And, could it be that there's one more little man curled up beneath my heart? We shall have to wait and see!
I love surprises. What's not surprising, though, is how many times per week someone stops me in a parking lot or grocery line, points to my middle, and asks if we're having another boy. Even more common is the question, "Were you trying for a girl?" Or the comment, "Oh, you poor thing, you're terribly outnumbered."
My first thought is always, trying for a girl? Please, if you know one woman in this world who has tried SEVEN times to get a mini-me, I want to meet her, because I don't believe she exists.
My second thought is always, If I could only tell you how mothering boys has made me a better woman in so many ways.
How is that, you say?
Well, let me begin by listing just a few personal improvements that have resulted from being immersed in a testosterone-filled dwelling all day:
1. I am finally figuring out how to let sh** go.
Sorry if that's a bit abrupt, but there's just no other way to put it, really. You know we ladies like to agonize over the teeniest tiniest little things. We let issues of little objective importance bother us way. too. much. We can learn a few lessons from the boys in this department of life. Boys get hurt, or angry or frustrated too, but then they get on their bikes and ride like the Tazmanian Devil around the block, they ram their Tonka trucks into into piles of building blocks a thousand times, they jump off the couch and over aunt Ethel's antique vase until they're sweaty and dizzy with confidence again, and then they go refuel with a snack and move on with the day, forgetting what even tripped their trigger in the first place. I love that about them. And I love that their ability to stay focused on what matters is rubbing off on me, too.
2. I am learning to forgive and forget.
Boys are quick to forgive. Yeah, they might have to duke things out in the alley for a bit, but those same flying fists soon become high fives and hand shakes. We're not like that, ladies. We cry and then we cry some more, and we expect everyone in our camp to cry with us. On top of that, we remember every little last flippin detail about how we were wounded in the second grade by so and so on the playground, and we carry all that crap around with us all day every day. No wonder most of us are vertically challenged. Wanna know how it feels to just get over stuff? Good, dang good.
3. I am giving up the phrase "nothing's wrong."
Because, most of the time, you and I both know that that's a load of crap. Have you ever noticed how boys don't beat around the bush (unless they're in trouble, of course)? They tell it like it is. I'll admit that sometimes their communication lacks tact and charity, but their honesty is far better than that old passive aggressive response of nothing is wrong when the truth is, something really is wrong. Boy have I found some serious freedom in just speaking my mind and heart with those I'm closest to - even at the risk of rejection or misunderstanding. Thank ya, boys.
I could go on, but it's Friday and you have laundry to ignore and wine to drink (I hope).
I don't really begrudge the reactive sentiments of others toward our boy-dominant family. Part of me understands that their sympathies and well wishes for a girl are of good intention. The other part of me also realizes that our culture places a high value upon the optimal family, and that that ideal is often expressed in a one girl, one boy household.
So, being the mother of six, potentially seven boys, is likely to generate a variety of reactions, few of which, unfortunately, are of the affirming kind. (But I'm okay with that. See #1 above.)
Yes, I am outnumbered. But, as children are not meant to be trophies that we as women display on our shelf of "hear me roar" accomplishments, I do not feel it necessary to seek satisfaction or admiration in producing a particular sex (as if I have anything to do with that). Babies are not to be likened with pets that exist for our personal fulfillment or comfort.
Babies are a gift.
The purpose of their existence does not lie in satisfying a parent's personal ambitions or dreams. To even pursue the ambition of parenthood, all the while seeking an "optimal outcome" - whether that be two girls and two boys, or one boy and one girl, is in itself selfish in nature, because children are not given to us for us, they are given to us so that we might receive them in love, raise them in love, and prepare them in love to give love back to the world, and ultimately to the Lord.
I've experienced moments when I've thought, or even felt that it would would be absolutely lovely to have a girl in our family, for many reasons, one of which would be to have someone similar to relate to in feminine nature. But, it would be terribly short sided of me to focus on what isn't instead of focusing on what is. That would imply that something (or someone) is lacking in our family, and that simply isn't true.
In fact, I cannot quite express in adequate terms how delightfully wonderful it has been to be surprised by the unexpected gifts that mothering boys has brought into my life (yes, even in spite of the awful teenage smells, devastation to the walls and furniture, and inability to use the flusher mechanism on the toilet).
Being surrounded by little (and big) men has not left me feeling isolated, inferior or alone. On the contrary, the experience has made me ever more aware of my unique feminine gifts and as a result, has shaped me into better woman than I was before having children. Better because I have come to see the vital importance of authentically living my feminine qualities, and I hope that in doing so I might foster in them some of my own God-given strengths and virtues, while at the same time, allowing myself to be influenced by theirs.
I love to back over the past 15 years and see just how remarkably fruitful familial relationships can truly become when family members are encouraged to express and live the gifts of their very nature, though they be different, in a complimentary fashion.
It is a beautiful thing to witness my children develop in character, virtue and maturity, thanks in part to my feminine influences. Those influences are exercised without diminishing, belittling, or reducing who my sons are in their masculine nature. Their healthy, God-given masculine gifts are encouraged and affirmed, and those virtues that are weak or lacking in them are nurtured and encouraged by me, because they are natural to me. One does not the place of the other, it's both-and.
