As a single mother raising two boys, there is still much about parenting that is a mystery to me.

My father calls my children, “The Destroyers.”
Observed from a certain perspective, he would be correct.

But maybe not. Raising sons – or at least, raising my sons – has given me a new perspective on a number of things.

Pencil erasers can be used to erase unwanted pencil markings, or they can be used as chew toys.

Once the eraser has been suitably destroyed, the remaining pencil can be used to write with, or it can be combined with a pencil sharpener and used as a meditation tool. Simply insert pencil and start grinding. Continue until there is nothing left of the pencil.

How calming.

Nerf footballs can be thrown across the back yard, or they can be picked apart, one little nub of foam at a time. This is a particularly fun thing to do while watching television.

One mindless activity leads to another.

Pillows can facilitate a restful night’s sleep, or they can be used in battle. You will be familiar with this one: Simply whack annoying younger brother with pillow until he screams for help.

Or until the pillow bursts open at the seams, scattering billions of micron-sized beads of indeterminate substance all over the bedroom.

Raising boys has taught me that pretty much any household item can be re-purposed as a weapon. Towels can be snapped at bare bottoms, after the shower. Rolled up socks can be whipped over the stair railings at unsuspecting heads down below. Food can be launched from any angle or distance.

The towels and socks usually survive the scuffle. The food, rarely.

Despite more than eight years of combat training – I mean, parenting – I am still disturbed to find mashed bananas dripping down the wall in the dining room.

Taking them out in public is a developmental exercise unto itself. How long can I hold my breath? How hard can I pray?

Am I shirking my responsibilities, when I pretend they are someone else’s kids and I am just the babysitter?

When they are literally rolling around on the floor of the supermarket, wrestling over who gets to pick out a box of cereal, is it okay if I walk the other way?

I would say they are being raised by wolves, but what does that make me?

The mother wolf, I guess.

Determined to protect her cubs – from themselves, each other and anything else that threatens – for as long as they need her.

Some days, I patiently buy a hundred pencils with fresh, new erasers.

Other days, I shriek. “We paid money for those paper clips. When you destroy them, you are throwing our money in the toilet.”

And slowly, so slowly, I hope I am teaching them a sense of personal responsibility.

“Your sneakers (purchased just over a month ago) are destroyed, because you refuse to untie the laces and instead shove your feet into them day after day, breaking down the spine to the point where it can’t support your heel anymore? Let me know when you have earned enough money to buy some new ones and I will take you shopping.”

“Your sweatshirt (purchased just under a month ago) is destroyed because you poked a hole in the sleeve and then picked at it until it was big enough to push your fist through and finally the seam ripped open all the way down to your wrist? Ditto.”

I breathe deeply. I meditate.

A lot.

I resist the urge to drink heavily and instead call every woman I know who is raising sons.

We laugh and commiserate. We appreciate the entertainment value of it all. We agree that they may, indeed, be from another planet, but somebody needs to parent them.

And despite (because of?) it all, we love them, immeasurably.

Boys rock.

Related Posts:

To read more about what it’s like to be a single mother raising boys, please see Totally Single Parenting.

You might also enjoy, A Letter of Apology to My Parents, Whom I Love and Adore, and All Things Stinky and Gross: More on the Joys of Reading with Boys.

Recommended Reading:

Much has been written about raising boys in today’s world. If you are the parent of sons, you might want to check out, Real Boys : Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, by William Pollack;
The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors, and Educators Can Do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men, by Michael Gurian; and
Raising Boys: Why Boys Are Different - and How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men, by Steve Biddulph.

To simply revel in all that is boyish, check out The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn Iggulden and Hal Iggulden.

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