Motherhood

21 Completely Subjective Rules for Raising Teenage Boys

Hannah Mas

Catherine Newman has two children, Ben and Birdy. This fall, Ben left the nest for college, so we thought it was the perfect time to hit her up for advice. Sometimes I worry about losing the connection with my funny, vulnerable little boys as they get older, and, when I mentioned this to Catherine, she replied: “It will be just the way it is now, only they’ll be sweet-hearted young men, and you will feel very short.” Here, she shares 21 completely subjective rules for raising teenage boys…


I hadn’t realized that raising a teenaged boy would involve all the tenderness of a violin spilling out a persistent heartbreaking melody in the background — and also, of course, all the crash-banging of a drum set. But it’s both things all the time. And, come to think of it, that’s true of raising a teenage girl, too, a scenario to which most of these rules also apply. The main rule, which you already know, is to love these big kids fiercely and excessively.

1. Teach them to respect women. Not in the pretty-object-on-a-pedestal way of things and art; in the way of real, human equals with a right to their self-determination, intelligence and space on the subway.

2. Enjoy the same funny conversations you’ve always had, especially while walking in the woods or cuddled on the couch. “If it were for charity, how many pieces of buttered rye toast do you think you could eat?” he might ask, and then look aghast when you say ten. “What? Twenty at least.”

3. Love them for sleeping late. The only other option is to not love them for sleeping late, since the sleeping late is itself a given. They’re creating many inches of new human flesh a day, and it’s exhausting! (Remember pregnancy?) When they stagger out at 2 p.m. with their man-sized arms and legs and their sleep-creased baby faces, you can just say, “Did you have a good sleep, my love?” instead of “Good AFTERNOON,” like all of our own passive-aggressive parents did. And you might be treated to a languid smile, a comfortable stretch, and the simple pleasure of the words, “I did.”

4. Be kind to your child, even if it seems like he doesn’t notice or care. He does. Treat him to donuts, to barbecue, to a big smile, a cup of tea, the benefit of the doubt. When he lies down in your bed to be near you and the cats, you can go ahead and keep reading your book — the cats are purring enough for all of you — but it’s okay to brim with joy.

5. Prepare for cranky questions to emanate from the open fridge: “Is the ham all gone?” “Wasn’t there leftover steak?” Answer with your sunny good nature. “It is!” “You ate it!” Remind your son that he is welcome to restock the fridge.

6. Familiarize yourself with the expression “second dinner,” and buy lots of Trader Joe’s frozen entrees for hungry nighttime foragers.

7. Enjoy the beautiful, gentle, funny boy who says deadpan things like, “Same,” to make you laugh after you muse aloud that perimenopause is killing you.

8. Be trustworthy. Be respectful. If they turn to you with something bad or hard, the first message should be, “I’m so glad you told me.” The second message should be, “How can I help?”

9. Whether they’re dating boys or girls or nobody, talk to them about consent — watch the British PSA video “Tea and Consent” together as a jumping-off point — and then, if they’re having sex, give them space and room for it. Because, despite whatever fun you may have had behind the bleachers or in somebody’s parked car, hurried sex tends to be bad and potentially unsafe sex.

10. Assuming you actually want your son to join you, whatever it is you’re doing, the answer to the question, “Is it okay if my friends come with us?” is always yes. Also, because you will remember when he was too shy to invite people over.

11. Relatedly, keep around plenty of games and musical instruments (Catan, Kan Jam, a couple of ukuleles) to give the kids lots of fun things to fill their time with besides the kinds of fun things that you might be less excited about.

12. Preserve your teenager’s dignity. If products like acne wash or deodorant seem called for, these things can be unobtrusively purchased and encouragingly left out. Relatedly, the things you used to do with the bathroom door open? Shaving your leg with a foot in the sink, yanking up your tights, tweezing your beard hairs? Go ahead and close the door. Or prepare to witness comedic horror-movie type horror when your son passes by on his way to the cold cuts.