Some of our juniors climb trees, shoot guns, are fiercely competitive, wrestle and duke to express love, and others prefer less of those things and a more thoughtful, reserved pace of life. No matter what their passions or personalities, the boys all have common masculine strengths and traits that are very important for me to recognize, honor, and nurture in them in the most positive manner. They can be themselves, and feel proud of their masculine identity, because I affirm those masculine traits in them through my words and actions. They in turn (hopefully) are open to recognizing who I am as a woman - different, but not competitive, a compliment to who they are, not a counterpoint.
Sure, my boys like for me to shoot a gun too, to jump on the trampoline, and contribute to conversation about tractors and pickups. But they don't need me to be one of the boys.
They need me to be me.
Gentle, yet firm. Empathetic yet encouraging. Clean, pretty (every boy thinks his mama is pretty), soft, and smellin' good, yet willing to roll up my sleeves and get dirty when it's time to get a job done.
The wonderful thing about males and females living up to their complimentary roles in the world is that it can be surprisingly harmonious, joyful, and fruitful (yes, despite our sinful natures). This is all despite the heavy negative emphasis our culture insists on placing upon our differences. (More good reading on that right here.)
Several years ago, I attended a women's conference where Dr. Rhonda Chervin was the key-note speaker. She is a feminist to the core, but in the positive sense that she has a great passion to understand how God has created women with a very specific nature, and how He has given us particular strengths and particular gifts that are completely unique to our gender, all of which are meant to serve Him in tremendous ways in this world.
The great take-away for me from her teaching was that each person, male and female, possesses dominant strengths and virtues, and those virtues vary depending upon the individual, but are different according gender - and they differ for a reason.
God is the perfection of all virtue. He is the perfection of every masculine virtue, and every feminine virtue, without being effeminate. God is father, Jesus is son. They are men, and they are the perfection of all that is good - which is what we as Christians are striving for in the spiritual life.
I don't become less feminine when I begin to embody and develop the virtues of courage, loyalty, persistence, and ambition all of which are typically dominant virtues in the masculine nature. Rather, I become a more complete, more authentic woman. The same is true for men and their acquisition of the more natural feminine virtues such compassion, thoughtfulness, tenderness, and the ability to nurture others.
Please know that I am certainly not trying to stereotype men and women. We all have different degrees in which we embody and express our masculine and feminine traits. I am simply trying to point out the differences as well as the similarities of masculinity and femininity in hopes that you will recognize them as compliment, not counteractive.
If you were to describe the most natural traits of women, you might use words like empathetic, social, relational, sensitive, cautious, prudent, kind, and generous to name a few. And, if you were to describe the most natural traits of men, you might say that they are energetic, loyal, ambitious, courageous, protective, fearless, analytical, and focused.
To truly become holy - a whole person in Christ - we must understand that God, in His wisdom, will stretch us and mold us through circumstances and relationships so that we might live our most natural virtues to the fullest, but also so that we might acquire and exercise those virtues which are least familiar, less natural to us.
I always think of Mother Theresa when pondering this truth. Can you imagine anyone to be more gentle, nurturing, loving, or empathetic than her? She was truly the deepest, dearest expression of the beauty and power that can emanate from of an authentically feminine woman through and through. And, yet, she had an incredible sense of courage, loyalty, perseverance, stead-fastness, focus and ambition, all of which tend to be more masculine traits and were virtues secondary to her nature.
As she became more Christlike, who she was as a woman of God did not diminish or repeal others - it attracted them! It inspired them! Her very presence helped others to desire to become more Christlike, more holy, more whole.
This is the very thing that my sons have done for me, but only because by grace I have chosen to nurture their dearest masculine qualities, and come to embrace the tremendous good in exemplifying those feminine virtues, which are secondary to them, that they so desperately need to acquire in order to become fully alive in Christ themselves.
They have shown me how to quickly forgive, fearlessly try new things, remain loyal in friendships (despite differences), and maintain a persistent focus on my goals. In turn, I hope to have shown them how to be sincere, empathetic, how to care for the needs of the littlest persons in our home, and how to exercise prudence and caution in certain situations that call for it.
When we choose to live in a mindset of comparison and competition with the opposite sex, we risk losing our authentic selves in the process. We can forget to be ourselves, because we're so hyper-focused on being as good as, or better than others.
It's all simply a waste of time and energy.
As parents we are naturally going to encounter comments and reactions between opposing sexes that are marked with disdain and discord. That is normal, isn't it? We can't possibly love and understand everything about the opposite sex because we are so different in nature, and aspects of those natures will always remain a mystery to us.
But, we can appreciate and respect what is different in each other, and we can honor the goodness in those differences (which is Christ!), by upholding the dignity of one another through word and action, and especially through living fully the gifts proper to our own unique nature, be it masculine or feminine, with enthusiasm, gratitude, and joy.
It is truly an honor to know that God entrusts these fine boys to my care, and should He find it fitting to give us yet another son, the blessings will only be multiplied.