Raising Boys: Reality vs. Internet Reality

from Mike's camera & Devils Lake 207

This is what raising boys looks like, at least some of the time.

Note the blue teeth on my youngest, there in the background. You may have your own policy about candy and artificially-colored food, but in my family, the policy is Do What You Need To Do to Get Through the Tourney. For this particular tourney, that meant giving said youngster $1 per game, to buy whatever he wanted at the concession stand. Clearly, he chose something blue.

See the trophy and satisfied smile on Boy #2? His team just won the championship, and he had the hit that drove in the winning run.

See the smile on my face? That’s the smile of a mom-of-boys who has spent a wondrous weekend camping with three of her four sons, who just watched her son’s team play their way to a championship. That’s the smile of a mom who loves to see her sons pursue their interests and passions, the smile of a mom who is sharing in her son’s happiness. It’s the smile of a mom who knows that, in this moment, her sons are all OK. #2 and #4, pictured, are having a ball. #3 was having so much fun with his friends that he wasn’t even in the picture. And #1 was at home doing what he loves: keeping his business strong. (He runs a lawn care business in the summer months.)

The dog and the bunny ears, courtesy of my youngest, are also “life with boys.” We got the dog because, well, because the boys wanted a dog. She was Boy #2’s birthday present two years ago. And the bunny ears? What is life with boys, if not funny and irreverent?

But this photo is but a moment, a miniscule moment in my life with boys. Yet, if you follow me or anyone else on social media, you might think this is what life with boys looks like all the time. Or what life with boys should look like, if you were doing it right.

Hogwash. Hooey.

This is a photo that’s OK to share; none of my children will object to this photo, at least not yet. (When he’s 16, I thoroughly expect that my youngest may come to me and say, “Mom! Why did you post a picture of me with blue teeth??”) This is a photo that I treasure, because it captures a moment of triumph. It’s a photo I love, because it shows me relaxing and having fun with my boys.

This is not what our life looks like  most of the time.

I don’t post photos of my boys arguing and threatening one another, of one raising his fist to another, hoping to send a message. I don’t post photos of myself looking frazzled, or of myself looking and feeling exhausted because I simply can’t think of another creative way to deal with said fighting and arguing. I don’t post photos of my messy house. (I posted and shared house photos, once, but only because Son #2 managed to create beautiful photos that ignored the mess.) And don’t share the challenging, hurtful things that we sometimes say to one another.

The reality is that what you see on the Internet, most of the time, is not reality.

The reality is that none of us know what we are doing all of the time. The reality is that our boys drive us crazy sometimes. The reality is that every family has dark days and moments.

This weekend, in attempt to wound me, one of my boys (a boy who shall remain nameless and numberless here) said, “You write about parenting? Hah! You don’t even know what you’re doing!”

I paused. I’ve been at this gig long enough to know that it’s sometimes it’s best to pause, reflect and ignore. He wanted an emotional response, and I refused to give it to him.

But later, I went back. Later, I said, “You know what the definition of a good mom is? A good mom isn’t one who knows what she’s doing every minute of every day, who handles every situation perfectly. A good mom is one who gets up every day and keeps trying anyway.”

Your reality — and mine — is not always picture perfect. But as long as we get up each day, and try again, I’d say we’re dong fine.

The Building Boys Bulletin

The Building Boys Bulletin Newsletter gives you the facts, encouragement, and inspiration you need to help boys thrive. Written by Jennifer L.W. Fink, mom of four sons and author of Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males, Building Boys Bulletin includes:

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“I learned a lot about helping boys thrive over the past 20+ years — most of it the hard way! I’m eager to share what I’ve learned to make your path a little easier.”   – Jennifer

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2 Responses

  1. You’re so right. I’m never perfect. But I’m always trying, always loving, always backing my son up when the need arises (I’m so SICK of school officials telling me my son lies, or he’s going to try this or that in Middle School…they don’t know my son like I do – he’s NOT that kind of kid…but it could be that his sister WILL BE!). I think we each teach our children how not to be perfect. I learn as much from him as I do from my own experience every day. He’s not perfect and I won’t remind him of that, because I love him. He’s already his own best enemy when it comes to self blame. He needs reinforcement, he needs love, he needs a mom who is engaged and who’ll speak up for him when he can’t! Great article!!!!

    1. Thanks, Brenda. I think the always trying part is key. And I love when you said this: “I learn as much from him as I do from my own experience.” So true!

Building Boys: Raising Great Guys in a World That Misunderstands Males

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