I was really excited to get this book in the mail and picked it up to read. I was laughing as I was reading! Not only am I also a mom of four sons like the author, my oldest was severely colicky and I could so commiserate with her as she got it so right. This mom offers advice to the mom of boys right where you need it. I have never read such a great book on this subject. It is straight forward, to the point and covers all kinds of topics. My favorite chapter was Boy Talk on how to teach your son the proper way to communicate. She gives tips so that you can teach your son not to be the strong silent type,” so your future daughter in laws will thank you. Other chapters touch on working with boys personalities and teaching them to be organized, keeping them busy, keeping the electronic usage down. She has feedback from her sons, some of which are grown on her methods, which was really helpful. There is also an appendix in the back for husbands of wives with all boys. It is full of tips of how to help your wife from understanding boys to helping them with organizing. There is another appendix for single moms, which I found so thoughtful. This author throughly covered this topic, without being overwhelming or wordy! This would be a book I would give at a baby shower where the mom is having a multiple boy as it is that good!
This book is published by Kregel Publications and is available for sale through local booksellers online and in stores. It is 181 pages long and retails for $12.99-Martha
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Kregel Publications (July 2, 2010)
***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***
Laura Lee Groves is a high school teacher. The mother of four redheaded sons, she has written for Moody Magazine, Focus on the Familys Focus on Your Child, and Coral Ridge Ministries.
Visit the author’s website.
List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (July 2, 2010)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
2 Samuel 22:2931
All moms all enter parenting with some preconceived notions. Most of us hope to have a mix of blue and pink in the household. We may have expectations for our childs behavior or personality. We may be especially baffled by a little boy whose actions and reactions are so different from ours as a child. A valuable lesson for the mother of multiple boys is that expectations can be a trap. Expectations say, I have this figured out. I know what will suit me, what I want, what is best for my life. Check that verse again at the top of the chapter: You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
Scripture can help us through the trap of expectations, the snare of I know best. The prophet Samuel has some reminders for us:
God is our lamp. He lights our way, no matter how large a flashlight we try to carry.
God helps us advance against a troop and scale a wall. We can do it, but we dont do it on our own.
Gods waynot oursis perfect. He gives us what we need, not what we expect or desire.
If we hide in Him, He will be our shield. He will protect us.
He provides light, help, a shield, and refuge. And His waynot oursis perfect.
Maybe You Were Expecting . . .
. . . a Girl!
Maybe you were expecting a girl the first time . . . or the second time . . . or . . . !
I know how it is. I had the girl name all picked out, toofour times. I havent given up hope, though. Im hanging on to it for the first granddaughter. The first shattered expectation a boy mom often faces is that shes outnumbered in this whole thing called family. With two boys and a husband in the picture, the opportunity for female companionship grows pale. Those little blue bundles tend to destroy the maternal expectations fraught with pink ribbons, lace, and tutus.
I tried to stave off those pink expectations the second time by preparing myself for another boy, figuring Id be ready for the inevitable . . . but pleasantly surprised if a girl came along. That did help me prepare a bit. Ive continued to repeat the mantra, The Lord gives us what we need, and no more than we can handle and Ive read and reread 1 Corinthians 10:13: And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But in the face of four boys in the house, Ive been tempted to throw my hands up and shout, I give up! I just dont understand boys. Id grown up with one sibling, a sister, so my frame of reference didnt exactly include this boy thing.
Many mothers face this same dilemma. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, in Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, write that many women are challenged in mothering a son: They feel they dont understand boys, because they have never actually experienced the world as a boy or they have expectations about boys . . . which color the way they view their sons.1 But we moms cant afford not to bridge that gap and connect emotionally with our sons. In his landmark book, Bringing Up Boys, Dobson calls the disengagement of parents the underlying problem plaguing children today.2
Todays mothers, though, face an additional challenge from our culture. James and Thomas write in Wild Things that its all too easy to absorb cultural messages about real masculinity and push your two- or three-year-old son away emotionally. But, they advise, A boy needs a connection with his mother all the way through adolescence. Be sensitive about invading your sons privacy, but separating from him prematurely will do him more harm than good.3
Even though our blue bundles may seem like alien life forms to us, we still know that children are blessings and the Lord does give us what He wants us to have. We just have to figure out how to raise and nurture what He has given us. Although ultrasound was available to predict my first sons gender, we decided to be surprised. We were thankful for a healthy child, though I did allow myself to think about the little girl who might come nextmy first big mistake. But I settled in, with all my expectations and preconceived notions, to enjoy my firstborn. Babies are babies after all, and most moms learn to be happy and thankful for a healthy baby. In the beginning, though, you dont know what youre up against. Those little blue bundles differ greatly from the muddy ten-year-old boy with a frog in his pocket!
