Messy Boys

“It’s messy.” 

My friend nods. “Yes, it’s definitely messy!”

We are talking about the trials of walking beside sons emerging into manhood.

I heard once that a boy becomes a man over his mother’s dead body, and boy are there days when it really does feel like a fight to the death.

It’s a mess of emotions, misunderstanding, and some hormones thrown in to boot. Ironically, this season of hormonal mayhem often occurs right about the time a momma’s hormones are beginning to take their own first steps into the crazy dance of perimenopause. 

Oy vey! One can’t help but wonder, “God, what were you thinking?!”

I’m a few years ahead of my friend with a couple grown sons "under my belt", but I’m still in the ring with two teen boys and a twelve year old. So I offer her my best advice.

“Be okay with the mess.” {<==click to tweet}

The lesson started early with mud, sticky faces, dirty socks, and Legos. Everywhere. Raising boys doesn’t happen without a mess. And while a momma must constantly wrestle to keep the mess from getting out of control, to insist upon perfect order and cleanliness is to sacrifice a world of adventure and boyhood joy. {<==click to tweet} Learning to be okay with the physical mess is the precursor to the season my friend and I are pondering. 

If I insist on perfect behavior and don’t allow grace and love to cover a multitude of stumbles (his and mine) along this new terrain, I will sacrifice relationship.

We moms tend to tighten our grasp when things get shaky. Years ago I was on a guided horseback ride in the mountains. As we headed down the steep, rocky path, I gripped tighter and tighter to the reins. The guide rode up next to me and, seeing my strained face and my poor, tightly-reined horse, said words I’ll never forget.

“Let him have his head.”

He explained that as my brave steed was navigating, I communicated confidence to him by loosening the reins and letting him “have his head.” Talk about counterintuitive! 

At the time our oldest son Josh was just entering his teen years. I immediately thought of him and this new path we were navigating. (And I’m sure many times he felt like I was on his back!) The scarier things got, the tighter I “reined” him in. Might loosening my grip communicate confidence to him and enable him to navigate this season even better than my white-knuckled grasp?

It’s a scary premise. But in the end it was my horse that carried the responsibility of navigation. And in the end, it’s my son who will navigate the path of manhood and all it’s twists, dips, turns, and potholes. Confidence is one of the greatest gifts a mom can give her son. {<==click to tweet}

You can bet it will be messy! Learning to be okay with the mess is the key to "enjoying the ride”. Yes, it’s steep, scary, and full of opportunities for mistakes and even calamity. But this is the dangerous path we’ve chosen as moms. And we have all the promises and assurances of our great Father to sustain us.

And as I let loose (note, I don’t let go) the reins, I can wholeheartedly embrace the adventure, joy, humor, and pure pleasure and pride of watching my son become a man during these crazy years. 

Right there in the middle of the mess.

Are you raising boys too? Where have you found joy and fun in the mess? And if you're walking or have walked the road of "emerging manhood" with your boy, what's your best advice?