1 Year Later Reflections: 25 Rules for Mothers of Sons

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It has been quite a strange year since originally posting my 25 Rules for Mothers of Sons post last November.  It was a post that (as I originally wrote) came out of the frustration of not finding a quick little list of ways that I could be there for my son at a moment that I was feeling very ill-equipped at responding to his energy and wildness.  Very quickly he went from learning to walk - to learning to run.  From being curious to being defiant.  From getting into some stuff to getting into everything (and usually destroying it along the way).  I was in a place last November in a little bit of a panic.  I grew up with all sisters and mostly all girl cousins.

I had little experience with boys to draw from outside of teaching 5-10 year olds.  I went on this massive book buying spree (while my husband shook his head) because I was afraid that I wasn't supporting my son's emotional growth, that my son was more violent/wild/unafraid/unfocused than other boys his age.  It was not a confident moment in my parenting.  So I read the books and took a very serious look at the men in my life that were examples of what I wanted my son to be.  And then I wrote the list, mostly for myself to look at when the hard days needed a focus I could cling to - to remind me to be grateful.

After writing the list, I pinned it myself (in November), nothing much happened - a few re-pins, but it was the same old blog traffic.  We made it through the December holidays and then when I woke up in the new year - I think it was Jan 2nd, I saw that my blog traffic was exponentially higher than it had ever been.  I woke my husband up at 7am and said, "Something weird is happening."  (which is a theme in our relationship and I say it at very important moments.)

The next two weeks were very distracting.  I watched as a my pageviews continued to increase, I was getting blog followers that were strangers (up until this point, most of my followers were family & friends), new comments were coming in by 8-9 at a time.  It was all very exciting and a little scary.  Most of the comments were amazing and supportive, but some of them were scathing and demeaning. I was asked countless times if it could be re-posted on other blogs (thank you all who asked first before posting), but many times I would google the phrase of my blog post and found it in places that had re-posted without every mentioning that I was the author (I have confronted them and they've happily updated, but I still find instances of this a year later).

There were times that I went to Brandon in tears when I was overwhelmed by the kindness of some readers' comments.  I had just put our son in timeout for the third time that day, all I wanted to do was get a glass of wine and sit quietly by myself, and I literally had a hole in the crotch of my mom pants.  Who was I to be dishing up motherhood advice?  And then there were other times when I went to Brandon in tears when I was overwhelmed by the hatefulness and judgement of some readers' comments.

Another strange thing that happened was with all the new readers, I had a moment of panic of all the pictures of my son on the blog where I wrote about him using his real name(!) - including pictures of my friends' kids and our family members - I didn't know if I needed to change my style to protect myself or protect the people I cared about.  (Luckily, I received a very kind and supportive return email from Sherry over at Young House Love telling me that I should keep doing what I'm doing with confidence).

Over the course of a year, I have not responded to any comments about the post because it has been too close to my heart - too personal.  This was a list about my son and I and who I wanted to be for him.  And there were strangers all over the world happy to take the liberty of speaking about it, reprinting it, accusing it, and praising it.

Alas, a year has gone by and I am ready to respond some of the most frequently asked/questioned/attacked topics that have come out of this post.

FAQ 25 Rules for Mothers of Sons:

Why did you specify this is for Mothers of sons when it applies to daughters too?
At the time I was writing it, I only had a son.  Since I was writing it for me, and writing it from looking at the qualities I valued in the men around me - it was a list for me as a mom of a boy.  Now having a daughter, I can see that many of the things I have listed here apply as things I want to do for my girl too, with maybe a few other things to add or change.  I am inspired by how many other 'boy moms' have reached out to say that my post spoke to them.  Whether you are a boy mom or a girl mom or a mom to both sons and daughters - thank you to those of you that could read it with an open-mind and connect it to your life in someway.

Will you write a similar list now that you have a daughter too?
My blog friend, Sarah over at Diapers & Daisies was inspired to write a 25 Rules for Mothers of Daughters list after she read my list for her own daughter.  You may have seen it on pinterest?  Her list tipped very shortly after mine and I still get blog traffic directed over from her site (hi, Sarah!)  I have been brainstorming a list for my daughter, but it has a different feel than my 25 Rules for Moms of Sons list.  Look for it to be posted in the new year.

Why do you assume that your son will be straight (with the mention of a wife at various points in the post)?  
I respect and celebrate the fact that my son will love whom ever he wants in the future.  Since he was only 17 months when I wrote the post (and still is very young today), most of the inspiration for the rules came from looking around at the men I respect in my life.  Mainly, my husband, my father, and my father in law. The wife I reference in the blog post in all instances are me.  The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship between my own mother and my grandma was awe-inspiring and the mother-in-law/daughter relationship I have is strong and respectful because both of our husbands' mothers exemplified these same 'rules.'  Since this is a list for Mothers....with sons - I wanted a way to look at what I was doing now so that in the future I might have the same type of relationship with my son's partner (female or male) that I have now with my mother-in-law.