. . . or a Quiet, Calm Baby
The second set of expectations I dealt with related to my sense of peace, quiet, and motherhood. Perhaps the Lord was preparing me for the next twenty years, because the words peace and quiet usually dont appear in the boy mom vocabulary. I never considered the possibility that Jonathan would be a colicky baby. In my research for this book, I found no statistics indicating that boys are more prone to colic than girls, but Susan Gilberts Field Guide to Boys and Girls does state that, as infants, girls as a group are more alert and more easily consoled. As infants, boys are more easily stressed. In other words, boy babies cry more often when upset and have a harder time calming down.4 Mothers of boys may be surprised at how much their sons need them.
It never crossed my mind that Jonathan would not be one of those angel babiesyou know, one who sleeps all the time. Those expectations were shattered. Before long I discovered that he was, indeed, a colicky baby. I remember the afternoon I took him to the doctor and said, Hes slept fifteen minutes today; thats all. Something has to be wrong. The doctor did a few tests and quizzed me, only to pronounce that Jonathan simply had an immature digestive system and most children grew out of itby three months of age!
Suddenly I flashed back to a chance meeting with a mother and baby months ago. While shopping, Id stopped to admire her beautiful baby. When I asked how old the baby was, mom replied, Three months old, and not a day too soon. Now I knew what she meant.
That first three months with Baby Boy #1 were the longest of my life. He was not at all the angel baby Id expected. He cried so much, I told my husband, Im afraid hes not going to be a happy child. I could just see him frowning the rest of his life. I began to wonder if I could go through this with future babies. At one point, I held Jonathan up in front of my face and asked him, Dont you want brothers and sisters?
The doctor told me I was fortunate because he slept at night and cried all day. What he failed to realize was that I had no help during the day. At night I had help in my husband, but I didnt need it because little Jonathan was snoozing away. When my husband left for work in the morning, the wailing began. On some days Id meet my husband at the door at five oclock, thrust Jonathan into his arms, and go for a drive around the block or just take a walk.
Then Id feel guilty! I had a healthy baby but I spent my time wishing away the hours with him because he just wouldnt stop crying. I began to feel woefully inadequate as a mom. Think about itJonathan cried when he was alone with me but was an angel baby when Dad was there.
I knew other mothers who wouldnt take their newborns to the church nursery until they were two or three months. Not me! I had to have a break. I knew the sweet lady there loved babies and had tons of experience, and I had no qualms about leaving him with her. When I asked her about the wisdom of leaving him when he was so fussy, she replied, Well, honey, hes gonna cry for you or cry for me. Might as well let him cry for me a few hours and give you a break. Those were wise wordsprecious words to this mom! At least I didnt need to feel guilty about missing church that first three months.
My expectations had crumbled so much, I couldnt even listen to the stories of those moms who had twenty-four-hour angel babies. Such things just could not be true. Babies who ate and drifted off to sleep without a peep? Surely those mothers were lying. Things could not be so idyllic for them. They had no clue what life was like at our house. And how do you share that with friends? My baby cries so much that I worry hell never be happy. I stand at the door at five oclock and wait to pass him off to my hubby.
I quickly came to the conclusion that the only person who could understand my life those first three months was someone whod had a similar experience. For some reason, though, those moms dont go around gushing about Early Life with Baby. Thats one reason I vowed to share those hard months with other new moms. Maybe that would make them either appreciate those golden hours with their angel baby or sympathize a bit with a friend whose expectations werent fulfilled.
