I spend roughly eight hours a day with teenagers. Most days of the year. For ten years. As a high school teacher I have watched many young people grow and mature. The majority have been blessings, but some have been challenges. I have also endured the students that remained, dare I say it, immature. Over the years I have had some moments in which I saw young men, 17 and 18 years old, portray chauvinism, racism, superiority, and entitlement. Not my favorite days. But, on the other hand, I have taught some young men that I proudly have said, “I hope that one day my sons can be like him.”
Because of these experiences, I frequently consider what type of young men my sons will become, what kind of brothers they will be. Today each of them are precocious and precious, and man, do I want them to stay that way.
Rough and tumble. Loud and proud. All boy. These are just a few phrases that people toss around in describing my sons. They’re strong. They’re active. They’re smart. They’re silly. Oh, are they silly. My boys are four and nearly two. Nowhere near high school. I understand that, but I believe that the decisions I make every day and the values we instill as parents now directly mold and shape their little personalities and value systems. Is that too much pressure to put on ourselves as fallible parents? Maybe. But with all my heart I want to do everything I can to raise them to be the kinds of boys that their future teachers will compliment and say, “I want my sons to be like those Holden boys.”
So what does that look like? What is my vision for my sons? I think it is so important that we, as mothers, pause and ask ourselves that question, for our sons and our daughters. Of course, many of us, if polled, would answer that we want our children to be happy, to follow their dreams, to know that they’re loved, and other good wishes. I agree that those things are important, but utmost on my list, next to their faith in God, are the following hopes and desires.
I want my sons to:
1. Be open minded with open hearts.
My vision is that my boys will be open to others and open to new experiences and cultures. The narrow-minded lead lives of bleakness that never quite blossom into the beauty God intended. I want abundance for my sons, abundance in understanding and abundance in love.
2. Have empathy. Loads of it.
I want them to consider others and their journeys. Because just like so many other things, Atticus Finch was right when he said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Thanks, Harper Lee. I may just get my sons to read To Kill a Mockingbird every year.
3. Be strong. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Strength can manifest in many ways, but I want my sons’ strength to include definitive purpose and confidence and faith that will not be easily shaken. Oh, and I want their spiritual muscles to be just as big as their biceps, which will hopefully be busting out of their shirtsleeves. Or not, but being honest, I hope they can lift.
4. Be respectful. Of everyone.
I mean, really, how desperately is this needed today? To consider others before yourself and treat each person with respect—two things I stress daily with my oldest son. To brag on my husband for a minute: when we were first dating, we saw a friend’s band at the Varsity. On our way back to our car, we crossed paths with an older homeless man. My husband blew me away in that one moment. He made eye contact, shook hands, and gave his full attention to this questionable stranger. He listened to that man intently and showed him respect, even deference. I pray that his sons will do exactly the same one day.
5. Be curious, life-long learners.
So, admittedly, I am a pretty big nerd, always have been. I don’t, however, require my sons to be just like me in that sense, but I do want them to love learning, have an insatiable desire for knowledge and an unquenchable curiosity that propels them to discover. I want them to be sponges when it comes to new information. And, y’all, I seriously want them to love to read.
6. Be fervent supporters of girls and women.
Yes, I want them to be gentlemen, polite and chivalrous, but my hopes for their treatment of girls and women goes beyond that. I want them to be ardent supporters for girls to succeed, for girls to be treated fairly, for girls to be championed for their successes. I want them to see their female classmates and friends as their equals, but with maybe a little more grace and beauty. Though I’m sure they will admire girls that are attractive, my hope is that they will never objectify them. This is a big deal.
7. Be unique and funny and charismatic and charming.
I just love their unique little personalities now, and I don’t ever want to see them quenched or suppressed. I want them to be fearless when it comes to the crowd. I want them to be assertive about their individuality and understand that their identity does not lie in the opinions of their peers.
8. Be humble.
I want them to have teachable spirits. I hope they will receive correction well. My sons already display pretty strong wills, and neither of them like to be corrected, but I hope that with plenty of discipline delivered with love that they will respond with grace and understanding. Being coachable is such a huge benefit in life.
9. Be each other’s biggest fans.
Finally, I want them to be great brothers to one another. I know that they will tussle from time to time (every day), but I hope above all they will be each other’s best friends. I want them to share with each other and encourage each other and cheer for each other. I hope that many years down the road they will spend time together by their own choice and consider one another to be their closest allies.
This may be a lofty list, but I dream big. I hope to see these traits develop, and I hope that my husband and I can foster them within their hearts.