I have three sons and zero daughters. When my boys were small, I would hear the question, “Are you going to keep trying for a girl?” until I thought my head would explode. Some folks seemed affronted when I would tell them I was done having kids. As if, by having only sons, I was somehow disrupting the natural order of the universe.
Here are, verbatim, comments made to me when I was raising my boys:
“When my mother was sick, my sisters took care of her. Your sons won’t do that for you.” (The father of a babysitter.)
“I don’t have another child because I don’t want to be you.” (A mom of two boys who didn’t want three.)
“Ugh! Three boys! Lucky you.” (A teacher —snarkily — at my sons’ school. In front of my kids.)
Sometimes I would be stunned into silence. Sometimes I’d gargle out a defensive response. But, with the insight of years behind me, I now appreciate the irrepressible beauty, advantages and challenges of being the mother of just sons.
1. You’re their first love. There’s no trying to skirt around this one. You fall in love with your sons and they with you in the healthiest sense imaginable. My sister (a mother of girls only) would marvel when my little boys would pick me flowers or caress my hair. They learn how to love women — and how to be loved by women — from you.
2. You’re their female prototype. Are you modeling for them your expectations of respect and kindness? It’s never too late to show them you demand to be treated well by them, their other parent and the world at large. Boys with strong, self-respecting moms will seek out similar women to partner with — and will be better partners to them.
3. You will have regrets. I yelled. A lot. My sons were very close in age and were high on energy and hijinks — while I was low on patience. I wish I’d given myself more timeouts to gather my wits.
4. You may wonder about your daughter. Who would she have looked/sounded/behaved like? A path not taken always makes us ponder the what-ifs. There may be moments when you see a little girl and think, “She looks like she could be mine,” and you feel a twinge. Don’t worry, it will pass. Promise.
5. You don’t have girl drama. Oh, the angst of it all! I’m grateful I didn’t have to navigate the dramatics of having a daughter. The he-said-she-saids, the tears, the mood swings. Boys have their own set of issues (believe you me) but they usually play the emotional roller coaster of preteen/teen social life close to the vest.
6. Having sons may suit you. It took years to realize, but I now know raising boys was a good fit for me. I really like my alone time and moms of girls simply don’t get as much. When my oldest was a young teen, he said, “Mom, I wish you had a daughter. Someone you could get manicures and stuff with so you wouldn’t have to go alone.” What he didn’t realize was those moments were my escape. I loved that I didn’t have to take a child along whenever I wanted to do a “girl” activity.
7. They’re (somewhat) safer. My 20-year-old son took an Über ride into the city on a recent evening. I was atypically worried but consoled myself with the idea that he’d be able to defend himself if necessary. Would I let a daughter take a ride from a stranger alone at night? Not bloody likely. Sure, boys get into their own brand of trouble and can also be victims, but girls are more likely to be harassed and/or attacked.
8. You will always feel this way about them. The peaceful joy of watching them sleep? Check. The leaping of your heart when they walk into the room? Check. The maternal thrill you get from their boyish, bearish hugs? Check. They will always be your little boys no matter how big they get. One of mine is 6-foot-five and I still see his little toddler face when I look (up) at him.
9. Accept the challenge. Raising good men is a wonderful and honorable thing. Men who are gentle, kind and nurturing. Men who treat women and children well. Men who will make loving, devoted husbands. This is an overwhelming responsibility but you are up to the task. You’ve been given this amazing opportunity. Enjoy it. Own it. And reap the rewards.