I’m not a boy. Let’s just get that out of the way right now, so I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand the responsibility that comes with being a boy. I did, however, grow up with a big brother. I also happened to have a dad who is a boy, I married a boy, and I conceived two “all boy” boys. So I’ve had my fair share of exposure to boys. Because of this, I have paid close attention to what society expects from boys as well as what I expect from boys. In fact, I recently posted on my personal blog the “Advice to My Boys: 12 Non-Negotiables” that I have for my two sons as they are growing older and it aligns perfectly with what I have realized as of late.
I’ve learned through experience that boys have a lot of pressure on them, especially brothers.
You’ve heard it, I know you have. Let’s use my friend Shelby for example. I know she won’t mind me using her because I guarantee she has had this said to her hundreds of times in the last few days since she welcomed her baby girl into the world (congrats John and Shelby)! This beautiful baby girl is the couple’s third child, and she happens to come into a family with two older brothers. So how much do you want to bet that a common statement has been, “Congratulations! Those two big brothers are going to be so protective of that little sweetheart!” or something of the sort? In fact, I may be one of the guilty parties because I have two boys myself and am pretty sure I wrote something like that to Shelby on Facebook when she announced that this beauty was the newest addition to the family.
But boys are born to protect, right? It sure seems that way.
While it may not be accurate in all situations, and it may be an enormous task to put on boys, it seems so true in my case. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an extremely independent and strong chick, but it’s only because I have learned how to lean on my God. So it really got me thinking…how do I feel about that protective pressure that society tends to put on boys? Honestly, I like it.
Okay, now don’t go all “she’s not feminist enough” on me. My view comes from the fact that I am mom of boys and I pray that my sons will one day grow into young men who will stand up for the little guy, protect and cherish women, and be strong advocates for the rights of all. Because in my mind, that’s what boys do.
Why am I like this? Why do I view boys as having this responsibility? I figured it out. It’s because I grew up with it. My daddy was as daddy as they come. He protected his little girl and made fun of me all in one breath. He taught me to be strong and stand up for myself, but he also taught me that if I fell on my butt, he was going to pick me up and make it better. That’s what daddies do. And then there was my brother. I was three years younger than him. I dated boys, and it was obvious that he HATED every minute of it. In fact, when I went through the hard times that young girls often do, I know that my brother was made fun of because his baby sister was trying desperately to find herself, but in ways I shouldn’t have. He likely still doesn’t know that I overheard him standing up for me many times. So I knew I always had somebody in my corner. Yes, I made mistakes and he let me, but he stood up for me. He didn’t agree with how I was living, but he stood up for me and then helped me understand that boys don’t truly work the way I thought they did, at least not the good ones.
It was really my brother and my dad who led me to my husband because Jeremy was unlike any other boy I had ever liked; he was a good one. He was nice to me, and he respected me; this was a completely unfamiliar concept but one that my dad and brother had displayed for me over and over. So there’s another one. Jeremy is the next reason I believe that boys are born to protect. I’ve talked about it before in a blog post, but this is worth revisiting if it helps you understand where I’m coming from. Remember me talking about how I was living? I’ll be honest, I tried to get boys to like me by using my body when I was in high school. I had it all – big boobs and an awesome figure at a young age. (This is the moment I ask you to not reference any recent pictures, I was 16 and my body had not yet experienced the miracle of birth…and wine). So I used what I had because that’s what boys noticed.
And then I met Jeremy. And the first night I tried to throw myself at him in high school, he told me no.
Talk about a blow to the pride, or at least what I thought was pride. It wasn’t, and I fell in love that night. Jeremy protected me; he saw my vulnerability and he chose not to take advantage of it. By the time that Jeremy was ready for that level of intimacy, his choice for us to wait had grown my self-confidence to a level where I understood I was worth the wait. So guess what? We waited until our wedding night. We didn’t wait before, but we waited for each other. Jeremy stole my heart because of his desire to protect me, and I pray that our boys grow up to be just like their daddy. It was the best decision we ever made, and it started because I met a boy who lived up to society’s expectations.
Now I have two boys of my own. I want them to know what is expected of them and to live up to it. I want them to protect and respect their future girlfriends, wives, and little girls. I want them to understand that I truly do believe it is their responsibility to take care of women, but only when they need it.
The challenge comes in finding a balance; it’s not control that girls need or want, it’s protection when it’s necessary.
But I have found lately that the protection that is expected from boys extends even further all the way to children. So what truly started my pondering of this concept was a recurring nightmare; no, I haven’t had that lately, but my boys have. Both Hudson and Asher (ages “almost 9” and 6 respectively) have been struggling with bad dreams for the last two weeks, and none of us in our home have been getting much sleep. As the mom, I know that it is my job to help them overcome this fear of being by themselves in their own rooms, but at what point do I just need to allow them to protect each other? They are both boys – and young boys at that.
Do I want their memories right now to be of me forcing them to stay in their own rooms, or do I want them to remember us coming up with a creative and collaborative solution to a problem?
So I thought about it. What did my parents do for me when we moved into our new home and I was in the first grade and two floors below where my parents slept? They let me bunk with my big brother, and I remember that protection and support instead of the nightmares and fears. I want to do that for my boys. Just because we have the room doesn’t mean we have to use it, at least not right now. Right now, they need to learn how to work through their fears and they want to do it together.
They want to do what boys often do – they want to protect each other.
I don’t want to stop my sons from doing what they are obviously already feeling inclined to do. Enter the new solution to protection from nightmares – constant sleepovers. One week, Hudson will sleep under Asher’s bed. The next week, Asher will sleep under Hudson’s bed. The boys are thrilled; they can’t wait for the “sleepovers every night” and tonight is our first night. Well, technically, it was last week by the time this comes out, so I’ll let you know how it’s going.
It’s time for our boys to begin taking on that role that they naturally are beginning to want to fill, and they want to start by protecting each other. When we came up with the idea, I literally said, “Oh, brother! Here we go. Will ‘sleepovers every night’ really help?” And then I realized it. Yes, it will work. It worked when my big brother protected me. Now Hudson gets to protect his little brother and Asher gets to protect his big brother right back. “Oh, brother!” is right, but not in a bad way. They are learning to embrace that which society, and mom, expects of them.
Learn more about us, Jeremy and Bailey, and our mission to help the world understand the reality of mental illness, depression, and suicide on our website and in our book “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” available in paperback through the authors and eBook format on Amazon.