Rules#6 & 7:  Why do you give gender stereotype adjectives to men and women? (strong & powerful men and beautiful women)?
I choose these words intentionally because that is what society has already dubbed us (historically at least).  I wanted to illustrate that when beaten down both strong & powerful are synonyms for beautiful.  And if society would allow it - men would be considered beautiful and women strong & powerful in many more instances.  Unfortunately when you see those words flipped in media - beautiful for a man usually means a certain kind of man; sexy, mysterious, strong features, etc.  Strong & powerful for a woman in the media is tight clothed, tight body, tight hair...hmm, I'm noticing a theme.  I wanted to breakdown the stereotypes to show at the heart of all the adjectives can be the same qualities of decency and morality.  Shout out to Andee who commented on my post at the Good Men Project and explained it to some of other confused readers - (thanks Andee!):

Why would you include Oprah in your list of beautiful women?
This one boggles my mind and is probably in the top 5 critiques of my list...why so many people got beef with Oprah?  Oprah made the list because she continues to persevere despite adversity and she comes up with these ideas that shape the minds of people towards kindness and giving.  She cares about education and uses her platform as a media mogul to bring injustices and usually uncomfortable topics to light.  She brings ideas to people.  I don't know if the issue with her is over her wealth, or her religious beliefs, or just plain jealousy that she is awesome, but if you don't know about her childhood sexual abuse and what she made of herself after what she went through - then you don't know Oprah, man.

Rule#8 Do you not think that adoptive mothers are superheros too?
This question has come up a few times and is unfortunate because it comes from reading too quickly.  Rule #8 says, "if you ever fear that you are somehow incapable of doing anything - remember this:  If you have done any of the following..."  That means any piece of anything else listed.  I mention two parts about being pregnant and giving birth (which I do believe are heroic) but the rest is about raising children in an capacity.  My viewpoint about women = superheros actually encompasses many versions of us as women - adoptive mothers (especially!), aunts, teachers, grandmas - bottom line:  anyone who helps to raise children with patience, respect, and love - all superheroes.

Rule #10.  Give him something to believe in
Oh, how people ate this one and chewed it up.  I wish there was a filter I could do on the comments to pull out those that have spoken about Rule #10 just to show the wide breadth of what people believe I should have said/meant/included.  The comments on this one ranges from aliens to Jesus.  From brainwashing to Bible thumping.  I choose the phrase, 'something to believe in' with intention.  I want my son to grow up believing in many things; I recognize he might change his mind or stubble or go astray over the course of his life and challenges.  But I don't ever want him to stop believing in something - that is where our hope lies.  In the belief of something steady and constant.  Whatever that might be, I want to make sure he holds on to that hope.

Shout out to Julie who made me smile and cyber high five her for comment in response to other readers (thanks for having my back, Julie!  -wherever and whoever you might be):

Rule #20 Let his dad teach him how to do things...without interrupting about how to do it the 'right way'
So many people responded that this rule was their favorite - these were the people that read this 'rule' just as I had written it.  Because as a typeA mom who spends significantly more time with our kids than my husband (who works away from our home), I, personally, have a hard time thinking that any way other than the way I do things is the right way.  I recognize this as my own flaw and I have to stop my trap from flying open when when I hear my husband reading the Monster book without any voices for different characters.

So many people also responded that they thought this rule was ridiculous - that it was proof I had no respect for my children's father - that I was assuming I think all kids have a relationship with their dad...etc.  I understand that many of these people didn't understand what I was trying to say, or had bitterness in their heart and couldn't bend the rule to fit their family.  And that is fine.  But something about the accusations which hinted that I don't have respect for our kids' dad, my Bud; probably hurt the worst of all the negative comments.  I spoke to Brandon about it and his response was, "Tab, those people know nothing about the person you are outside of this one post-  It doesn't matter what they think anyway - I know how you feel."

Since my 25 Rules for Mothers of Sons tipping point, some cool things have happened and some bizarre things have happened.  Here's some examples if anyone is interested in connecting the dots of the life of my blogpost over the course of the last year:

  • I was introduced to The Good Men Project website when they asked if they could re-print my 25 Rules for Moms of Sons blogpost.  My post is viewed over 10K+ times almost weekly over there since they originally ran it in April.  The Good Men Project has become one of my favorite websites and I stop by regularly to read their fascinating articles about men and what it means to be a 'good man' in today's world.  Like them on facebook!  (They didn't tell me to tell you that - I'm just telling you that because it's a good idea)
  • One of the craziest discoveries (totally by chance) was that my blogpost was discussed on a podcast by the The Mom Podcast group in September and is free to download off of iTunes.


