Sugar and Spice

Photo Credit: Clever Cupcakes

I sat on the couch, my niece on the floor in front of me.

“Hold still, honey,” I said, as she started to fidget.

I grabbed one section of hair and twisted it around another section. Over, under, over, under until her hair was twisted around itself into a spiraling, thin braid.

Years ago, when children were a mere hope in my heart, this is what I had imagined parenting would be like. Braiding hair, coloring on a big kitchen table, glittery craft projects. Dance lessons, heart-to-heart conversations, make-up and fashion advice.

Now, two children later – two rambunctious boys later – I have learned that this is not what motherhood has in store for me.

I will not be a mother to a little girl who wears gauzy skirts and bouncy pigtails.

I will not be a mother to a teenage young woman who boasts a feisty attitude and teen angst.

I will not be a mother to a grown woman who looks to me for life advice and offers up fashion tips.

I will not be a mother to a mother who finally understands what it means to live with your heart on the outside of your body.

I will not be mother to a girl and a piece of me (a small piece some days, a large piece on other days) mourns that loss.

And yet…

I am a mom. I am a mom to boys.

There will not be hair braiding or make-up tips, but there can still be the heart-to-hearts and dream sharing and ears ready to listen when they want to talk.

There will be no prom dresses or wedding dresses, but there will still be advice about first loves and relationships and heartbreak.

There will be no commiserating about childbirth or feminism, but there can be sympathizing about difficult math problems and tough bosses and financial struggles.

Because I am a mom and that’s what moms do.

Motherhood for me might not include the glittery craft projects, tea parties, fashion shows, Barbies, hair bows, and ballerina skirts that I had envisioned. But it will still include all the hugs, the hand-holding, the tear wiping, the You-Can-Do-It pep talks, the It-Will-Get-Better reassurances, the tuck-ins, the late night worrying, the Did-I-Do-Enough second-guessing, the soaring highs when my kids are truly happy,  the devastating lows when their hearts are broken, and the constant, unwavering hope that they always feel worthy, fulfilled, and loved.

Because I am a mom. And that is what moms – what parents – do.

Whether building Lego towers or having a tea party, whether watching Star Wars or Cinderella, whether we are shopping for a prom dress or picking out a corsage, at the heart of each of those activities are connection, guidance, and encouragement.

Parenting for me does not include many of the activities and interests that I had expected. But, honestly, not much about what I had expected parenting to be like has held true – it is so much more of everything than I had ever imagined.

Yet at the heart of it all, there is a confidence that these boys were chosen especially for me, and I for them. And there is a wild, splintered peace in that secret knowledge. There is a reckless and surprising Grace in honoring the role.

And, besides, glittery craft projects really just make an awful mess anyway.

My handiwork

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  • I love being a boy mom! I’ve long reconciled myself to the fact that I probably won’t be great at hairdos and I hate glitter 🙂

    Love this, Christine!
    Alison recently posted…WordsMy Profile

    • Yes, hair braiding and glitter are definitely examples of things that are better in theory than in practice.

  • Don’t fret. First of all, my hope is that those feisty teenage years are much easier with boys than girls. Second, the bond between a mother and son is MUCH stronger than a mother and daughter.

    • I tell myself the same things! Though I do miss some of the “girly” things. I just hope that my boys and I are able to “talk” like my mom and I can.

  • Oh Christie this was beautifully written! People ask me all the time “Are you going to try for the girl.” I think they think my lack of girl is somehow disappointing to me. I set ’em straight however when I always respond with, “Nope. I wanted boys. I prayed for boys. I got boys. This was one of those great times when God and I were on the same page so I’m not going to rock the boat.” Boys are certainly different, that’s for sure. But like you said, different is the best word to describe most parts of parenting.

    I love how you talked about your kids being perfectly created for you- their presence in your life is divinely written. How amazing!! I love this post!
    ThePursuitOfNormal recently posted…It’s my party and I’ll overshare if I want to!My Profile

    • Thanks, Vicky. I have to admit, I really wanted my first to be a girl, but then after I had a boy, I wanted the second to be a boy. In the end, though, it certainly isn’t up to us, is it? Thanks for your kind words.

