My twin sons are on the verge of turning 9 and I find myself spending a lot of time lately buried in books about boys. As a mother, I’ve got plenty of shortcomings, but I’m always trying to improve and finesse my parenting skills with an eye toward what kind of men I want my boys to grow into.
As many parents know, the road from grade school ruffian to compassionate and confident adult is not always smooth. I can’t necessarily make things easy for my sons, but I can empower them to handle conflicts and curve balls as they get older, gain independence, enter into romances, and discover their passions, as well as experience wins, losses, and all the other things that come with life.
I recently started making lists of things I want to teach my sons (and my daughter) — although clearly this is just the beginning. Once I start coming up with life essentials, it’s hard to stop… Being able to navigate in any corner of any country — vital! Knowing how to mix a good martini — huge plus! Understanding how to treat a friend or partner — a must!
For now (because the list changes daily), these are the 10 “how-tos” I’ll teach my sons:
1. Tell the truth
My sons aren’t even through grade school and I’ve already seen so many pressures placed upon them — pressure to be cool, smart, tough, and athletic. I want them to always keep honesty at the top of the list.
2. Grow things
I love a man who can garden and grow things. If a guy can actually make dinner out of items harvested in his backyard — whoa!
3. Throw and catch like a dude
This skill will have to come from dad. Whether they’re playing a pickup game of flag football or participating in Little League, these are basic boy skills I think they’ll want as they get older (and perhaps someday have kids of their own).
4. Be tough and tender
Guys are expected to be both, let’s face it. There is a societal expectation that they will be strong and brave, yet also emotional and understanding. I want to teach my sons how to find the right balance and stay true to themselves.
5. Make a good speech
Maybe I’ve watched one too many TED Talks (good) or heard one too many drunken weddings toasts (bad) – either way, I want to teach my sons the finer art of powerful speaking so they can be heard.
6. Treat a woman well
This one requires lots of thought and years of training! From female friends to significant others, I want both of my sons to have a deep respect for women and their relationships with them.
7. Create a cozy home
Gone are the days when single guys lived in notoriously lackluster “bachelor pads.” Whether they’re living alone, with friends, or their own family one day, my boys will know how to turn a house into a home.
My dancing is passable but I’d like all three of my children to be able to boogie and ballroom with the best of them.
9. Cook well
For themselves and whatever lucky girl (see #6) they encounter.
10. Avoid being pigeonholed
Boys (more so than girls) get stuck with potentially negative gender labels — wild, reckless, hyper, rough. I will teach my sons to define themselves rather than letting others do it.
Photo: Rita Mauceri