I received the call from my day care provider when Nick was 4 years old. My normally quiet and reserved boy was lashing out in uncharacteristic ways. Through play therapy, I discovered that Nick was grieving, and he was worried about burdening me with his sadness. It was one of the first times I realized how differently we processed the issues of life. As a single mom, I found it difficult to understand the inner world of my little boy.
The more I became aware of my son's unique wiring, the better I was able to navigate his emotions. Nick didn't cry when he was sad; he internalized, and then the emotion would come out in a variety of ways. He liked to talk, but on his terms and rarely when I expected it. I had to learn to set aside my agenda and meet him in those moments.
When it came to play, I reminded myself that it was OK to let Nick roughhouse and take risks. I often had to override my instinct to overprotect him.
As Nick entered his preteen years, the differences in our male/female perspectives became more pronounced. I needed help, and I figured Nick needed a mentor. Formalized mentoring felt forced and unsustainable, so I prayed for good men to invest in my son's life.
After several years, Nick and I became involved in a church that had many two-parent families. As these families befriended us, Nick benefited from the godly men in his life. It ended up not being about finding mentors, but about building relationships with other families. The mentoring naturally developed.
I also noticed that Nick craved heroes. We watched good adventure movies and read books with strong male characters. We'd talk about their positive traits and dissect their negative ones.
Today my son is in his first year of college, and he's apprenticing as a blacksmith with one of the men from our church. Through the years we've learned that wise counselors, earnest prayer and heroic examples can help pave the way to a hope-filled future — both for sons and for mothers.
Single Parent Toolkit
Consider these tools to help you on your journey:
Stress gentlemanly actions.
Train your son to treat women well by showing him how to treat you. Don't tolerate disrespect or rude behavior.
Tackle tough topics.
As your son reaches the teen years, teach him to deal with his charged emotions and male desires. Find books, seek godly counselors and address the topic in direct ways.
Wear him out.
Boys have lots of energy. Channeling that energy into sports or vigorous exercise will help keep it from coming out in unhealthy ways.
Listen to the Focus on the Family broadcast as Jean Blackmer discusses parenting tips from her book, Boy-sterous Living: Celebrating Your Loud and Rowdy Life With Sons.