If your expectations for motherhood include peace and quiet, keep those verses from 2 Samuel handy. Youll need a shield and a refuge. Although Gilberts research sounds a bit daunting, remember her statement that boy babies, as a group, are easily stressed. Thats not to say that all boys are like boys as a group. But even if you have a quiet, placid little guy now, dont hold too tightly to those expectations for peace and quiet. Babies grow, and toddlerhood ensues.
. . . That Boys Are Boys
My third big expectation was waiting to trip me up after we added another boy to the picture. When Jonathan hit two years old, we looked at him and said, Oh, hes not a baby anymore. We need a baby. Several months later, we found we were expecting number two. It was an exciting period. Enough time had elapsed, and Jonathan had turned out to be such a charmer, the memories of colic had faded to oblivion. Besides, hey, we handled thatcouldnt we handle just about anything?
We decided against learning this babys gender; again, we wanted to be surprised. Yes, daddy did want a little princess, and I thought it would be so much fun to dress a little girl. And like most people, we thought, A boy and girl would be nice, even though we still intended to add to the family portrait. I tried to prepare myself for a boy. I figured that way Id be pleasantly surprised if number two was a girl.
But as you already know, another boy it was. We named this one Matthew. He had the same characteristic fair skin and red hair as Jonathan, but the similarities to his brother as an infant ended there. Matthew was the angel baby. It was a whole new world. Now I knew that those other moms werent lying. Some babies really do eat and sleep and dont cry much at all. That was Baby Boy #2.
I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that two children were, in some ways, easier than one. Baby Matthew had someone to watch, and Jonathan had an instant audience. This proved quite helpful. I could actually get farther than the mailbox before noon, which was unheard of with Boy #1. Of course, my standards for some things likely changed a bit, too. Its incredible how much more quickly one can apply makeup when theres a potential for chaos in the next room.
So far, so good, but the expectation snare was looming. By the time our second son came, we had weathered the terrible twos with the first one. We felt wed hit upon a successful system of discipline for raising Groves boys. We had read all of Dr. Dobsons books and watched all of his tapes, and I think we felt we had it all figured out. We thought, Oh, this is the way you handle that. Well do that with the second child, too. We knew how to handle rebellion with Boy #1; wed just apply the same techniques to Boy #2. We expected that hed react in the same way and all would be well.
We were in for a rude awakening. With Boy #2, we learned there is no magic formula. This wasnt a quick and easy lesson. No, I had to learn it the hard way. Little did we realize that, though our reactions to disobedient behavior remained the same, this child was a different boy. His reactions to us and our discipline would be different. Aye, theres the rub. What to do now?
Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so naïve. Id taught public school for about nine years, had taught siblings in my classes, and I realized they wouldnt all be the same. Id taught exceptionally bright students and later their siblings who didnt have the same abilities. But when it came to my own boys, who looked so much the same and were treated in the same way, I just expected their reactions to be the same as well.
Theres that word againexpected. Maybe part of the problem was a little bit of parental pride. After all, wed hit upon a successful system and, by golly, it had worked with Boy #1. It was hard to accept that things didnt work the same with Boy #2. A preschool teacher was instrumental in getting something through my thick maternal skull that I should have realized all along. She said to me, God has made your sons this way on purpose. Its not an accident. As parents, we have to thank God for the children Hes given us and ask Him to help us grow them up to be the adults He wants them to be. It finally began to sink in that different is not worse. It just takes a little more work on Moms part.
That early lesson became so important later. With a houseful of kids of the same sex, the temptation to treat them all the same is great. After all, theyre boys. Discovering their differencestheir own individual benthelped me mother them more effectively. Youll read more about that process in chapter 3, Intentional Parenting.
The Expectation Trap
No matter what our expectations, our infant sons manage to surprise us. Here are some common elements of the expectation trap. Watch out for them!
Regularity. We may expect regular sleeping and eating times from our infant sons. Some babies seem to be born on a schedule while others defy it. Then there are babies who keep to a schedule for two daysjust enough to fool you into thinking you have it all figured out.
Activity. It takes a while to figure out your sons activity level, and that can change with age. Gilbert notes that after the age of one, boys spend more time on the move than girls do.5 Although most boys are a bundle of energy, not all are. If youre open to change as you determine your sons activity level, youll be able to decide how best to structure his active times and sleeping times.
