Growing Boys

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Our oldest son was getting ready for a middle school basketball game the other day, and I was helping him adjust his too-large uniform.”This looks good,” I said, securing the safety pins on his shirt, “but don’t be surprised if the ref tells you to cover them with tape.”

One of the boys asked why, and I explained that something could potentially get caught on the pins. I flashed back to my days of middle and high school basketball, of our pre-game warm-ups that included covering all non-removable objects with tape, including hair clips and those little friendship beads we clipped to our high-top basketball shoes.

Ethan is beginning a season that I so clearly remember being in myself. While my experience as a girl was obviously different, there are still plenty of similarities. Watching my son during this first year of middle school has brought back a lot of memories.

It’s fun to talk to my boys about my own experiences with sports and studies and school plays, things that as they get older they can relate with more easily. Mostly, I watch them enjoy these new adventures, and it’s nice to think I have even a slight sense of what they’re feeling. Though they are boys, and I was once a girl, I can relate, even just a little.

As we got the uniform ready that afternoon, I felt like I was really connecting with my sons. I was talking about sports, and they were listening!

“When I played ball,” I continued, “if we wore barrettes, we had to cover them with tape.”

“What’s barrettes,” asked six-year-old Augie, and I looked up to see all the boys staring back at me, waiting for an answer.

Obviously, we won’t ever be totally on the same page.

As my boys get older, I’m also aware that while this season is a beautiful and fun new adventure, there will also be struggles. Entire books and lectures are devoted to dealing with adolescent boys. I’ve read some of those books and I’ve lived to tell the tale; but I’m also bracing myself for some challenges. Fortunately, my husband was once one of these creatures, and this should come in handy.

I recently read an article on parenting adolescent boys that suggests several things parents should keep in mind during this season. The list comes from a priest who is a spiritual director to young men, and it includes some sound wisdom and, for me, a few parenting goals.

The priest recommends setting clear guidelines and holding boys accountable for their actions. He suggests parents offer reasonable explanations for these guidelines and decisions, but to also have reasonable expectations. He also says it’s important to avoid hyper-analyzing your son’s emotions. I suspect this will be more of a challenge for me than my husband.

Important qualities in a father, he says, include manliness, temperance, making significant time for family, putting aside work, and being a reliable source of guidance. Qualities in a mother, he continues, include emotional stability, selflessness, loving service and extreme patience.

I have my work cut out for me.

Sometimes when I read lists like this, I find myself getting worried. For starters, the fact that he is warning me in advance to aim for emotional stability makes me slightly uneasy. It’s a bit disconcerting to think that stability is going to be a personal goal of mine in a few years.

But before I let my thoughts (and emotions) get away from me, I think of the words of John Paul the Great: be not afraid. While the season of life with teenage boys will no doubt be challenging, there is no grace for me to deal with it, not yet.

All I can do today is pray that when we enter that season, God will give me generous amounts of extreme patience and emotional stability, and the grace to guide my boys in the way they should go. 1578″ ?



  1. Rachel, don’t be worried! I have loved this time with my older son and now my daughter too. If you did it right in the beginning, it pays back now. He gets the “why” of my reasoning, and all it takes is a little one-on-one time and a good story about how you/your husband, learned the lesson…with some humor thrown in, which, I’m sure, comes with all our stories of growing up. It’s a fun age!

  2. Rachel —

    what a great piece, as I am entering this phase too, with my oldest son in 7th grade. I have been through the teenage years with a daughter, but I am quickly learning that teenage boys are a different animal!! Thanks for sharing the great advise from the priest.

  3. “God will give me generous amounts of extreme patience and emotional stability, and the grace to guide my boys ” AMEN to that. BTW: Do you have a Papal Blessing in your home? My favorite phrase on there is “an abundance of divine graces”. Maybe one of those would help. :0)

  4. Teenage boys are wonderful, and you really start to see all the efforts you put into them at younger ages paying off. There are rocky moments, but on the whole I love having teenagers and enjoy so much watching them become the Men they will be one day!

  5. southernjoy says:

    It’s so inspiring to read the above comments.. even though mine are little, I know those days are coming. I want to enjoy them as much as I enjoy the “now!”

  6. OH…. we are having our first boy in 3 months. And I’m a little scared of raising a boy! This helped… thank you!