For the past several years, I have learned to love sticks, toy guns and paper airplanes. In fact, I can now make a mean paper airplane that sails from the kitchen well into the living room and land splat at the base of the front door.
My son, Liam, has opened up a whole new world for me. I have two brothers, whom, along with my late sister, Robyn, I played outdoors with growing up. Parenting a boy is a whole different story. Parenting a boy all by myself rests on a separate planet, but one I would not ever trade in this or that world. Ever.
Liam is eight years old now, and over the years he has introduced me to the Power Rangers, Elmo and an affinity to infinity for Buzz Lightyear. He has shown me that boys do not ever sit still. Burping and arm farts are part of a young boy’s repertoire. He reassures me of that, yes, Mommy, this is funny. And I reassure him of necessary manners just in case he forgets, and leave the room to laugh out loud.
Once while we visited a small church in Charleston, South Carolina, to meet some new friends for an afternoon play date, I learned how different little boys and girls were. Liam and I had just moved there several months prior from South Florida to begin life anew after his father left. He was 18 months old. Several of the mothers were sitting at a table, drinking coffee and chatting. Their young daughters sat nearby, on the floor, playing.
The little girls did not move or crawl up a bookcase to see how high they could climb. They just sat.
“They just sit there?” I asked the Pastor’s wife in amazement. “They aren’t moving at all. They play still. How did you get them to do that?”
Oh, how she laughed. She had two grown boys and these young girls were the daughters of another church member.
“My boys never sat still,” she said, and reassured me I was not alone. “It’s just how they are.”
Inside Secrets of Raising Boys
Over time, as my relationship with Liam has developed, he has taught me so many things I never knew about raising boys.
Here are just a minor few:
- They really love their mommas and want you to be proud of them.
- They will always have your heart.
- The first season of playing baseball or any sport, they always look for you in the stand to make sure you were watching them the whole time.
- They will cuddle with you anywhere until they are seven years old. After that, it is only at home when no one is watching. But they still cuddle.
- They expect you to play catch, shoot guns, and get down on the floor with them and crawl around.
- They want you to give them enough rope to explore the world around them but not too much so they feel you are still there.
- That empty spot at the dinner table where a dad usually sits is small compared to the empty spot in their hearts in longing for a father.
This last one is something I have paid attention to ever since my son was little. I do not nor have ever considered him or us victims; that mentality would set him up for failure. There are other single parents who believe this, too.
When There Is No Dad
During my ex’s departure, a very wise woman told me that God can always step in as Liam’s father. I have held onto that formula ever since; for us, that has worked so well and kept us whole and grounded amidst many changing circumstances.
While we lived in South Carolina, Liam and I attended a special group for single parents and their children called Changing Lives. It was similar to a support group and their mission was to ensure that any child who walked in there felt the love of God. Divorcing parents could use the location as a meet up or drop off for the children, too, which allowed for healthy boundaries.
The leaders wanted to care for the children’s sore spots within by offering healing, comfort and guidance. Why? Because statistics showed that if not, the future for the children of single parents are a bit grim. In that group, we all learned we were not victims. And the ideal intention was to look at the world through our children’s eyes and respond accordingly.
Through my son’s eyes, I see simplicity.
That is the other thing that Liam, being a boy, has taught me. Boys are simple. They do not like anything complicated.
Just aim and shoot.
That’s my Liam. I may not always get it right or he might miss a target, too, but we are definitely learning along this path together.