I was chatting with a new young friend, whom I met through a mutual acquaintance. We spent a few moments, exchanging some of the details of our lives as we were getting to know one another. We discovered that we are both Christ followers and that we were each blessed to have sons. “Oh, you’re a boy mama, too!” she said.
“I am. How many sons do you have?” I asked her.
“Two,” she replied. “A three year old and one who just had his first birthday.”
“That’s close to the age of my grandsons,” I laughed. “All three of my sons are grown and married, and two have toddlers of their own.”
We continued to discuss the joys and challenges of raising boys. Rocks left in pockets that end up beating against the walls of the washer. Stray Legos you always seem to find in the dark with your bare feet. So many other special boy things she has yet to experience: Little League, voices that change at puberty, and of course, their discovery that girls aren’t really so creepy after all.
“I’m not looking forward to that,” she said flatly. “Those two are Mama’s boys.”
I smiled at her. ‘Mama’s boys’ is not a term that most of us think of as very positive. If someone calls you a Mama’s boy, it’s usually not a compliment. She shared with me that she had never left her children with a babysitter–not even her own mother who lives nearby. Although her husband had suggested a weekend away, she had refused. “Then how about dinner and a movie?” he asked. “Not without the children,” was her decision. The thought of them one day meeting a girl and falling in love felt like a threat to her carefully crafted family plan.
“How did you feel when your sons started to date? Do you like the girls they married?” she asked.
“I love each of them like my very own,” I responded. “I am blessed to have these three young women in my life and as part of our family. I call them my daughters-in-love.”
She went on to tell me that she was from a large family–all girls with just one male cousin. The husbands of all of her sisters and female cousins had joined her family when they married. “They always spend holidays with all of us. They don’t really see their own families much at all. My one male cousin–his wife took him away from our family. We only see him once or twice a year, and they live less than 20 miles from us. I don’t think she likes us much. It just doesn’t seem fair.” She went on to say how much that concerned her. “You know that saying, ‘A son’s a son till he takes a wife, a daughter’s a daughter all of her life?’ That scares me to death. I’m not going to let some woman take them from me.”
I remembered when I had similar feelings. I had once decided (when they were in pre-school) that they were not allowed to date until they were 25. And then only the girls that I picked out! But that’s not how it works. They had other plans. And God has other plans, too.
From the very beginning, our children were sent to us for a specific purpose: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6.) Parents have clung to this promise for generations. Mothers have prayed it over their wandering or wayward children. And God is faithful to His word. But there is a second important message here that is often overlooked: we are raising them to GO. We are preparing them to leave our homes and establish homes of their own. To marry and raise families. To live the pattern established in the garden: “This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Genesis 2:24 NLT.
My husband and I prayed for our boys each and every day of their lives. Those prayers included asking the Lord to preserve and protect the woman He had chosen for each of our sons. To turn her heart toward Him. And we prayed that when they met, each boy would recognize that she was the one. I can testify to the goodness of our heavenly Father as I report that He was faithful to grant our request, not once, not twice, but three times.
Those prayers had an important impact on us as well. Each day, as we held our petition before God, we were reminded that they were supposed to go. It reinforced for us that they were intended to leave. Our hearts were prepared for the moment that so many moms in particular, dread, as did my new young friend.
“If you make them the center of your world,” I told her, “you will be devastated, because you will never be the center of theirs.” She looked me full in the face, her eyes brimming with tears. She nodded, the truth of the words sinking into her heart. “How can I get beyond this? What can I do to make sure I don’t become a monster-in-law that ends up alienating not only my future daughters-in-law, but my sons as well?”
Accept the Word as the authority on this subject. The Lord is clear on His order for the family. The scripture referenced in Genesis surfaces again in the New Testament–Mathew, Mark and Ephesians all carry nearly identical passages. It is critical we acknowledge and submit to this principle. We cannot regard it as optional. It isn’t. If it’s His plan, it should be our plan.
Pray for your child’s spouse-to-be. When our youngest son announced his intention to marry within just a few months of meeting his sweetheart, friends asked why I was not alarmed. The answer was simple: I had been praying for her for 25 years. I hadn’t known her name or what she looked like, but my heart recognized her the moment I met her. I had no need to assess her qualifications or evaluate her suitability as a potential wife – she did not need to ‘pass my test’. The peace of God was present and I was certain of his choice. Your prayers also help to prepare your heart for the transition ahead. So whether your son is 2 or 22, pray. Start now.
Preserve and protect your role as wife. My young friend was placing her marriage in peril by refusing to be “wife” as well as “mom”. She runs the risk of looking across the breakfast table in 20 years at the man facing her and thinking, “What was your name? I haven’t called you anything but “dad” in years.” Take time together to invest in your life as a couple. Spend time as husband and wife, not just mom and dad. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is the example of a Godly marriage. They will seek to duplicate the success in their life that they witnessed in your home.
Prepare your heart for a new role. You may be the leader of the band right now, but get ready for a new song where you will play second fiddle. The music can be just as sweet. When you are willing to set aside your baton, you are honoring God and walking in obedience. I didn’t lose my sons, I gained three wonderful daughters. The boys did not necessarily “want a girl, just like the girl that married dear old dad.” We are four unique women, each with our own set of experiences, preferences, gifts and opinions. What we share is a love for Jesus and the desire to live life together successfully as a family. I already know they are smart girls–they think my boys are wonderful!
So what if you have daughters, not sons? The same principles are true. It’s natural to feel protective, and we must guard against being possessive. Our children are among the greatest gifts given to us by God. And when we invest our lives in them, preparing them to go, the return makes us rich indeed!