My son will be four years old in just a few weeks. I really can’t believe how fast time has flown by. It seems like yesterday he was a tiny baby. And believe me when I say he was a TINY baby.
I look at him now and I still see my baby. He still struggles to say his L’s. He’s not using the potty standing up yet. He still asks for me to help him fall asleep at nap time by patting his back until he’s out. Elmo is still his best friend. He sleeps with a night light and gets scared by the gurgling sounds of the humidifier. His heart breaks when he thinks daddy forgot to tell him good bye in the mornings before work. In all these precious little ways, he’s still my baby. He’s still learning. He still holds my hand when we walk, still asks to be carried when he’s too tired to. He’s excited by little things like play dates with friends, fresh snowfall, and an impromptu pizza lunch on a cold February day.
As he gets older, I cherish every little thing he says. I even remember to cherish the times I don’t enjoy in the moment, like public meltdowns and embarrassing outbursts in church. I try to remember to write it all down, both the good and the bad. Because I know he won’t be little forever, and it breaks my heart and scares me all at the same time.
Raising boys in our society is not easy. Raising children of either gender isn’t easy, especially in today’s media-driven society where daughters are constantly being told that the purpose of their existence is to provide ravenous boys with a sex object to ogle, and boys are taught that their only job in adolescence is to ogle those precious girls. Parents and religious groups seem to be rising up to protect the girls, but I still don’t see many fighting for the boys. I know that it’s my job to fight for my son.
As Little grows up, I see the innocence he has, the moments where he says things that put my heart in a vice and make me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I want him to maintain that innocence displayed in those moments forever. Moments like this morning, when we were over at a friend’s house and he squealed, “All of my friends are here today! I’m so happy!” He’s been sick for two weeks and hasn’t seen his friends very much, and in this moment of pure delight before cliques, bullies, stereotypes, and gender division will limit and dictate his friends, I wanted to scoop him up and hug him. I dread those days when it won’t be so simple. I pray that God always puts loving friends in his path to guide him and provide him with much needed support and accountability.
Little boys come to us packed full of curiosity, orneriness, a love for adventure, and an incredible amount of sweet snuggliness. I’m convinced that baby girls don’t snuggle like baby boys. My heart breaks as my son gets older and I think of that sweetness being squashed out of him by our society. By bullies. By stereotyping. By a world that tells him a sensitive heart is useless in men. Our job as mothers of boys is to somehow balance out the sensitivity our sons are naturally given by God and teach them how to be men of strong character at the same time… All the while fighting off conflicting messages from the world around them.
I have to worry over him being desensitized to violence before he’s even a teenager. I have to help him balance play with work. I have to teach him how to clean up his messes and when to say he’s sorry. It’s my job to remind him, “Both boys and girls can play with that race car,” when he excitedly exclaims, “A boy car!” I am already fighting off the gender-stereotyping our world throws at him. Too soon for my liking, I’ll be fighting for him to find how to be a man of God rather than a man of the world. I hurt when I think of him losing the sensitivity that makes him so sweet and special. I hate that boys are viewed as “easy” compared to girls because as the world see it, boys don’t have all of those feelings getting in the way. In so many ways, the emotions of our boys need just as much care as girls.
I wish I had solid answers for all of my worries and fears about him as he grows from my baby to a little boy. Thankfully, while I have no idea how to protect him against the ugliness this world throws at our young boys, my God does. I know that God put that sweetness in my son, and I have to trust that He will protect it.
I hope that Little will always be gentle towards animals and eager to comfort a friend who is hurt. I hope the thoughtfulness that compels him to share his string cheese with his daddy grows into beautiful generosity as he ages. I hope he never buys in to the lie that real men don’t feel, cry, or care. I never want his heart to be hardened just because our society says it must be so. I hope the brightness in his eyes lasts forever, and that he maintains the same playfulness my sweet husband has.
As parents, it is our responsibility to cover our children in prayer. We should pray for their emotional and spiritual well being just as much as we pray for safety. Please hear me, mothers of sons. “Manhood” is not defined by toughness, rambunctiousness, and virility. Manhood is a thing of true character, created by God in the image of His own Son. Real men care deeply for the women in their lives. They’re respectful to their mothers, stand up for their sisters, and see value in women that’s much deeper than physical looks. They know when an apology is in order and have no hesitation giving one with humility. Real men are true to their word. They are honest and hard working. Real men are sweet and sensitive. They are sensitive to the needs of others and to the gentle urging of the Holy Spirit on their hearts.
If we want our boys to maintain that special God-given sparkle in their eyes, joy in their hearts, and sweetness of spirit, we must cover them in prayer. God gives men mothers to teach them how to be gentle, kind, and to know when to be quiet. All too often we get confused by the teachings of this world and forget how important our boys’ hearts are. My husband has feelings, and sometimes I unintentionally hurt them. When I do, it’s hard to see much difference between him and our almost-four-year-old. Travis still wants to be included and accepted by his peers. He still wants to play. He still gets hurt sometimes. He still wants to be acknowledged for his hard work and achievements. He still wants to make sure his mother feels loved and his wife feels pursued. It’s all still there, even though he’s grown. I pray that my son maintains all of that same sweetness when he’s a grown man. And I know the only way to do that is to get on my knees and pray to the God who created him for greatness.
We protect our daughters, but do we protect our sons? Do we worry over their hearts like we worry over girls’ hearts? Do we think of our young men wrestling with the world and the calling God has placed on them? What do we do to help them? Men should rise up in our churches and call out those young men, leading them in the right path. Women should pray without ceasing to guard their precious hearts. If you don’t have sons, pray for the sons who will cross your daughter’s path someday. Pray for her friends, her classmates, her boyfriends, and her husband. Pray for a less desensitized generation in America.
And please, don’t forget- boys have feelings too. And I don’t think there’s anything bad about that.