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November 5, 2021

Reflection in Window

I knew before the sonographer confirmed. One look at my wife, her eyes darting from me to the screen and back to me again, told me she knew too. Conversations without words, a favorite perk of our relationship. We didn’t say it out loud because we didn’t want to tell Madison yet. With a seven-year age gap between her and her sibling, we wanted her to be a part of every pregnancy milestone – ultrasound and gender reveal, especially.

This was just as much her baby as it was ours. This was family-defined.

We watched and listened as the heart was identified, small but strong. We saw movement on the screen, our baby in motion, while our first baby (bigger but little still) struggled to stay in her seat. She wanted a sister. She wanted a little girl to pass her clothes to and play dolls with. She wanted another version of herself, and she had mentally planned out their entire childhood in the last few months leading up to this appointment. 

“Congratulations! You’re having a healthy, beautiful baby boy.”

I smiled. Allison smiled. Madison fought back tears, but one single drop lost the battle and ran down her cheek. Having a brother had never even occurred to her. What, of hers, would she give him? When he was old enough to play, what make-believe world would they dream up? How could she possibly relate to him? All were thoughts she got lost in over the following days before coming to terms with the reality of it. Regardless, she was going to be a big sister, a fact that wouldn’t change, and as he grew so did her excitement to meet him.

“How are you going to raise a little boy?”

While I was so caught up in her, this question was tossed my way several times from several people. As if raising a daughter somehow made me incompetent to raise a son. It was insinuated that since I don’t hunt or fish that I was somehow unequipped to have a boy. It was inferred that since I’m not athletic or involved in sports that I wasn’t qualified to father another male. As if killing something or handling a ball demarcates masculinity. These unwarranted comments became my silent insecurities. These camouflaged insults portrayed as casual concern became my inner voice, whispering and shouting all at once, that I wasn’t good enough for this child.

So, fast forward three years – how am I raising a little boy?

I’m raising him to be kind. I’m raising him to be patient and understanding. I’m raising him to be cognizant of the world around him and the people sharing it with him. I’m doing my best to teach him that not everything will go his way, not everyone will be his friend, not every situation will be positive but to stay valiant and push forward anyway. I pray for him throughout the day and make mental notes of mistakes I’ve made before falling asleep at night. I’m raising him to be strong – physically as well as mentally and emotionally.

I’m raising him just like I’m raising his sister.

Being a boy doesn’t change the fact he is my child. Being a boy doesn’t determine his nature, good or bad. Being a boy doesn’t control the state of his heart, hardened or otherwise. Being a boy doesn’t quantify how many hugs he gets or how much love he’s shown or the way it’s received. Being a boy doesn’t alter the challenge of raising him, that challenge comes with the territory of parenting.

“Boys will be boys.”

If that means they’ll get dirty and smelly and play with cars over dolls or dinosaurs over unicorns, then sure. Although I know plenty of girls who checked those boxes growing up and never heard anyone question their parents. However, if being a boy means he gets a free pass to be inconsiderate or unkind or violent then, to answer the question, I’ll be raising him differently. Hunting, fishing, and sports can all be learned, and I’ll suit up if those are interests he pursues, but they’re outside interests. I’m more concerned with the core of him as a person. The rest will inevitably take care of itself.

What people fail to remember is that boys will be boys that will be men.

And what the world really needs, now more than ever, is men that aren’t afraid to raise boys – even when they’re questioned, even when they’re doubted, even when they’re terrified. Parenting is hard enough as it is, dividing it into categories doesn’t make it any easier. How am I raising a little boy? I’m raising him the best way I know how and deferring to God when my best isn’t good enough. I’m raising him with the acknowledgment of the boy he is today and the consideration of the man he’ll be tomorrow. Brave. Bold. Bright. Loved. 

Hopefully, I’m raising him well.

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