13. For everybody’s sake, knock before entering. In fact, maybe even, like, bang a gong outside the door before you get near enough to knock.

14. Take a picture of the heap of gigantic shoes by your front door because one day they will not be there and you will want to tearfully reminisce.

15. Teach them the important life skills: How to send a thank-you note. How to listen and ask questions. How to walk into a kitchen and say, “Put me to work.” How to call their representatives about an important issue. How to clean a bathroom, do a load of laundry, scramble an egg. How to sit patiently on the sofa between their two grandparents with their two new iPhones, nodding slowly and saying, “Here, let me show you,” when the grandparents are convinced the Google has gone missing.

16. Substance wise, consider moderation over prohibition. That said, if you make one rule, let it be this: “Don’t ever try meth, crack cocaine, or heroin. Ever, ever, ever.” Explain the way these drugs permanently mess up your dopamine receptors (if you need to learn about that first yourself, do).

17. Pick your battles. Personal style is a pretty low-stakes form of self-actualization; if the way they wear their hair or jeans (hello, bum crack!) is not your very favorite, complain about it to a friend.

18. One night it will be late and they will be out with the car and you will hear the far-off sirens of emergency vehicles. Be still your beating heart.

19. Pretend you’re just tying your shoe so they won’t notice you leaning in to sniff the still-intoxicating smell of their scalp.

20. Lying in bed at night, scanning around to check for various dangers and unhappinesses, you will mentally find your son safe in his bed, in his room, in your house. And you will remember to be so, so grateful. Because one day you will buy him a memory foam mattress topper and a set of twin XL sheets and, poof, he will leave behind a heartbreaking boy-shaped hole.

21. Wherever they go, physically or emotionally, understand that they’ll come back to you. And when they do, go ahead and fling your mama arms — your mama heart! — wide open. Wide, wide open.

What would you add?


Catherine Newman is the author of, most recently, Catastrophic Happiness and One Mixed-up Night, a YA novel. You can find her at Ben and Birdy.

P.S. Five ways to teach kids about consent, and 21 completely subjective rules for raising teenage girls.

(Photo by Hannah Henderson.)

  1. this is so sweet. i don’t have kids but when i realized how heart-wrenching it must be for parents when their kids grow up and think they no longer need them i started to understand and get along with my mom soooo much better. I recently read “Goodbye, Vitamin” and it was sweet, funny and heart breaking. The best passages were parts of a journal log the father of the protagonist had kept and it captured parenthood/childhood in such a sweet way. Parents are superheroes and I highly recommend the book – it’s a short, quick read

  2. Caitlin says...

    My son only just turned a year old, but I love this list so much! My little sister is a decade younger than me and just started at college. Watching my Mom transition into the empty-nester phase of life as I’m entering motherhood has really made me starkly aware of just how quickly my son’s childhood is going to go by.

    Almost every day I think about how it seems like just last year that my sister was a tiny 8 year-old helping me move into my college dorm. It also really keeps in perspective baby problems that seem insermountable. Baby problems are just that simple & temporary and with bigger kids come bigger problems that I won’t always be able to help with.

  3. Angy says...

    Oh my soul. Such heart warming words of wisdom.
    My lad (my hero, my friend, my miracle boy) is now a whopping 6ft4, size 15 shoe, fuzz shaving, pizza scoffing, music loving gentleman. We marvel at our journey.

    A while ago I wrote this and shared it on my Instagram . . .

