You would think that seven mouths to feed back in the late sixties was enough, but apparently, my mom had a thing for even numbers, so they had me, rounding it out to an even eight. By the time I was two, I was the only girl in the house, because my sister had left home and gotten married at a young age. Yep, it was just me and the boys.
Growing up in a large family comprised of mostly males, I learned a thing or two about how a boy's mind works. I learned how to climb trees with the best of them, could spit as far as half of them and I kicked some serious hiney in poker. I discovered that breaking things just to fix them was called "being mechanical" and that if someone hurt you, all you had to do was put your fist through something and it immediately caused you to forget the original problem.
I was the girl in high school that had mostly male friends, because that's just who I identified with and understood the best. Boys were so much easier to be friends with because they didn't care if you had a spot on your shirt or if you wore makeup or not.
I was not allowed to officially "date" a boy without a chaperone until I was sixteen. Of course, that had never even been an issue, because all the boys I liked simply saw me as their "sister" (or one of them) - something I was good at being.
Oh, and the fact that I still had two brothers at home that lived to make my dating life miserable. One time a boy called me on the phone (and I really, really liked him, too) and one of my brothers happened to answer. Instead of handing the phone over to me, he said "Well, Karen can't come to the phone right now - she's sitting on the pot." He never called me back. Wonder why.
Now that I have a boy of my own (a middle child with two sisters), I often think back to the days of growing up with my brothers. There is a balance to be struck there somewhere, I am sure of it.
While I want him to be tough and tenacious, I also desire for him to be tender and softhearted towards the women in his life. I want him to respect his sisters in a way that I was not by my brothers. I was their "little sister", someone of little significance in their world of finger wrestling and frog giggin'. Oh, they included me in many things they did, but now that I am older, I am more aware of the fact that it was mostly at my mother's insistence, rather than their inclination to have me around because I was a kick in the pants.
My heart's desire is to raise a godly young man who is much like my brothers in the sense that he knows what its like to enjoy being a boy, but who isn't afraid to let his true feelings show at any given time.
I don't want to raise a sissy. I don't want to raise a macho male chauvinist, either.
I am sailing in what is unchartered waters for me and it's a tad bit intimidating. I can see the curve of the earth and it sometimes feels as though I'm going to drop right off the edge, only to find out there's another vast sea of obstacles to navigate my way through. As each course is completed, I am a little closer to victory and the finish line -- oh how I want to finish this race as his mother well.
Even more so, I want my son to finish well.
What are some things you do with your boys to encourage them in this area? How do you teach them to strike a fair balance between the extremes?