There are a few things I wish I had known from the beginning:
1. Boys come with a lot of gear. A lot. Bats and balls and gloves and cleats and basketball shoes and bags and water bottles and uniforms for every sport in every possible size. Pass down what you can. Find a place to corral it all. Cleats/shoes should be stored in the garage to save everyone from the smell.
2. Little boys are active. I’m serious. Running, jumping, wrestling, forts, pillow fights, climbing to reach anything at any level, bunkbed chin-ups before bed, living room basketball games, upstairs “fight club.”You name it. They are always, always moving. The more boys you have the worse this will be. Add in a few neighbor kids and its like a litter of puppies rolling around in your house.
3. Injuries come with the territory. A broken collarbone, a broken arm with pins, head lacerations, a broken tooth, stitches, and multiple other false-alarm x-rays. Get used to blood. Remain calm.
4. The toilet seat will never be the same. Teach the boys to clean the toilets and assign a bathroom to each one. A new toilet seat costs $16.99 at Lowe’s. Change the toilet seats once a year and it will be like an entire bathroom remodel. It will be life-changing!
5. Potty-training stinks. You think you have a method. Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself you are some kind of potty-training guru and dole out advice to others. But believe me, each kid is different. That number four may just be a humbling experience. Lower your expectations. They eventually poop in the toilet.
6. Learn how to use the plunger. Trust me on this.
7. Get used to gross stuff. They love bugs and snails and want to keep spiders in a jar. You’ll deal with poop and puke and bloody noses and dirt and mud and dog poop tracked into the house. They’ll keep a rock collection and bring home roly polies in their pockets. They will wipe boogers on any available surface. And you’ll be surprised when you find boogers that have been flicked on the living room ceiling!! It all wipes clean. Keep a Kleenex box in the living room. Try to act interested in the giant jar of snails that serves as the dinnertime centerpiece.
8. Boys are noisy. Yelling and laughing and bickering and story telling and dream re-telling and balls bouncing in the house and random fart sounds and “mom guess what?” and “mom watch this” and roaring and trying to scare each other around every corner. Eventually you learn to drown some of it out. Or you lose some of your hearing. Maybe consider investing in ear plugs.
9. Boys are obnoxious. They just are. Little boys think the words fart and poop and butt are HILARIOUS. And bigger boys love watching weird lip-reading videos or make homemade Lego movies featuring toilets and brown play-doh or begin to use explicit language. Try to remember…it’s just a word. I cannot even begin to describe all the obnoxious sounds. Remember that part in Dumb and Dumber, “You want to hear the most annoying sound in the world?” Try to teach them there are some places where this behavior is not allowed like school and church and perhaps at a friend’s house or the grocery store. But at home try to lighten up. They are little boys after all!
10. Laundry will overwhelm you! Just wash a load every day. It really does not have to be separated by colors. Throw everything in one load every morning and you may just be able to keep your head above water! There is absolutely no time for any piece of clothing that requires special attention like hand-washing or the delicate cycle. Ain’t nobody got time for that!!
11. Buy all white towels. You can bleach all those stinky towels in one load and since all the bathrooms have the same towels they are quick and easy to put away.
12. Changing the sheets on a bunkbed will leave you breathless and sweaty and shouting profanity. Stop using a top sheet and fold the quilt at the bottom like an army barrack.
13. Boys do not require a lot of toys. Mostly they just want to run around and throw balls at each other. They need matchbox cars, a train track, wooden blocks, army guys, legos, and guns. They will also love what I call ‘the box of random junk.’ Keep this box handy to store all the random crappy toys they bring home from the dentist and the Halloween carnival and the school store. Purge this box regularly.
14. I realize you think you will not allow your boy to play with guns. I’m telling you now that anything will become a gun. A stick, the crust of a sandwich, his finger. Get over it and get some Nerf guns. It’s not that big a deal.
15. Boys eat A LOT. I cannot adequately describe the amount of food boys consume. On grocery days half the food will be gone before it even hits the pantry shelves. You will come to love Costco. Cook real meals about 3 days a week. The other days aim for easy and cheap meals. Scrambled eggs or grilled cheeses or soup packets dumped in a crockpot also count as food. Keep encouraging them to try new flavors. Eventually he will learn to love it all and the crying at the dinner table stops. It doesn’t have to be complicated, these boys just need to eat!
16. The bickering and fighting and constant annoying each other will also really annoy you!! Your own yelling back at them and losing your temper will surprise you. You will regularly say the wrong thing and overreact and feel like a gigantic mom failure. It’s okay. Model apology and ask for forgiveness.
17. Implement something I call ‘Mandatory Outdoor Time’ in which they have no choice but to go outside because mom has had enough. Regardless of the temperature or the weather they must GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!!