  • If you google search the exact title of my blogpost "25 Rules for Mother of Sons" my original blogpost isn't the first to show up anymore.  It's not even listed on the first page!  (Very big thank you though to those listed in the top slots that give me credit as the author.)

  • My original pin that I placed on Pinterest after writing the blogpost in November 2011 that started out as being re-pinned 3 times, has now been re-pinned 1644 times.  And I snagged 1000+ followers on pinterest after tipping.  (Hello, pinners! thanks for hanging around!)  My blog is still mostly pinned for my 25 Rules for MoS - but some of my other posts are making their way to pinterest - very exciting and humbling.

  • My friends and family have randomly been contacting me over the last year to let them know they found out about my blogpost from facebook or pinterest or from a friend.  It has been so fun and unbelievable to hear from people in my life reaching out to let me know that they support me and to share their stories.  

Even though it has been quite a wild and interesting ride - there are moments that stand out to me as truly the defining moments of my journey as a writer:

The countless people who commented to say that my list had affected them (many to tears).
The readers that told me that they found my list on exactly the day they needed to because they were having a hard day/at their wits end with boy energy/feeling not as grateful as they hoped for the crazy.
The mothers who emailed and told me that they found this list because they received it from their son with a note that said, "thanks Mom, you did all of these things."

And especially this comment from Marcy (wherever and whoever you might be).  I may never receive a greater compliment about my writing in my life.  And for that I am honored and so deeply humbled.

At the end of the line, for me, the greatest of all prides in this journey of my blogpost (that went from our silly little family blog - to making its way around the internet and has been read millions of times):  it is that it grew from inspiration from a boy.  my boy.   I have printed all of the comments from my post to add to his baby book with this note:  Because of your life and the inspiration you have given my heart that spoke to my brain and moved my fingers - you have inspired moms and their sons around the world, my sweet darling. You are a history maker.  I love you forever and ever - thank you for the inspiration everyday.

And as a side note about my blog in general:
Why don't you respond to comments or emails (no one has ever actually asked me this directly, but I imagine you might be thinking this)?
Writing for the blog is something that I do in the time that I can squeeze between my full time job, cleaning the house, making time to be a wife, and full time mom'ing.  Sometimes I can't even get it together enough to write the blog and take totally unannounced 2 week long blogcations.  I feel immense guilt in my horrible respond time to emails and blog comments.  I am truly sorry for that.  But...I am so happy and honored to hear from my readers.  Thank you for following, thank you for emailing and commenting.  Thank you for caring enough about what is happening in our silly, happy life enough to stop by and read.  I am grateful for you and I don't say it enough.


  1. Such a great recap on your post. I still to this day go back and look at the rules, just to keep my head in the game. I am one of those bloggers who just adored your post and shared it with my viewer's (with loads of credit to you). Can't wait to see what else you have in store!

  2. I came across your blog via your 25 Rules for MoS while I was pregnant with my first boy and immediately started following your blog. Of course I cried while reading the list - specifically because it encompassed all of my hopes and dreams for my own soon-to-be relationship with my son. I definitely keep your original list in the back of my mind and have applied it to my own little family now. I am still following your blog (one of my favs!)and just wanted to let you know that your posts are so very inspiring and you're awesome!

  3. Your post the original was so amazing. I dont feel a follow up was needed. Having a 1 year old boy myself I hope to live up to each of the rules for him!! Thank you so very much for sharing this personal reflection with us

  4. Great blog, and I love the list. I am a new mom to a 6 month baby boy, and a step mom to two boys under age 6. I take every bit of knowledge with gratitude on learning to be the best boy-mom that I can be. The sweetness and authenticity of your blog is quite clear...keep writing!

  5. I read the original post just today, and had to read your follow up immediately! I am blessed to be the mom of three boys and two girls. They are all teenagers and out of the house, or nearly so. I think I may send my boys the link to this blog post. Maybe then they will understand why I do much of what I do! I enjoyed every rule--and nodded and smiled as I read each of them. Thanks for your beautiful writing. Enjoy your boy...and your girl.

  6. I just want to say thank you so much for writing this list. When I 1st saw it, I only had 1 son. Now I have 3 and I still live by these rules. I never read more into it than what you wrote and I applaud you for your FAQs on the original post. Some people go way to deep into something when it's not that serious and just ideas to make people think. Now I'm off to build a pillow fort with my boys. Thanks again!