Boys Cry, Too: My Mission to Raise Helpful, Capable, & Supportive Sons

Five boys. My husband and I grossly underestimated the commitment level of parenting when we decided to have five children, especially all boys. 

Many days, our home is filled with wrestling matches, verbal arguments that lead to some sort of physical altercation, and helplessness of needing more food prepared. My boys are very “boy” oriented. They are hardwired just like one would expect, but they still have a lot of feelings and cry sometimes, too.

Until recently, I struggled with what it meant to raise an entire household of human beings who share half of my DNA, but are a different gender. When the decision was made that our family was complete, I wanted to know my purpose outside of the baby stage. I was put in charge of these boys that are SO different than me, but why?

“Be a Man”

There are situations where my boys were expected to “suck it up” and “be a man,” when I felt their feelings were being disregarded because of their gender. Even inside our home, I realized how much we were lacking when it came fostering and cultivating their feelings. I was also put into the traditional category of “an emotional woman” and judged for my own sensitivity.

But what could all of this mean long-term? Could I be setting them up for future emotional struggles or worse, failure by assuming toughness should trump feelings?

Bottom line: boys cry and have feelings and one day they may find partners who have feelings, too. How terrible would it be it be if they were incapable of vulnerability, lacked emotional depth (sound familiar yet?), or even worse–needed a second mother instead of a true partner to clean up their lack of emotional development?

I realized the privilege and gift I had been given, and I defined my purpose and restructured my approach. My boy mama mission is to raise capable, helpful, and supportive sons. 

I know parenting sons that align with this mission will take lots of time, mistakes and effort, but I came up with a few strategies to start small. I decided to first build awareness around feelings, and added in some life skill projects to help. 

Name Your Emotions

First, we began to assign many different words to emotions. My boys found other definitions besides mad, sad, and happy. We used words like cheated, confused, and disappointed to describe feelings about school closings and distance learning. We also used words like predictable, grateful, comforting, and challenging to describe waking up healthy and being all together each day. This has made my oldest boy (10) not only expand his vocabulary but also understand that emotions have a spectrum and we don’t have to jump to just a select few emotions for each situation. They learn how their own emotions have a wide spectrum, and can begin understand how others do as well.

Feel Your Emotions

One of the most important things for me is to have the boys understand that you will feel emotions, especially when you are let down. Feeling sadness is temporary and does not define us; it is not an emotion that should rule our lives, but is an emotion to acknowledge and give space to. We should never force children to be emotional, but we should give them a safe space and strategy to feel emotions that crop up. Depending on each child this can look very different. 

It’s OK to Cry

Tears do not define toughness or gender. To reinforce this point, we stopped allowing descriptions of weakness to be tied to emotions of sadness–especially tears. My boys know that calling someone a “girl,” “baby,” or “wimp,” will not be tolerated. We are teaching them that people cry from fear, sensitivity, relief, overwhelm, and elation, but not because they are weak. 

Teach Life Skills to Foster Responsibility

Teaching different life skills has also been another great way I have cultivated the helpful and supportive characteristics in my boys. Born out of my frustration of folding endless mountains of laundry, my older two boys (10 & 7) started have focused on this in the last few weeks. Now, just about every other day they are expected to fold and put their laundry away. A few other ideas we have put to use are:

  • Cashing checks at the bank
  • Cleaning bathrooms (no more poor aiming!)
  • Caring for younger siblings
  • Cooking / baking
  • Writing a grocery list
  • Writing thank you notes and letters to people they miss

My goal is to teach my boys to be comfortable helping in any circumstance, especially outside historical gender norms. I want them to be comfortable expressing the joy, comfort, and love others bring to their lives through acts of service and emotional attachment.

One day when I send each of my boys off into the word I want them to feel empowered to care for themselves, resilient to the tough experiences in their lives, and aware of their own and others’ emotions. Strong men are created through boys who are raised through empathy and caring for others.

I want my boys raised to be strong partners, friends, and employees. 

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Alexis is happily married to her husband, Andrew, and together they share 5 sons. Born in Minnesota, Alexis followed her husband to Manhattan, NY, before returning to Fargo. A proud Latina, she believes in utilizing multi-cultural experiences to inspire other minority women to be active in their community. Alexis believes strongly in public service and living passionately through serving others. After her 3rd son, Max, passed away at 22 weeks (2014) life has never been the same, but sharing her story has helped cope with grief and honor his place in their family. Aside from writing, Alexis enjoys traveling, laughing, dancing and food. She will never turn down Starbucks, a trip to the nail salon, or the farmers market. Follow her in pictures through Instagram and connect with her online via Facebook.


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