“You have such handsome boys!” said the little old lady at the grocery store, in admiration. “They will drive all the girls crazy when they grow up!” I smiled, wondering if she is aware that girls in the future aren’t the only ones they drive crazy!
Boys. When life decides to give you a houseful of boys, you wonder if it’s God’s way of telling you to calm down, take a deep breath, count to ten … and then *scrrrreeeeaam*
Scream when you are greeted by tea stains from tea having splashed out of a mug all over the insides of the microwave because someone forgot to turn it off.
Scream on Saturday morning when your ‘relaxed me, it’s a weekend’ is rudely shattered by a river of milk trickling its way insidiously down from the top shelf of the refrigerator to the bottom because while you will never know who spilt it, you do know who will have to clean it up!
Scream when that last bit of dark chocolate you had saved for yourself, hidden inside your drawer in your room, to help you through those dark moments in life, has mysteriously vanished, leaving behind an empty wrapper as commiseration.
Scream when dirty socks aren’t alone underneath that bed; they are partnered by empty Pringles rolls, that missing bowl from your dinner set, a dying brownie – fungus and all – and other chemistry experiments under progress!
Scream because no one else in the house seems to think there’s anything wrong with any of the above.
But wait. Better still – don’t scream. Because in the larger scheme of things, it’s actually okay.
Moms of teenage boys, I feel you nodding your head in agreement, and if you have a daughters-only household, I feel you nodding your head in slight disbelief. (Be thankful I for the omission of considerably gory details about toilets!) You see, having teenagers in the house is vastly different depending on Mars-Venus, and it starts much before they turn into men and women; it starts the moment your darling, adorable primary schoolers reach middle school and beyond. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. The hormones kick into place before you know it!
Fret not – allow me to show you how to always stay one step ahead, and achieve that calm, zen-like exterior despite everything going on around you in the house! Here is my list of 6 rules to follow when you are the only woman in the house, raising a pack of boys all by yourself. Take a deep breath, count to ten and let the Crash Course begin.
1. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em!
Your relationship with the men in your house (4 of them, and 1 of you) cannot be defined by the empty wrappers and piles of dirty dishes. After having studied the male species in reverse order: adulthood to middle-age (the husband), babyhood to teenage-hood (the children), I conclude – it doesn’t matter to them. They don’t purposely want to make your life a living hell of unending laundry cycles and stained sofas. It is just that a home is a place for them to relax, lounge, play ball, eat and sleep in. Really, you’re fighting nature here. So kick off those shoes, get on to the living room sofa and dig into a bowl of popcorn on a Saturday night as you catch a Netflix serial with them. You, and hopefully they, will cherish these times. (Note to Self: You are NOT to worry about crumbs on the sofa.)
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2. Food Really Is All They Ever Need Sometimes!
Sorry to burst your bubble, but all they need is food. If you think they don’t know how to hold a conversation, emitting monosyllabic utterances to questions like ‘How was your day?’ or grunt when you ask about their friends, try doing the same while feeding them their favourite meals. Unfortunately food is not one of the more elevated needs in Maslow’s Hierarchy, but then, who said the male species was anywhere near self-actualization? They live for the grub, so feed them and you will get what you want: happy, contented boys who will gladly chat with you, stay home, put their phones aside and even agree to empty the dishwasher for you in the presence of their favourite dessert.
3. Some Questions Are Better Left Un-Asked!
“How do I look?” This question can elicit answers ranging from “What?” to “Ok”. If you’re expecting a deeper, more gratifying answer like a startling “Wow, that colour” or “Great, that cut brings out your height”, you seriously need to tone down your expectations. It is what they don’t say that you have to listen to. “That’s horrible, you can’t go out in that” or “You look fat” are very factual answers, so be grateful for “What” or an “Ok”, and let sleeping dogs lie! This does not mean they think you look bad, it just means they’re being truthful about how you look. After all, you did ask, didn’t you? My advice: don’t go there. And if you do, then bear in mind that a “What” or an “Ok” means you look fine.
4. Ask A Silly Question, And You Get … ?
“Who ate that last brownie?” This is a rhetorical question, where any one of the four inmates might have had a hand in the crime. However, none of those inmates is about to spill the beans. Who am I kidding here? Better to leave it at that, and find a better hiding place if you want to be the one eating that last brownie.
5. Emotional Blackmail Will Not Get You Very Far.
Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve been there. I know.
“Fine, I’ll clear out the garage myself! You’ll never find time, even when I’m old and sick with aching bones”, you might even add “with one foot in the grave”.
It doesn’t work.
Not because they don’t care, but because old-and-sick doesn’t conjure up a real image for them. Now if you were to say “Fine, I’m not making dinner tonight”, that might yield some action. Better still: “I’m locking up the kitchen”. Provided you have the courage to stick to what you say.
6. Don’t Take Anything to Heart.
And I mean, anything. They will ask you to leave their room because they want to be left alone. They will demand food at the oddest of times. They will expect you to run that PE shirt in the washing late night, because they forgot to throw it in last week. (and/or they actually don’t care if they pull it out of the laundry basket and wear it again, extra points for saving energy here). They will refuse to accompany you on the grocery run, unless you threaten them. But don’t take it to heart.
While the screaming and meltdowns can be used to generate sympathy, do choose your moments wisely and at regular intervals. Too many, and you fail to create much impact. Too few, and you may be perceived as the silent, strong type who can bear any catastrophe. You want to be somewhere in-between, so strike a balance and find the optimum level that works for you!
You might always have a messy house, dirty toilets, socks lurking under beds, but the thing about boys is, they will magically black-out the meltdowns you had 5 minutes earlier because they have this great short-term memory incapable of holding many grudges. Unless, of course, you actually lock up that kitchen.
So rejoice and know there is a reason the universe conspired to give you boys, and only boys, even if you might never understand what that reason is. Just live the experience and if all else fails, write an article about raising a pack-ful of them. Not convinced? Then buy the latest Dyson rechargeable vacuum cleaner. It works wonders.