Brave knows no gender

  • Not long ago Jen Hatmaker wrote a bog post entitled Brave Moms Raise Brave Kids, and my Facebook feed exploded with mothers saying that they wished they could do this with their sons. I like Jen. And usually I agree with Jen. And kind of I agree with her here, too – we are those laid back parents. My kids totally use sharp knives and build things with actual nails and hammers and power tools. They have (and use!) air rifles and I love it.But here’s the thing y’all – I have daughters. Three of ’em. And it is my daughters who live on this edge, doing stupid things like sliding down the stairs in a laundry basket.

    This is not a ‘boy’ thing.

    Why should it be? As Jen said, we are not precious people. I was never one to mind the place of a girl, with long silky hair and a pretty little dress, playing girly games. In the dirt I played, in the woods I hunted with my Dad, to the river I went with my Pap. I played in forts, collected broken glass, swam in muddy creeks and learned how to spit and hit and catch and run and do it all right along with the boys.

    Brave isn’t a boy thing, and I bristle and resent the implication that it is.

    Reading all of these friends’ thoughts about how boys should be raised made me bite my tongue. Hard.

    When I was pregnant with Lilly, I can’t tell you how many people asked if we were finally getting a boy. Or how my husband felt about having three girls. Was he supposed to be disappointed? Are girls not as valuable? All men want sons?

    As time passed, we came to resent the comments more and more. Each time we were asked if we would try again later for a boy, we grew more and more convicted that we didn’t want any stinking boys anyway, thankyouverymuch, our girls are pretty darn awesome. I once, in a very pregnant and hormonal state, snapped at a woman in Sam’s Club and asked how she dare to say such a thing in front of my young daughters, as if to tell them they are any less than a boy. She stared at me, dumbfounded, and finally spit out that men always want sons, whether they admit it or not.


    I went to the car and sobbed.

    Because the truth is, I did want a boy. And probably so did my husband.

    Not instead of, mind you. Never once did we hope to have one gender or the other, and never once were we even a teeny tiny bit disappointed with what we saw on the ultrasound screen. Our girls are the greatest blessings of our lives, and we have never been anything but thankful for them.

    But we tend to want it all, don’t we? And I wanted a boy, too. I wanted a boy because I know boy. The emotional girl stuff I see coming with my middle daughter terrifies me. I don’t know how to deal with girl stuff. Boy stuff I know. So actual boys or tomboys, I can do. Girls – real girls – this is scary, y’all.

    We talked about adopting a boy. An older one of course – we aren’t baby people. We were selling our house in order to buy land and build a bigger house, and maybe then, after we were settled. Maybe in a few years. Maybe a toddler. But of course God laughed and so here we are, not selling, not building, not having a toddler but two baby boys.

    And many people have told me that I will find boys are different. And I’m sure they are. But so are all three of my girls.

    I hear things like ‘boys are physical – they climb and throw and dive off of things’ and I think of how Annabelle was walking at 7.5 months, climbing and sliding down poles in our basement when she was barely a year old, diving off the back of a recliner even younger than that. It’s easiest to smile and nod politely, I’ve found.

    Ultimately what I want for my children – for all five of my children – really isn’t that different. And how I will parent them all probably won’t look that much different either.

    I expect them all to be brave, boy and girl alike.

    Everyone gets dirty around here.

    I wish for them all to have broken bones and scars and stitches and various other non-life-threatening injuries sustained while doing something incredibly stupid and fun. I really, truly do. Because those dumb things I did when I was a kid, those scars I have to show for them – they are memories that I treasure. The busted knee playing baseball, the head cut open from a skateboarding accident, the multiple broken and sprained ankles playing basketball…I want my kids to have those, too.

    I will pray for them every day. I will cry with them when they are hurt or sad or wronged, and I will always be on their side, macro. But I will also call them out when they are wrong, micro. I will make them handle their own problems, and deal with the fallout from their bad decisions.

    I want them all to get caught when they inevitably do wrong. Getting caught leads to [sometimes painful] lessons learned. Getting away with it is where the real danger lies.

    I’m kind of a tiger mom, so they won’t always like me. I won’t let them quit the team when it isn’t fun anymore, because we honor our commitments. I will not pull them out of a class with a mean teacher, because God put them there for a reason. We grow from bad experiences more often than good ones. And I won’t sugar coat it when I explain this to them, either.

    I will be their mother and their best friend, and I know this is possible because I had it with my own parents. There was never any blurred line. I knew without a doubt that they were my parents, but I also knew even as a bratty teenager that no one would ever love me more than them, and I genuinely valued and respected them for that – not just as parents, but as friends. I knew I could go to them with anything and they would love me through it. Somehow, some way, I will do this for my children, too.

    And when the ‘parenting’ years are behind me, I look forward to just being a friend. I have three really cool daughters and I’m excited to meet the adults they become. I will love my daughters with all of my being for all of my life, and I hope that we will always be as close as we are now, in a different way. I will do my best to bite my tongue when I am tempted to advise them as adults, so that maybe I will remain a good friend instead of a resented mother.

    I do not want to have Momma’s boys. I will never, ever, EVER read to them ‘Love You Forever’, and I will never be the creepy freak climbing into my daughter-in-laws bedroom to rock her husband in the middle of the night. {Seriously people, do you ever really think about that book? It’s messed up.} I will love my sons with all of my being for all of my life, but if I do my job correctly, they will leave me. I want them to leave me. I want them to find a woman better than me, and love her more than me, and put her before me. And I will do my very best to butt the heck out of their lives so that maybe I will gain another daughter instead of a daughter-in-law.

    I don’t have a ‘parenting philosophy’, but I do have these goals in mind. So far, we have had one broken bone, two sprains, two arms in slings, countless ER visits, two hospitalizations, a very dirty house, and three Christ-following children to show for it. Not too shabby.

    Yes, brave mothers do raise brave kids – that we can agree on. But gender has nothing to do with it. I feel sorry for everyone who thinks that it does.

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