I'm the sort of mother who toasts soft, snowy-white cotton vests on heaters for her sons on cold winter mornings. The sort of mother I said I'd never be. I promised I'd not spoil them. Oh yes, I was going to produce perfect husbands for future daughters-in-law.
But I'm obsessed with my sons. And anyway, what girl is ever going to be good enough for my boys?
I've been thinking about my maternal shortcomings. (Does anyone ever think of their maternal glories?). Three testosterone-charged teen boys - still under my wing. Just. Exams, sport, girls, driving lessons, parties, mishaps. Parenting really is a high wire act without the net. I wanted them to be sensitive but not vulnerable. Confident but not arrogant. Generous but not gullible. Kind but not soft. Some of this has been achieved, some of the time.
When my first baby boy was pressed to my breast exactly nineteen years ago, I loved him instantly but knew nothing of his boyish ways. I have one sister and grew up in a boy-less bubble. Dolls, dresses and drama queens, I understood. Balls, bikes and brawls, I did not.
As I have three sons and yet write for girls, lots of people say - 'How funny!" But having sons doesn't make a girly girl more boyish. However, it has helped me to understand boys more, certainly. My findings on boys are thus: boys act indifferent when they really care a lot, boys get heartbroken very easily, boys don't tend to notice little details, boys can't look for things, boys are faithful, boys are faddish, boys are solution-based problem solvers, boys like you to laugh at their jokes.
All the caring, loving stuff has been quite easy. But disciplining boys? That's really hard for a girl like me. A raised eyebrow from my mother brought me into line. Not so with the lads. They do respond well to short sharp shocks and unambiguous commands. That isn't my way and I do think I've gone the long way around discipline, sticking to the 'Please don't disappoint me," gentle sort of approach which is way less effective than a quick punishment.
As for boy hobbies - I've had to get used to sport on TV and in the field. I like the notions of keeping fit, being in a team, showing commitment. I do not like the notions of loathing the opposition, injuring the opposition, being sore losers. Movie-going can be a challenge too. Transformers, anyone? Top Gear, Jackass - those are particular TV headaches. And the word 'war' in hobbies worries me. World of Warcraft, Warhammer, War movies...Soldiering, wrestling, rugby tackles. The boys may not be violent per se, but they are very physical which has taken a lot of getting used to. I've been to Accident and Emergency on monthly basis, with some sport injuries requiring daily or weekly appointments.
I dreaded the three D's - Drinking, Dating and Driving - and sure enough, they have been awful. The first night out in a club as a legal eighteen year-old reveller. Can any mother sleep through that? One teen boy driving another to rugby - could anything have more risk attached? And the introduction of a complicated girlfriend leads to complex boy thinking which nearly leads to the explosion of a young male mind.
Okay, so my boys have not been easy to raise. They don't make cute Christmas cards or chat to me about clothes. But they show their love in other ways. It's in their smile, their hugs and their proud glances.
My last word on raising boys is this: they're soft