18. Join them for Mandatory Outdoor Time. You will feel better too! Play them in HORSE or soccer tennis or pitch them the wiffle balls or let them teach you to throw a spiral football or see who can jump the farthest out of the swing. They will love it! And so will you! If not, laying quietly on the couch for 20 minutes of blessed silence is also pretty amazing!!
19. Give them responsibilities around the house. They can do more than you think. Cleaning and baking and mowing the yard and filling up your gas tank and riding their bikes to the store. They may complain but will secretly love knowing they can complete these tasks. You are training your boys to eventually survive on their own and they need lots of practice. Four extra little sets of hands really are helpful even if they don’t do things perfectly.
20. Let their responsibilities be their responsibility. Homework. Projects. Disagreements with friends. Feeding the lizard. The right gear or a water bottle for practice. It is hard to watch them stumble, but boys learn best from their failures.
21. Boys need their sleep. They will run and jump and play and tell you they aren’t tired. But don’t let them go until they fall over. Be strict about bedtime. Except for the random weekend you let them stay up and help paint the kitchen.
22. They are just ordinary kids. You may be convinced of his genius with numbers or all-star sports ability but in reality he is likely just an ordinary kid. You’ll both rid yourselves of some anxiety if you stop trying to turn him into the next child prodigy in every single activity he pursues.
23. You really cannot have nice things. Make your peace. In 20 years, you can pick out the coffee table you’ve always wanted.
24. Boys have a penis. The end. He will grab it and look and talk and laugh about it. He will try to put those weird googly eyes from his brother’s prize box at school on it and say “Look mom!” For the first few years they won’t care if they are ever wearing pants.
25. Learn to love their interests. Their music and book he’s reading and obnoxious movies like Benchwarmers and daily after-dinner shows like The Simpsons and Bob’s Burgers. Learn how to make a killer fort or paper airplane and build them a Lego army base. Learn to laugh at their obnoxious humor and, of course, their farts.
26. Take care of yourself. Have easy hair and easy make-up and easy clothes. Find some time to get away for exercise or shopping or mom friends or your nightly bath or connecting with your husband. You’ll be a better mom if you aren’t worn so thin.
27. I’m just going to say this right here. You won’t like him sometimes. It’s true. There is always love, but sometimes you are afraid that you don’t even like him. It will pass.
28. Talk to them about all the hard stuff. Even when they groan and avoid eye contact and say “Mooom.” Talk about sex and alcohol and drugs and porn. Be honest. They will hate it. But don’t you want their information to come from you rather than a misinformed seventh grade boy or the internet? Also, get to know their friends!
29. Boys are HILARIOUS. The things they say and do on a daily basis will make you laugh until you cry every single day. What a blessing. Don’t forget to write it down!
30. Just lighten up! Who cares if they have on matching clothes or his shirt is on backwards? Who cares if they wear socks with their shoes or choose shorts in the middle of January? Who cares if he wears a coat? If he’s cold he’ll come in to get it or decide to wear one next time! Who cares about perfect grades or their sports performance or picture-perfect holidays? There are little boys just trying to live and grow and feel loved here!! Let go and lighten up. You’ll all breath a sigh of relief. Let your home be the place they are free to be themselves.
31. Each of your boys is uniquely made. You have absolutely no control over their personalities. What works for one may not work so well for another. Get to know each boy as an individual. Draw him out and help him know how special he is.
32. It really does go so fast. They grow up. And that’s okay. This is what is supposed to happen. You are growing little people into adults. There is no more wonderful and amazing experience than watching the little person you met on his very first day grow into exactly the person he is meant to be. Try to slow down and look around and memorize exactly how he is right now.
33. You simply CANNOT enjoy every moment. This is an impossible expectation. Just try to enjoy all you can.
34. Pray a lot. Pray all the time. Pray for patience and strength. Pray for kindness and self-control. Pray you can be the mom they need and deserve. Let them see you pray. Pray for each one of them. Pray together with them. Teach them how to pray. You are not in this alone!
35. You will love him more than you ever thought possible. You didn’t even know this kind of love existed. There was a time before you became a mom, and now there’s an after. You will never be the same. Everyone told you…now you know what they meant. As your other boys were born you didn’t think it was possible to love another as much as you love the first or second or third or fourth. But you do. There is enough to go around. The love grows. You love each one with every fiber of your being. You’d fight off a bear for them. It’s ridiculous. He is your life’s greatest gift. Your heart’s delight. That love never changes. It never goes away. You will always be his mom and he will always be your little boy. He will be your life’s greatest JOY!!
What a wild and wonderful adventure to be the mom of four little boys!!!
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