I am the first to admit I am a wee bit overprotective. I admit I probably cramp my child’s style and am far more of a worry wart than necessary.
I say that, then realize you can never be too protective of your child.
“Why can’t I do … ” he will ask.
“Because I said so,” is my answer. “I’m the boss, applesauce.”
This is not a good answer for Cole.
It wasn’t a good answer for me when I was a child and that’s what Mama told me. Except Mama left off any rhyme to soften the blow; she usually informed me very matter of a fact she was calling the shots.
I thought she was terribly strict and must have hated me. Surely, she gave birth to me because she wanted to torture some defenseless child.
I wasn’t allowed to do about 85 percent of the things my friends did. I wasn’t allowed to go to places by myself. I wasn’t allowed to spend the night if Mama didn’t know the family – and we’re not talking from the PTA here, we’re talking “know them since birth” type deals. She probably ran background checks on my Sunday school teachers, just to be safe.
“You can’t smother that boy his whole life,” a friend informed me once.
Said friend was a former Marine and probably found me to be quite silly in the things I refused to let Cole do. No probably about it really, I know he did.
And before I continue, let me rephrase that because said friend would remind me there’s no such thing as a former Marine – he was still a Marine.
“I’m his mother, I can smother him as long I want to. And I am not smothering him. I am protecting him.”
Said Marine friend shook his head.
“You are smothering him. Do you want him to be a boy or a man when he grows up? You keep this nonsense up, you are going to have a grown up boy when he’s 40.”
I wasn’t quite sure what he meant at the time, but it dawned on me later.
Some men are accused of being … well … boys. We know the ones – heck, I think at some point, I dated a few a long, long, long time ago.
But Cole was not going to be that way.
He was responsible. He apologized when he needed to, he picked up after himself and he actually begged to wash dishes. I have to say, I think I have a pretty great kid, even though I don’t think I have a lot to do with that. Most of the time, he is correcting me more than I am correcting him.
I knew how I wanted him to be when he was grown. I want him to be successful, happy and well-respected. Did I want him to still be crazy about his mama? Of course. Did I want him to be a perpetual child? No.
But I do think boys sometimes have it a little tougher than girls do in some regards. They are told they have to be tough, they have to like cars, guns and hunting – when maybe, they don’t. Some are told they aren’t supposed to cry or show any emotion when I know some men are far more compassionate than I am.
I think the men I have admired the most were those who didn’t give a diddle about what society told them they were supposed to be, but were themselves.
People like my grandfather, who worked in construction during the week but come Sunday was the prettiest man in church. He also didn’t care who saw him get emotional, whether he was upset about something concerning me or Georgia Tech beating the Dawgs. No one would have questioned his manliness.
But maybe that’s it. Somewhere along the way, we all forgot that boys, men, those males of our species are people too. They aren’t super humans who have no feelings.
It’s such a delicate, precarious balance this business of raising boys. I’ve tried to remember that. I’ve told Cole to always be considerate, to think of how someone else would feel, to think of consequences, to make good decisions, even when I wasn’t there. Especially when I wasn’t there.
As Mama would tell me when I was younger: “Don’t do anything you would be embarrassed to have to explain to me or the police later.”
That kind of gave me a pretty good parameter of what I should or shouldn’t do.
I think for the most part, what I have said has stuck. He’s doing pretty good so far and has a good sense of self. And so far, he comes to me when he has worries, concerns or questions.
Like the other day. He was worried. One of his friends no longer liked the same thing he did. Did this mean the friendship was over? I smiled and told him no and explained friends could like different things; it was perfectly fine.
He was relieved. They had known each other since they were 2. He didn’t want to lose a good friend over something so inconsequential – his words not mine.
It’s tough work, this raising men and not boys.