Raising boys

Browsing throw the library, I came across Raising Boys without Men: How Maverick Moms are Creating the Next Generation of Exceptional Men by Peggy Drexler, Ph.D.  I was curious, so I checked it out.  I am raising two boys, perhaps three.  The book was fascinating!

I originally assumed the book would be about single mothers raising sons, but it was much, much more.  Drexler began her Ph.D. thesis studying stable lesbian couples who were raising boys.  For the book, she started studying single mothers by choice as well as some divorced and widowed mothers.  Drexler wanted to see exactly what the issues where for boys who were raised without a father figure.  She found that boys without fathers did just as well as those with fathers.  In fact, the boys studied were more well-rounded, more emotional in touch, and better able to articulate themselves than the boys who had fathers.

Drexler found that mothers encouraged their sons to talk, never allowing them to shut their mothers out with one word answers.  These mothers allowed their sons to embrace their own sense of masculinity.  These mothers actively sought out good male role-models for their sons, and these mothers took an active interest in whatever these boys were.  It is good parenting that raises good children, not a good mom or good dad.

The husband was a little worried at first that I was planning a divorce.  Like that’s something I want to do at five months along.  But I got this book because I’m 50% responsible for turning my boys into men, and I need to be active in their lives.

While reading this book, I realized I do let The Husband take the more physically active role with the boys.  I’m making a bigger effort to wrestle and play sports with the boys.  I’ve started dragging us on hikes and to parks.  I’ve got to make a bigger effort in teaching them to ride bikes and play baseballs, soccer, and basketball.  If I want to be a good parent, I have to be the emotional, physical, hands-on, intelligent parent all at once.

Then I read about one mom allowed her son to wear nail polish when he wanted.  He was a soccer player and love to build things.  He was a typical boy, who just wanted to wear nail polish every once in a while.  Then a few days after reading this excerpt, Evan asked for his nails to be painted blue.  I asked him what his dad would say (because The Husband was at a college football game).  Evan smiled and replied, “He’ll say, ‘That’s awesome, Evan!’”  I called The Husband and explained the whole thing after I painted Evan’s nails.  Unfortunately when Evan did proudly show his blue painted nails, The Husband groaned an oh-no.  We had a little talk about Evan’s self-esteem, masculinity, and that no this does not mean your son is gay.   Because I read this book, I was more comfortable with my choice to let the boys explore everything from baking to nail polish to fairy wings.

The biggest lesson I learned was I didn’t have to let my boys grow apart from me.  I’ve worried from the day Evan was born that one day he would walk away from me because that’s what boys do.  He would create a wall between us, never calling me when he left home, always spending holidays with his wife’s family, leaving me wondering, calling, begging for his attention.  Then I had another boy and possibly another, and before I read this book, I saw my old age becoming a very lonely place.  But Dexler interviewed adult men who were raised without fathers, and they all talked about the importance of their mothers, calling them for advice, seeing them on weekends, and still playing one on one on the backyard court.  I realized I could have that.  I wanted that.  God willing, I will have that with my boys.

I’m going to buy this book because I’m sure I’ll need the advice every now and then.  I think this is an important book to read for all mothers, with sons or daughters, with husbands or not, because it gives some good advice from women who are doing it right.  It also exonerates mothers from being the villain that ruined the kids life because she was too intense with her love.  It’s nice to have someone tell you that you can’t love your kid enough.

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10 Responses to “Raising boys”

  1. inthefailinglight Says:

    Now all we need is a book for raising girls without women. It’s a sinking ship, just let me tell ya.

  2. theycallmejane Says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for finding this book and then sharing your thoughts about it. I’m going to put it on my Amazon wish list today! I’ve worried the same thing about having boys. My oldest is a girl and when I found out the boys were “boys” I panicked. Sounds like a great book with sage advice.

  3. Steel Magnolia Says:

    I couldn’t find the comment button at first and got all panicky. I HAD to tell you how happy I am to have read your post! This sounds like just the thing for me to get my hands on. You wrote so many of the things that I have been thinking since my son was born. Whenever I see women who have sons who visit them and call them and talk to them as adults, I harrass them about just what they did as mothers. Thank you so much!

  4. Fie Upon This Quiet Life Says:

    I will third the thanks for this recommendation. It never even occurred to me that I would have boys (dummy me — I was so focused on wanting girls and wanting to raise them to be strong women…), and I was disappointed when I learned that I would never have a girl. (Unless by some miracle I’m convinced to have a third kid. Very, very doubtful considering how difficult this pregnancy has been.) But I have decided that I want to raise sensitive and emotionally mature boys, so this sounds like the book for me to read. Once the semester winds down, I’ll have a lot more time to read, and I’ll definitely pick it up. Thanks!

  5. Maureen@IslandRoar Says:

    This book sounds awesome! My son is 22 now and we are quite close, always have been. He calls for advice and just to talk a few times a week from college. You definitely don’t have to grow apart.
    Great post!

  6. TheKitchenWitch Says:

    What a great find! I’m putting this on my list, because it will make the perfect Christmas present for my BFF. Thanks!

  7. faemom Says:

    itfl~ I wouldn’t know, but I’m sure you’re right.
    jane~ I’m glad I’m not the only one worried about that kind of thing. I hope you enjoy it.
    Steel Magnolia~ We really should start a group “Mothers of Boys.” I hope this book helps you.
    FUTQL~ Like I said, we need a group. I’m glad you’re dedicated to developing sensitive and mature men. I hope you like the book.
    Maureen~ Thanks for the hope! I really would like to be close to my sons.
    TKW~ I hope the book works for her.

  8. breedermama Says:

    I too have feared my sons growing apart from me practically since they were born because of the same reason “That’s what boys do”. I feel kind of foolish for falling so heavily and deeply into that stereotype – but I feel equally elated just to have it in print that it doesn’t have to happen. Thank you!

    Also: good for you for letting Evan paint his nails. And for the subsequent converstation with your husband about how it doesn’t make him gay. It’s hard for people to let go of these ideas that are so ingrained in our culture.

  9. Court Says:

    I find myself having to not worry so much with the status quo. I know a mom who let her son grow his hair long and then pick out a girl’s swimsuit. I had the hardest time thinking I could let my kid do that, but in all honesty, at the end of the day I want him or her safe and loved and that’s all.

  10. faemom Says:

    breedermama~ We all fall victim to that stereotype. The book points out how our culture continually spouts “smother love” “ruins” boys. The author found this just not to be true and encourages moms to keep reaching for their boys.
    Court~ That would be hard for any parent to do because you worry if it’s normal for your child and if it is, will others be accepting and understanding. This parenting stuff is hard.


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