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Yesterday my boys (two and eight) were playing outside in our cul-de-sac—running, yelling, tackling each other . . . all the normal stuff. One of the neighbor moms was out as well, looking on as her son joined the fray. 

“I need to send him over to your house for a week or two,” she joked, “so he can get more in touch with his boyness.” 

“No, you don’t want to do that. My boys are wild things,” I quickly replied. And I wasn’t joking.

My sons are rough, tough, primal beings. 

Moments before this conversation, my oldest was ramming trash cans with his drift trike. He runs at top speed across the backyard only to launch himself into a barrel roll on the ground. Our living room furniture is like a parkour challenge for him, and any time is a good time to wrestle.

Of course, his little brother has been soaking up all this wildness since birth, and he’s already learned the necessity of a good defense. Big bro’s hugs often turn into bear hugs, which then escalate to tackles, and before you know it, I’m expecting Alexa to belt out, “Let’s Get Ready to Ruuummble!” My toddler’s grappling style is the protect-your-vulnerable-areas kind, no warning, knees first, full send. And did I mention he randomly howls like a wolf? Primal stuff.

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I honestly believe that if I sent my boys into the wilderness, armed with snacks and ice cream (their mega fuel), they could survive for a solid week. Their volume alone would instantly send predators running. And if one lone bear just couldn’t contain his curiosity, he would quickly glimpse the reckless gleam in their eyes, the makeshift weapons in their hands, and decide “Nope, that’s too much for me.”

Some days it’s hard to be their mama.

With my toddler, every sandcastle is crushed, every block tower is smashed, every Hot Wheels race involves multiple crashes. My older son loves Army guys and all their accessories, so shooting, explosions, tanks, and hand-to-hand combat are the name of the game.

Santa brought a little food truck this past Christmas, and I had high hopes for some calm, imaginative play. A few days ago they informed me there was a zombie apocalypse and apparently the undead really like tacos. The food truck was all over the place and Nerf guns were involved. So much for calm.

Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with my sons. I just miss the quieter play from my childhood, like Barbie adventures and grooming My Little Ponies. 

Then there’s the noise and physicality and constant refereeing that goes into parenting boys, which often swirl together into a perfect storm of anxiety for me.

They’re like magnets to one another, especially when they’re not getting along. I try to be fair and reasonable in these moments, but a lot of the time I get so exasperated I end up yelling right along with them. And after a day full of gruff hugs, playful (but stinging) smacks, and head butts to the belly, I’m physically and emotionally spent. I just want to find the nearest couch and be as quiet and still as humanly possible.

All that being said, I love my wild boys with the same fierceness they possess.

I appreciate their toughness and ability to bounce back from boo-boos. I’m beyond grateful for their health and strength, how they can run and jump with abandon. And I’m in awe of their fearlessness, a quality they didn’t inherit from me. I watch them charge eagerly into activities that I myself would have shied away from as a kid.

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I’m braver because of them. I care a whole lot less about what people think. They’ve taught me that “just a little further” really is where the magic of a place can be found. I’ve learned I can’t control every outcome, and 9 times out of 10, things work out just fine. Messes can be cleaned, clothes can be washed.

I’m reminded that we all just need to let it out sometimesthe hoot, the holler, the howl. And I have to admit, monster trucks really are cooler than Barbie’s convertible.  

It’s a tricky balance between letting my kids sow their oats and teaching them to have respectful boundaries. But one thing is for certain, I hope the wild keeps. This adventure is so much sweeter because of it. 

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Andrea Bartman

I'm a wife and stay-at-home mom of two rough and tumble boys, attempting to navigate all the mid-life messiness.

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