple are his favorite colors and refuses to wear blue, red or gray—the color choices for most boys clothes.
I’d tell her to let go of any preconceived notions of when he should be hitting milestones and allow him to develop on his time line. Girls typically hit milestones before boys, even as babies they seem more mature than their male counterparts.
I’d tell her to raise him to be the man that holds doors not just for women because that “is what men do” but for anyone because it’s the nice thing to do.
I’d tell her to not freak out when he turns sticks, Legos and pretzel rods into guns. It doesn’t say anything about her parenting; it’s in the male DNA—you can’t avoid this. Trust me, I’ve tried and failed.
And finally I’d tell her to simply love him, as I know she will, to hug and kiss him well into his teen years. Even when he’s embarrassed that you do it, he’ll look back and someday he’ll understand why you did.
What would you tell a seasoned mom?
Looking back at your life, what do you wish someone told you?