Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Wonder of Boys

I only have one son. He's 11 now and growing up faster than should be allowed. He's gratefully slow to mature; in many ways he's still a little boy. Every once a while, though, I'll watch as he solves a problem in a more grown-up way, or have an insight that surprises us all.

For many years I've heard of Michael Gurian. He's known as the expert on boys, and his "Wonder of Boys" book has been patiently sitting on my shelf for years. I finally picked it up, and once I started reading it, was glad I did.

As much as I thought I understood boys and men, I gleaned valuable information. I agree with Gurian when he says that the particular brand of feminism from the sixties and seventies, although valuable in its time, doesn't serve us anymore. To make a dramatic change from the then status quo, male patriarchy, it was necessary to use drastic measures. However, now that we have made great strides in women's rights it's time to dial back a little and see the world as it is.

In this world and this time, men and boys are not necessarily privileged and favored above girls. Boys are not monsters who need to be hemmed in and controlled left and right. Our nation's over diagnosing of ADHD is an example of this. The staggering number of men and boys in trouble - either homeless, mentally ill, promiscuous or in jail, makes us pause. Have we, in our zeal to correct a wrong - women's discrimination- gone too far the other way? Have we neglected our boys, or failed to see that bringing up boys the way we bring up girls is not the answer? That *gasp* nature may play as big of a part as nurture?

Michael Gurian posits this and many other interesting points in his Wonder of Boys. He not merely presents us with the problems, but offers doable solutions we all can work on to help raise our boys. Even if you don't have boys, you are part of the people raising boys. Gurian says the phrase "it takes a village" applies especially to boys. Boys need a combination of family members (Gurian says father and uncles - I say mothers too), mentors, and media to teach them.

Gurian spends a lot of time telling us that moms need to let go of their sons. I can see Gurian's point about enmeshment moms can get into with their sons, particularly single moms. However, as one with a supportive husband, I feel that I'm capable enough to have a healthy relationship with my son without completely letting go and having Dad take over. Yes, I do agree that Dad is the primary parent now in shaping his moral character and mentoring him, but I'm as involved as Dad was our son didn't want anything to do with him. Just as my husband didn't step aside out of the nest and have me raise my baby son alone, I'm not stepping aside completely but I'm still valuable and very much present in my son's life.

Yes, I do let go, and I do so consciously and carefully, not letting go too early or too often. It's a balance, like it is with everything. All that said, thank you, Michael Gurian, for writing an insightful and instrumental book in helping us mothers deal with our boys whose changing bodies and minds sometimes perplexes us.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

On Finding Balance

As I sit here typing with a crick in my neck, I imagine a colonial mother carefully dipping her quill in an inkwell and moving her hand fluidly across the page.  I am her, she is me. We are both mothers, writing. She at least partially educated her children at home, so do I in the 21st century. Poetry and verse tend to bring two mothers and writers together.

For a long, long time I believed that I had to be a mother. Solely a mother. I don't like to say "only" a mother, as it implies diminishing this all-important, encompassing role. However, in being a solely a mother I forgot myself. Yes, I tried to do some things here and there to find myself again, but the demands of three children was alive and real, and my life was all about the kids. I still put them first, but now it's different.

I matter too. And I'm not being petulant about it or passive aggressive. I've learned to watch the kettle and see when the steam is about to rise. I turn off the switch and make some tea.

A wise, older friend told me this years ago. "Take care of yourself," she told me. "Don't feel guilty for taking some time off. You can take even more time off as you're with the children all day." Even though I understood in my mind, I didn't completely understand in my heart. The heart has to be swayed, swept away. A few years later I understood. It took the image of the mother on board an airplane putting on her oxygen mask before she put one on her child to really reach me. How could I be the best mother I could be if my resources were depleted?

So at thirty-eight and with children 11, 7, and 4, I'm seeking balance. It's a funny thing, this seeking balance. Once you start taking care of yourself a bit, your worldview expands and you enjoy life more. You keep seeking balance in everything - your relationships, your homeschool day, your spiritual life with God. The crucial matter is I let God take care of me now.

I know He does, He always has. Just like a toddler who shouts impatiently, "me do it myself!", I used to think that I could handle everything on my own. But now when I feel overwhelmed I stop and listen - I step out of the way and I let Him. I let Him help me. Balance. It makes all the difference.