I recently came across a friend at my son’s school sports fields.
It was around midday and she was in a rush to begin preparations for her daughter’s semi-formal – some six hours away.
‘The beautification is about to begin,’ she smiled as she hurried past. I was rushing in the other direction, with my own beautification crisis.
My son’s mouth had just been torn open in a rugby tackle, and he was being treated in the medical room. Pretty was not a word to describe him as he sat, in shock, spitting blood, looking like The Joker.
Thankfully a wonderful plastic surgeon was able to repair him, but the ordeal pretty much summed things up for me.
I know that girls get injured, too. I see them on my regular round of physiotherapy and specialist appointments. Girls have their share of freakish accidents – one girl I know dislocated her knee rehearsing for a play, while another impaled her leg on a cello.
And there are boys who put effort into their appearance, too. It doesn’t happen a lot in our house, but I’m sure it happens.
But things can get pretty lopsided.
I spend my life neck-deep in stinky, noisy, dangerous boys’ stuff. I can only look on longingly at the parade of beautiful girls all dressed up and ready for their big events – their pictures plastered all over social media.
Recent research suggests this has an impact on a mother’s attitudes and behaviour. According to the survey, mothers of girls are more likely to be security conscious, enjoy grocery shopping and want to lose weight. Mothers of boys are more likely to use force, be a leader and be complimented for their cooking.
I can’t say those findings ring true for me. I am rarely complimented on my cooking, not sure that I possess any special leadership qualities, and don’t have much of an opportunity for force these days. My older son is substantially taller than me and likes to test his strength (and my patience) by putting me over his shoulder – WWE wrestling style. But the demands of children of only one gender certainly have an impact.
In my house, sport dominates everything, and for much of the year all spare moments are consumed by rugby. I’ve learned to adapt.
I’ve spent so much time on sidelines over the past 10 years that I know the rules of rugby. I even understand what boys get out of the game, and mostly I like watching it. Obviously, not so much when I see blood pouring from my son’s face.
When you’re surrounded by males, it’s inevitable that some things are going to rub off. I think I have developed a better sense of humour from hanging out with boys. I am more tolerant of noise and wrestling, and much more competitive than I ever was.
I no longer try to console my sons after a sporting loss with the words — ‘it’s only a game,’ or ‘as long as you had fun.’
Losing, I have discovered, is not fun at all. A losing streak is even worse – really grim for boys who take their sport seriously, and just as painful for their mothers!
A friend has just joined the mothers of boys’ tribe. Her daughters have left on a gap year, leaving her with just a son at home. She admits that her personal grooming has declined since the departure of her daughters – no one to frown when her legs need a wax.
But she’s embracing the change. She and her husband fearlessly took 20 boys to a restaurant, which featured a buffet dessert bar. It had a predictable ending – a spectacular, public food fight!
Welcome to the tribe, girlfriend.
There are two things that I’ve learned from being a mother of only boys. To avoid being a very lonely mother, it is essential to take an interest in the things your sons love.
It doesn’t mean you give up on your own passions. I periodically drag my children to art exhibitions and am always surprised – firstly at how much they complain, and then how much they actually retain from the experience.
But I rarely miss one of their games. I love to share their highs and lows, and sport is the one thing they are happy to talk about!
The other way to avoid being a lonely mother of boys is to cultivate like-minded girlfriends. They are an essential antidote to the male world and have saved me many times when I have been lost in a fog of testosterone.
As one friend puts it – choose friends who you would want beside you in the trenches – strong, loyal and dependable. I add to that, foster friendships with women who can make you laugh.
You’ll need a good laugh as much as anything!