Passion. Some might call this intensity. This is often hard to gauge from an infant, but some little boys seem able to concentrate on one thing, and that ability follows them throughout life. Others are easily distracted. Again, this differs with age, so dont label your son at three months.
Responsiveness. Some infants respond overtly to stimuli, but others are more easygoing. Some boys get more amped up in a crowd, while others seem to get wound up in a quiet environment. Be sensitive to your sons responses to different settings.
Temperament. If I had gauged my colicky firstborn by his first three months, I would have believed that he would never smile. Hes such a people person today! Dont fall into the trap of labeling your sons temperament or expecting him to turn out one way or another.
So how do we avoid these traps?
Trust Helps Trump Expectations
Im convinced the answer to the expectation trap lies in trust. If we truly trust the Lord, we know His way is perfect even when we cant see why or how. I couldnt have imagined why He would give me a colicky son, but I had to trust that the Lord knew what He was doing. Ive wonderedat tough timeswhy He gave me four sons. Why not just one little girl to take to all those mother-daughter outings Ive had to sit out?
But Ive learned I have to let Him be my refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). Trusting in Him means staying close to Him. With a houseful of boys, my home did not exactly resemble an ivy-covered chapel. Quiet time was rare, and reading Scripture could be challenging. Here are some ways I discovered that can help you look up instead of in, even in a house hopping with boys:
Try listening to praise music or hymnsthats great for you and the boys.
Socialization helps, too. When you isolate yourself, you tend to turn inward and focus on your own problems. Get out and take those boys. Take a trip to the library or the park, and enjoy Gods creation together.
Try to get out alone once in a while, even for an hour or two. Call a friend and indulge in some girl talk, e-mail someone supportive. Dont miss opportunities to worship.
Remember, expectations blind us to our blessings. It took me a couple more boys to learn that.
As Boys #3 and #4 came along, I became convinced that expectations were, indeed, a trap. I didnt shed them without struggle, but they had to go. Our third son, Andrew, was due on New Years Day, but he decided to make his debut on, of all days, Christmas Eve. I had the holiday all planned, and I didnt expect this. I remember my tearful words before we left for the hospital: I really didnt want to have a Christmas baby, to which my husband nervously answered, Honey, I dont think we have much choice here, so lets just go. Then three years later our fourth son, Benjamin, made an unexpected and dramatic debut via C-sectionafter Id had natural deliveries with the first three. That really upset my apple cart, but this time it was my mothers wise words that helped me pitch my expectations. She said, Honey, youre just paying a few extra weeks of recovery in return for a healthy boy.
Discarding expectations allowed me to grow beyond my own fixed ideas and see what God, in His wisdom, had for me. In the raising of our four sons, Ive discarded expectations time and again. Our first son was quite compliant to authority, a preschool dream. Matthew, on the other hand, had a bit more stubborn nature. Imagine my dismay when I arrived to pick Matthew up from preschool one day. Hed been playing in a big box, and the teacher had called him to Circle Time several times. The last time she encouraged him to do the right thing by saying, We need to choose to obey. Matthew calmly and matter-of-factly replied, I choose to disobey. I was appalled, certain that hed be a juvenile delinquentthen his principal reminded me that stubbornness isnt always a bad quality. She added, though, that we must teach our children to be stubborn for the right things, a lesson that has served me well as my boys have grown.
Discarding expectations is hard, but it results in growth for our sons, for us as moms, and for our relationships with our sons. Our boys need to know that even if much in the rest of their lives is performance-based, our love isnt. We love them because they are ours and they were crafted by the Father and given to us as gifts. As we endeavor to raise our boys to be godly men, we need them to see their uniqueness and their potential. If theyre taught to be cookie-cutter boys who fit neatly within Moms expectations, theyll never find out who they really are and what Gods unique purpose for them is.
