I vividly remember that day three and a half years ago.
I was pregnant with you, Middle Child, and I met a group of my friends from church at the nail spa across the street. We all got pedicures to ready us for the summer season, and we chatted about the details of each other’s lives, including upcoming vacations, career moves, and graduations.
At one point in the conversation, a few of the girls asked me if I had a preference about whether you were a boy or a girl. I told them honestly, “I hope it’s another boy.” I yearned for you, Oldest, to have a brother and a built-in best friend. I pictured two boys growing up together, wrestling each other, and being silly together. I imagined bunk beds with stinky feet peaking out at me from underneath the covers, piles of Legos making your dad and I cuss under our breath, mounds of sports gear taking over our garage, and each of you delivering the best man speech at the other’s wedding.
And because of Grace, I was given the desires of my heart. Two boys. Back to back.
Being your mom has been so much fun! And while there are days I want to scream because I cannot possibly tolerate hearing the words “poop” or “wiener” one more time, you both bring your own shade of sensation and satisfaction to my life that I never would have known possible if not for you.
Oldest, you are sweet and relational. You know how to connect with what’s around you, and you walk into the world each day ready for adventure. You are passionate. You love to learn. You are observant and visual. You are empathetic. Your memory blows me away daily.
Middle Child, you are thoughtful and intentional. You love creating, and you are so good at considering the needs of others as well as your own, whether its rest, alone time, nourishment, or comfort. You are witty and insistent. You are honest. And you give the wettest kisses around.
If the gash in my chest serves as any evidence, you both are going to leave your mark in this world. No doubt about it. And I will always be proud of my two boys.
But here’s the part I struggle with. You are both growing up in a culture that says to boys: Be tough. No crying allowed. Suck it up. Be a man. Don’t be afraid. Boys are taught that vulnerability is weakness, that anger is the only acceptable emotion, and that real men ride in on a white horse, no matter what. In this culture, all too often, masculinity is aggression, control, money, power, and violence.
Oh, how this breaks my heart! I want so much more for you both, and I can’t bear the thought of who you are being crushed in the weight of this culture of pseudo-manliness. So, as your mama, here is my declaration of intent to you:
My lap and my heart remain open to you always, regardless of how old you are and what you are feeling. I will greet you with warm chocolate milk, listening ears, and tickled images on your back.
I will do my best to be a safe place for you both where vulnerability is seen as courage, not weakness. Vulnerability, you see, is the birthplace of creativity, innovation, relationship, and authentic connection. You were made in your Creator’s image; you were made for these things!
When this world tries to define you by what profession you choose or how much money you make, I will be the voice of reason. That is not what defines you.
There will be times in your life when you will feel pain. No matter what anyone says, you do not have to be tough, and I probably won’t be tough either. I will struggle with what to say to you. I will want to take it away and protect you from it. My mama bear instinct will kick in, and I will want to punch someone in the face for you. But I commit to this: my job as your mom isn’t to rescue you from pain, but rather to teach you how to feel it and to own it. Adversity will bring you tenacity and perseverance, my loves.
And those times when you are taught by the world to elevate yourself, dominate others, ride the white horse, and resist letting anyone shove your face in the mud? I will gently remind you that the best way up is to shove your own face in the mud. Humility is the true mark of a man.
Love to you both. Always. Mama.