I love having all boys, although at times I have wondered if they were at a disadvantage not having a sister. I worried that girls would be these puzzling and mysterious creatures. Our choice of an all boys’ school for them added to my concern.
As with most things, I should not have worried. Girls are puzzling and mysterious creatures, but that doesn’t seem to bother my boys in the least. Thanks to church youth groups and two near-by girls’ schools, the boys have had plenty of interactions with girls.
In fact, it might be a good thing if girls were a bit more puzzling to my youngest. After his first 7th grade social at a girls’ school, Owen came home saying “Mom, George and I were the bridge.” He explained, “All the guys were afraid to talk to the girls. George (another gregarious 4th child) and I would just go over to a group of girls
and start talking, then some guys would come stand by us and talk to us, then eventually to the girls. Then we would leave and go talk to another group of girls.” Not long after, he was selected to write the “Dr. Love” column for the middle school newspaper. I can assure you he has kept us on our toes since then.
My boys have kind hearts that serve them well with the ladies. At times, they even teach their dad a thing or two. Once when the eldest was around six, their father managed to mow over some lovely blue flowers in our flowerbed. I was upset. I may have even been crying. I am usually fairly even-keeled, so this disturbed the boys.
My husband had apologized quickly and then so helpfully pointed out that I was over-reacting. He was right… but still…
Son one, Edward, came over and asked what the problem was. I told him, and he then went directly to his dad, “Dad, you should not have cut down Momma’s flowers and made her sad. You should tell her you are sorry.” That’s Edward, a bit detached yet pronouncing righteous judgment.
Son two, Andrew, came over and knelt down beside me as I weeded another flowerbed. “Can I help you with your work,” he asked, “or would you rather I go inside and do some math problems?” That’s Andrew, thinking of what work he could do to make things better.
The third, John, didn’t seem to notice, but if he had, he probably would have given me a big hug and a kiss and told me that I looked pretty. He would often come in from pre-school, take my hand, and say “Momma, can we sit on the sofa and you can tell me about your day, and I can tell you about my day?” Really.
And Owen, he would have done something goofy to make me laugh.
I have tried to talk to my sons about girls. But more often than not, the conversations start like this: “Now boys, don’t expect that most girls will think like I do on this.” I don’t do drama. I am happy to buy my own Christmas presents in a pinch. And our Mothers’ Day tradition involves the rare treat of drive-through burgers, onion rings, and chocolate milkshakes. (This was my suggestion one year as a reaction to over-crowded and over-priced Mothers’ Day brunches. Brilliant, I think.)
I grew up a girly-girl but have embraced the “mother of boys” role that takes me zip-lining through snow-capped mountains and Central American jungles, camping in snake-infested swamps, and knowing all the ESPN commentators like members of the family. It is the life I have been given, and I enjoy it immensely. And if my boys should have all daughters, I expect God will give them the grace to survive and thrive, just as He has me.
It’s not like they come to me often with questions about girls, but when they do one of the main puzzles is how a guy is to balance being strong yet gentle, tough yet vulnerable, confident yet willing to compromise. In other words, do you take your date to see the action film or the chick flick?
There is no easy answer to that one. It depends. Every girl is different, and some are more different than others. And the boys have plenty of incentive to figure at least one of them out, eventually. For now, it is more important that they be about the business of figuring out what it means to be a good man.
And the best lesson I have heard on that came from a simple conversation I overheard between my husband, sons, and a friend.
Something was said about a guy they all knew. One of my boys said he seemed like a wimp and the others agreed but the friend said he knew he “got a lot of women.”
Their dad offered that he did not find that surprising. He stated “There are women out there who will want to have power over you. The easiest way is through your … let’s just say lust. Promiscuous men may think they are dominating, but they are actually being dominated.”
This is not a new concept for our boys. Even the crude language of a the locker room has a term for boys who are so controlled by their desire for a girl that they are at her beck and call, neglecting other friendships and responsibilities. Girls may think they benefit from this control, but a man that they can control in this way is one likely to be enticed and controlled by other women as well.
He explained further. In Genesis 4:7, Cain is told by God, “sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” While merely resisting temptation is not so appealing, ruling over sin crouching at the door is a bit more exciting, especially for boys. It requires strength and courage.
Young men who rule over their lusts are not going to be ruled over by women. But those who indulge their lusts are relinquishing their power. Blow it as a young man, you hurt yourself. Blow it when you are a husband and father, and you can destroy your family.
While much teaching regarding relationships with girls is negative – don’t do this, deny yourself that – in this conversation their father set before them a compelling image of manliness predicated on discipline and self-control. It will not be an easy battle, but at least they better understand what’s at stake – their very identity as men.
This perspective also provides the key for solving the “chick flick” puzzle.
If a man is operating out of a position of strength and self-discipline, he is then free to choose to defer to a girl out of a genuine interest in putting her interests and preferences ahead of his own. He is able to unselfishly give to and serve her, all the while maintaining a healthy balance with other relationships and activities.
He gives because he wants to give, because she is worthy of respect and sacrifice. He is not acting from a position of weakness, controlled by fear, desperation, or need.
His love elevates her without debasing him.
Even the guys in the locker room will see the difference.
This essay is written by Molly Lindsey Powell for the blog In-House Counsel. To Follow this blog via email, please visit https://ihcounsel.wordpress.com and sign up. You can also visit us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/InHouseCounsel.
Illustrations are by Kei Acedera and are taken from the delightful book How to Talk to Girls, written at age eight by the funny and wise Alex Greven. It is available here.