When I had newly become the single parent of my five precious children, someone unthinkingly gave me a book called Bringing up Boys, the whole premise of which was that in order to raise men from boys, you should have a male role model. I remember closing the book and thinking, ‘Well, that’s a bummer!’
And then, I am pleased to say, I managed to spend the next 15 years raising three young men of exceptional kindness and maturity. And they cook.
Here are 12 things we did:
- They took turns with the girls on the chores.
- I roughhoused with them – fortunately they switched to sports other than rugby before they could out-scrum me. I made sure we had a house with a garden so there was space to play.
- I watched a lot of hockey and football (Stinky boots lived in the garage though). I can easily spot offside now.
- Reading was a treat that was withheld at bedtime if they’d misbehaved. They all now write for their living.
- I never let them win at games. (Ok that is just because I am so competitive, but when they beat me, there was a huge sense of achievement.)
- I tried very hard (and mostly succeeded) to NEVER speak ill of their father to them, no matter how tempting that was.
- I kept my word to them.
- I remained in charge. There was one occasion though when one of them (who shall remain anonymous) mouthed off at me in front of his father who was visiting. The man announced that that was his cue to leave. Flabbergasted, I marched back inside and made sure that my son knew in no uncertain terms that while it may have appeared that he had been given carte blanche to speak to me as he chose, I was the rule maker and my standards would be maintained.
- We talked about fairness and failure, mine and theirs. And always forgave.
- They made their beds every day, despite one declaring that the mess in his room was a ‘still life’ – needless to say he had to clean it up before it started to scurry.
- We battled for money, so they worked as teenagers.
- We debated ideas – although there were times they tried to make (flawed) legal arguments about doing the dishes.
Of course I probably parented very poorly at times (They will tell you about all those occasions – but despite their protestations, they have not been scarred for life). I must also bear witness to the kindness of male colleagues, friends and family members who guided them over rough patches, and who also talked sport for hours and took them hiking (because, as you know, I didn’t do sweaty exercise.)
But moms out there when you are faced with the question, ‘Can a woman raise a son?’
The answer is hell yes!