  • I was sent here by Vicky from The Pursuit of Normal. I have 1 daughter and 3 boys. I have to say that boys are more difficult when little (mine are still little, so I’m at that difficult stage with my 3), but my older daughter is tough. Girls seem to develop an attitude from an early age and mine definitly did. She’s now in high school (we have a large gap between the first two kids). And as much as she and I fight, I still love her, but I can’t imaging my boys who love me more than anything ever fighting with me like she does. Boys and girls are such a blessing, but I do think (and hope) my boys will be easier as teens. Thanks for such a great post, it was nice to read it and I’ll be back to read more in the future!

    • Thanks, Melanie. And thank you for sharing your own thoughts. I do hope that things settle down a little in the teen years but then I think of what teenage boys do when they start driving and I start to hyperventilate. I guess it’s always something no matter the age or gender, right? Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts, and I hope you continue reading.

  • The great thing for me about raising boys, is that I get to love them completely without any of the competition and identity separation. They don’t have to rebel against being like me because I’m already different. Our heart to hearts usually take place in the car, without eye contact or on our way to gym but they are genuine and fragile and precious moments just the same.

    The other thing I would say is that the two boys I have are completely different and need different parenting. Boys or girls, introverts or extroverts, we are always just trying to learn about them as best we can and then do our best.

  • You might think adoptive moms have it different than birth moms. After all, with international adoptions anyway, we often get to request the gender of our kids. At the time we adopted our first, I was dying for a girl. We were told that it was mostly boys available for international adoption (seems the girls were snapped up by internal adoptions in Korea). So we resigned ourselves to a boy. And when Z arrived, I couldn’t have been happier. I was just so thrilled to be a mom after years of trying. After starting the adoption process again, we were told that we would have priority for a girl. And here’s the weird thing, we asked for a boy again. After two years of being a boy mom, I couldn’t envision the ballet lessons and the princess Barbies anymore, even after all those years of wanting a girl. I don’t look back with regrets, I’m having too much fun watching my kids play football and baseball, or taking them hiking and fishing — but I do enjoy buying the frilly dresses for my nieces girls.

    • Oh, Katherine, I LOVED hearing your thoughts on the matter. So very interesting. That’s kind of how I felt when Teddy came along. I really wanted Jack to be a girl, but with Teddy I was hoping for a boy. I still do miss little girls things a bit though – especially as family members all have little girls.

  • Even if you had a girl, there’s no way of knowing if she’d even be interested in hair braiding, glitter, or any of that. Your sons apparently aren’t in that sort of stuff, but some are. Culture does pressure children to conform to gender norms, but those sorts of interests aren’t actually inherent. Then there’s the girls who come out looking like boys or vis versa, genderqueer people, etc., all of which complicate things further. Some parents don’t realize they’ve actually had a daughter all along until she has long since grown up.

    • Martin, you are so very right. There is no telling what a child (boy or girl) might be interested in. What I really crave is a connection and deep communication, which I can have regardless of gender.

  • Beautiful piece, Christie. I love the way you describe parenting and our roles as parents. I’ve been craving a little boy lately – watching so many of my mom friends whose little boys are so in love with them. God willing, I’ll experience all the girl interactions you’ve described and I promise to enjoy and cherish them as much as I am able in the moment. At the same time, I sometimes wish for the boy experiences, energy and love you and others get to enjoy. Wondeful writing!
    Mary recently posted…Strangers On a StreetMy Profile

    • Thanks, Mary. I suppose its a little bit of the “want what we can’t have” syndrome, isn’t it? If I had a boy and a girl, I might want each to have a same-gender sibling. If I had two girls, I might want a boy. If I had three kids, I’d want four. Etc. Etc. As always, thank you for reading and commenting.

  • I loved reading your blog post! As a mom to three boys, I can relate to everything that you said. Motherhood has definitely taught me that what I once thought being a mom was all about is no where near what it really is. When I was younger, I often dreamed of the day that I would experience all of those things that you mentioned with my own daughter. Then, after years of infertility and pregnancy loss and after falling hopelessly in love with not one but three little boys, I learned that all that I thought I knew that being a mom was all about quickly went out the window. My three boys were meant to be and nothing else really mattered.

    • Thank you so much! I’m glad that other people can relate. Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

  • “But it will still include all the hugs, the hand-holding, the tear wiping, the You-Can-Do-It pep talks, the It-Will-Get-Better reassurances, the tuck-ins, the late night worrying, the Did-I-Do-Enough second-guessing, the soaring highs when my kids are truly happy, the devastating lows when their hearts are broken, and the constant, unwavering hope that they always feel worthy, fulfilled, and loved.”
    Inspired. Shed a tear. No joke.

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