To the Mom of that little boy

Originally Appeared in : 9723-11/9/17

Oh hi there, mom of that boy. I see you there. And not because your kid just scaled the shelves at this giant store we’re both in. I see you trying to gently redirect, to encourage him, using your best “we’re in public” voice to tell him to climb down and behave and walk properly next to you as you push the cart.


And you, the mama trying to contain your small boys in the narthex of the church. I see you there, training those boys to behave, just a little, even though you feel like nothing you do is getting through. That no amount of threats or bribes is making one ounce of difference in redirecting your boys and their obsession with climbing up the side of the holy water font so they can each dip an entire hand inside. 


You, the lady having lunch with a friend whose daughter seems born to just sit there and eat that cheese dip while your son wants to smash all the chips and run out the front of the restaurant into the parking lot. 


I see you, moms with boys who are learning to behave in public, because I was once one of you.


Once upon a time, I was that mom. The one shopping at a really fine grocery store when one of my toddlers knocked over a display of red wine. I was the mom with a pack of boys who attracted stares because everything we did felt so over the top that no one could look away.


But here’s the thing – it’s not as bad as you think. I know that now, because I see you from this side. My toddlers are now big boys and now sit through Mass and don’t try to run away. We made it through, and you will too.


I spent too much time beating myself up as I worked to turn my boys into something they were not: civilized. That’s my job, of course, to help them become civilized. But the process of getting there can certainly be painful.


For too long I fretted and worried. And I compared myself to other moms whose sons seemed so advanced in the civility department, in the Land of Self-control. I looked at other families and knew they had it perfectly together, that no one struggled with what Paul and I were working on with our boys. 


And don’t get me started on seeing families with girls. I couldn’t even imagine what it was like to have a child who enjoyed getting dressed up and seemed to thrive on being in public and acting properly. What must that be like? My boys were just hell-bent on wresting free from my watchful gaze and getting lost. Or climbing shelves. 


But there is so much to love about your boy, sweet mama who is trying not to lose it. This fearless creature who is clearly not afraid to leave your side: He will one day seek adventure and be bold and daring and yes, cause some heart failure, but also just thrive in the beauty of this world.


It’s hard because these days we hear how boys and girls and men and women just aren’t all that different. But you, mama with the wild and crazy boy-child – you need to hear they are different. Because they are – boys and girls are both awesome, but different.


This boy of yours will grow up to be strong and brave and so much of what is driving you crazy right now, just trying to keep this child alive, will become a beautiful part of his love of adventure, his thirst for justice and truth. 


It’s all gonna be okay.


You are raising tomorrow’s men; keep your eyes on that prize. But don’t forget too, that those men start out as boys, little boys who run away from their mamas and don’t enjoy Mass and misbehave and get dirty. And it will drive you crazy and sometimes you might cry. 


But don’t stop trying – don’t give up, don’t give in. God knew what he was doing when he made your little boy. Don’t forget that.


Rachel Swenson Balducci is a freelance writer and member of Most Holy Trinity Church, Augusta. She can be reached at

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