Beyond My Expectations
As the boys grew and multiplied, so did the noise and the activitybeyond my expectations. Unless you had brothers, you dont really expect the racket, the constant motion, the physicality that comes with a combination of boys. And even if you did grow up around brothers, you likely werent in charge of them. But noise and activity come with the territory, so one of a boy moms first lessons is to relinquish those expectations and free ourselves to look at life from a different perspectivea boys perspective. What if . . . I could climb from the top of that tree to the roof of the house? What if . . . I buried ants in mud; would they suffocate? What if . . . I could slice a banana with the ceiling fan?
Most boys will not only ask these questions, theyll experiment to see if they can answer them. In Wild Things, James and Thomas discuss the differences between the mind of a boy and the mind of a girl. They note that on the whole, boys tend to be
spatial instead of relational. They understand the lay of the land, for example, and how things are connected.
aware of objects instead of faces. Theyre more attracted to objects than they are to people.
action-oriented instead of process-oriented. Theyre oriented to movement rather than to emotions.
You see the differences. Moms relate to faces and emotions; our boys generally relate to things and movement. Armed with this understanding, it may be a little easier to determine why that little boy did what he did. At the very least, being aware of the general differences can make a mom aware that she needs to step back and assess her son through different eyes.
Chaos, Creativity, and Control
My best description of a household of multiple boys would be this: controlled chaos and creativity. Boys do have to be allowed to explore, to try the boundaries, to createbut with controls. All children need creative outlets, but with a boys penchant for movement and his innate desire to figure out the process (What makes that toaster glow?), controls are imperative. Im not saying that chaos is preferred or necessary; its simply a foregone conclusion with multiple boys. Perhaps chaos isnt exactly the right word. Maybe the word upheaval is more accurate. Upheaval can indicate anything from change to explosion . . . and both are likely in a household of boys. Upheaval and change are unsettling words for most moms. We prefer predictable and manageable.
Boys can be very manageable if you sit them in front of the mesmerizing television all day. But eventually you have to turn it offand then you pay for it . . . at bed time and later in life. Boys need to be able to entertain themselves safely, and they need to exercise creativity to do that. Provide them with toys that will foster creativity:
Manipulative toys. Your first purchase for your sons should be blocks. Boys need tactile toys, and they love things they can take apart and sometimes even put back together. Toys that teach cause and effect are importantturn this, and that pops out; push this, and something else happens. Remember, theyre process-oriented and love movement.
Books. Dont wait until your boys can read to provide books. Start them with cloth and plastic books when theyre infants. Look for books with pull tabs and doors that open, or books shaped like trucks with wheels. Try to appeal to what boys innately adore in a creative, interactive way. Reading is a challenge for many boys later, so use these early years to engender a love for books and stories.
What about control? Some moms do more controlling than anything else. If youre guilty of that, you may need to sit back, sit on your hands if necessary, and let your boy try it on his own. You should be present, however, even if you seem to be in the background. Even though my sons are pretty much grown up, I still put on my makeup at the mirror in the front hall. That started when there were two boys in the den; I could keep an eye and ear on them more easily from that vantage point. When we looked for a house, we simply planned for the family room to be for the boys, and I wanted an adjoining kitchen. I figured I would be spending most of my time in the kitchen, and I could be there while keeping an eye on the boys. Youre the mom, and some control is obviously necessary.
Creativity can be messy, thoughI wont deny that. But keeping boys occupied and productive is worth the mess, at least temporarily. Thats why I suggest you keep a few things around for the boys:
An art box full of markers, stickers, paints, and so forth
You have to be careful, of course, and age-appropriate with these things. If you happen to have a boys-plus household, your girls will enjoy creating as well. Whether they work together or on separate projects, a creative outlet will be good for sons as well as daughters.
My boys still remember some of the masterpieces they crafted from such materialsboxes taped together to build a robot, string used as an imaginary dog (or lion) leash, sticks laid end to end and parallel to form a highway . . . and they all tell the story of the huge appliance box that served as a fort, a pirate ship, a skyscraper. The day it fell apart in the rain was perhaps the most fun, as they slid down a hill on the leftover pieces.
A Healthy Expectation
Although expectations can be a trap, there is one expectation you should hold on to. This is an essential piece of advice for the mothers of multiple boys. Greet each new day with the expectation that it will be a wild ride. Then youll be ready for anything! If for some reason things are calm at days end, youll simply be pleasantly surprised.