I don’t know much about being a boy. I see my son playing, and I honestly don’t get it sometimes. He can spend hours playing tackle football by himself. He lines up his Star Wars characters and knocks them down only to do it again. When I ask him how school was, I get commentary about his best friends pushing each other for fun on the bus. And when I ask him what he wants to be when he grows up, he responds with seriousness, “An alien.”

How do I step up to the overwhelming task of teaching this little boy to be a man when he’s such a mystery to me? It is a huge responsibility. One I truly believe will be one of my greatest accomplishments when I’m through. But where do I begin?

What I do know about is being loved by a man.

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My mom recently asked me what made my husband different than other guys I’d dated. There were a few things, but the important ones jump out. He made me feel safe. It always felt like we were going through life together, that I was not alone, that I had a partner. He made me feel loved, accepting me for who I was but bringing out the best parts in me while we were together. He helped me become a better version of myself. And I felt like I was the prettiest girl in the room, and he couldn’t take his eyes off of me.

He proposed after asking my father for my hand in marriage, knowing how important my family was to me. And we married in a church after undergoing mandated pre-marriage counseling to see we were aligned on important topics. Once we were married, he and I committed to working on life together. I never have to look any farther than him to know I have my backup. Marriages are only as strong as the people in them, and ours is rock solid.

So when I think about how I’m going to raise this little boy to be a good man, I can see my path really clearly.

First, he’ll know promises are for keeping. Little promises to his sister. Big promises to us. Huge promises to God. The sacred promise that one day he’ll make to his wife will be forever. Teach by example. Keep your promises.

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Next, he’ll always know he is loved. He’s going to know home is safe, family is important, God is love, and we treat each other accordingly. That way, when he meets a woman, the woman, he can show her that love. One day he’ll start his own family based on the solid foundation we’ve provided, based on God and love. Our example will be his model.

Together, we’ll teach him how to talk to women by the way we talk to each other. With respect and sincerity. Without disgust, annoyance, or condescension. And even when my son hears anger or hurt, he’ll later hear apologies. And always an echo of love because that is what families do.

And finally, we’ll teach him to worry about others just as much as he worries about himself. Every opportunity we have to give back to the community, he’ll be a part of it. He can help fold programs for church, collect cans for the food drive, hand in donation envelopes at church, pet dogs at the shelter, or wrap gifts for kids in need during Christmas. These little reminders that we’re here to serve will one day remind him of his greater purpose in life. To not live selfishly. To see people as vulnerable.

I may not always understand the little boy, but I understand a good man.

And one day, I know my boy will be one.

Caroline Murray

Caroline is a freelance writer, mama to two young children and one sweet baby.  She loves everything country and tries not to take anything too seriously.  You can see more of her at www.the-othermom.com.