I knew having a little boy would be a totally different ball game. Having three brothers and a dozen nephews, I was quite aware that most boys are rough and tumble, hide frogs in their pockets, end up with stitches and give messy, wonderful hugs to their moms. I also know that a lot of my mom friends have told me the bond they have with their boy is just different. But it was not until a moment on a hill sledding this past weekend that I recognized the irony of my parenting: I am raising my children the opposite of how I imagined I would.
Picture it: a snowy scene…Kylie is pulling 360’s in mid-air with her sled as I am cheering her on. Then she wipes out. I yell out, “Get up and rally girl, we are losing daylight! Time for another round. You got this, dust off!” I’m so proud of her fearlessness as she grabs her sled and her pride and heads up the hill for another run. Then Chase approaches the hill. First, I try to get on the back of the sled like I did all the time last year. He scoffs at me and says that he is “a big boy now.” (Insert knife into heart and twist.) Nervously, I send him on his way until he wipes out halfway down the hill. I immediately start running after him, yelling “Mama’s baby” as I flail my arms and practically nose dive into the snow. As I held him tightly, I started to reflect on just how different my maternal instincts are with both of my “littles.” I love them both fiercely but it comes out in different ways.
From the minute Kylie was born, I tried to steer clear of gender stereotypes. My girl was going to grow up knowing she could do anything the boys could do and some things even better. By default, I was making her really independent and strong-willed. She played with trucks alongside her dolls. She liked to wear sambas with skirts. She loves science but also drawing hearts on everything. I signed her up for sports club as well as ballet. I never let her quit anything, even if it is hard at first. I always try to remember to compliment her on how smart or strong I think she is instead of how she looks because I want her to grow up knowing those qualities are way more important. Whereas some may raise their daughters with white gloves on, I am trying to raise a girl who has no limits, who won’t be waiting on a prince.
But, oh, this little boy came along…and he brought out a different kind of mom in me. Instead of being a rough and tumble kind of boy, Chase loves to snuggle and say “Mommy…I love you,” approximately every 12 minutes. While I always encouraged Kylie to figure things out on her own in order to make her tough, I am almost the opposite with Chase. I cut his chicken nuggets and pizza way past the point of normal. I barely stop short of chewing it for him. If he can’t sleep at night, I will gladly offer up Mommy real estate for him to cozy into. He tries to tell me, “I can do it myself” when putting on his shoes but I annoyingly hover, just in case he were to need help with that last bit of Velcro. I hesitate when putting on his helmet before sending him off on his bike. Is he really too big for the Baby Bjorn? I hold his hand at times I probably should let him run ahead. When he talks about wanting to play a sport, I look up the statistics on concussions. There is doting and then there is smothering. I am a smother mother with this boy.
I am pretty convinced I am either raising the world’s best boyfriend or a co-dependent 40 year old man. For the record, I would be perfectly fine cutting the crust off of his sandwiches and folding his laundry past the point that is socially acceptable, but I am also prepared that someday he will need someone more than me. Some will criticize me and say I am making a mama’s boy out of my son or that I am making my daughter too independent for “a girl” but I am totally fine with that. I know I am trying the best I can at this job that is so hard and so incredible all in one. I question every day whether I am being a good parent, but I know this much is true – while my love may look different with my two kids, I love them both with everything I have.
P.S. I would like to apologize to Mama Setaro for all the grief I gave her growing up for babying my brother Vic. Touche, Mama…I get it now.