    I’m in a restaurant staring at the nape of my son’s neck.
    He’s chatting with animated hands, and I can smell his aftershave; as he lifts his arms to fully express a thought.
    I’m completely overwhelmed by the time that has passed since I first understood that I was mother to a soul.
    I’m smiling and nodding but I don’t actually hear a word he says.
    All I can think of are his first pair of socks. The size, the colour and my now burgeoning regret at losing them in a park.
    I catapult forward to the ugly couch. A green polyester raft that we sailed every evening with a book – or three.
    A mutual favourite – HG Wells “The Time Machine”
    His impossibly small hand gripping tightly every time a Morlock appeared.
    I’m back at the table.
    I re-enter the conversation but not before stealing a quick glance back at the boy who built his own time machine.
    I’d like to yell out “Wait! I’m coming too!” But it only seats one. Xx

  4. You got me ugly crying this morning 😭

    Just sent my youngest to college this past August. Bought queen beds for the apartment he shares with his older brother. Miss them like crazy ❤️

  5. Elizabeth says...

    Reading this while nursing my 2-week-old son. Crying. Thank you <3

  6. Deep sobbing tears. Sharing this with many mommies.

  7. Cassie says...

    Sobbing! Why do they grow so quickly? 😭

  8. My fiancé and I are getting married this upcoming June, and amongst our many talks about the wedding, somehow these small, sweet conversations about raising a family have also started to slip in. We stay up late, holding hands and talking to each other in the dark: What florals should we have? Cake or donuts? How do we raise children that are passionate about changing the world? What were your favorite childhood memories and how do we recreate those feelings for our own children? Have you emailed the wedding planner recently? I can’t wait, amongst emails and kisses, to read him this post tonight. xx

  9. M. says...

    All the tears. I just sent my oldest off to college this year and the baby boy is entering ‘teenagehood” and this list is everything. I often find myself sneaking sniffs of his still baby almost teen boy smell and smile a bit as I trip over shoes at the door especially at Thanksgiving when the size 12 college shoes made an appearance. This time around its easier to appreciate daily pick ups and drop offs, endless basketball games and school concerts. I listen as he drops tidbits of how his day actually was and giggle as the room fills with the smell of cologne on school dance nights. I cherish the opportunities to provide life lessons- call (dont text) Mr/Mrs XXX, make eye contact, follow up with a thank you note, apologize face to face and sincerely. Yup, this list is everything.

  10. Gail says...

    This is beautiful. Thank you. It applies more or less equally to my 4 year-old, and I am grateful for the concise reminder. I plan to print this and out it beside my bed. Or better, tape it to his forehead.

  11. Kate L. says...

    Oh this is so beautiful and I am so grateful for the reminders. I have two little girls and I felt like all the advice applied for them as well – lots and lots of kindness, understanding, acceptance, and unconditional love. Thank you for such a beautiful post.

  12. Kylie says...

    Earlier this week I was feeling lonely in that way that, for me, feels very specific to this “new motherhood” stage of life I’m in. I was craving the kind of honesty and tale swapping that having only lived in this city for a year, I haven’t been able to find in my friendships (yet! I have hope). Lightbulb moment! Books! I quickly punched parenting books into the search bar of cup of jo, scanned some titles and had checked an ebook out from my library and was happily reading in five minutes. I can’t explain how perfect the book was, it felt like someone holding up a mirror to my own experiences, saying “you are not the only one,” which was exactly what I needed. What booked did I choose? Waiting for Birdy: A Year of Frantic Tedium, Neurotic Angst, and the Wild Magic of Growing a Family, by Catherine Newman. And what blog post did I happen to open shortly after I finished? This very one, in a magical, full circle, no your sweet boy can’t be a teenager, I left his three year old observations behind not even an hour ago. The book was beautiful, this list is beautful, thank you for the magic this week.

  13. Katie says...

    Made me tear up. All true. Thank you (:

  14. Leni says...

    My son is not even two years old yet but the sirens in the distance one actually made my heart skip a beat. I honestly can’t imagine having him out in the world all alone… in a car!?! How does one handle it? (and now I shudder to think of what I put my parents through).

  15. Li says...

    Dont have any kids yet, but this still made me tear up in my work desk.

    • Katie says...

      SAME

  16. Twenty-nine year old hopeful-mother-down-the-line here feeling so intensely the liminal space between between being a kid and wanting a kid. I loved reading this as the days of watching my older brothers navigate their growth and transitions with my own mother are not too far in the distant past. I always felt her longing for the days to slow down, to leave more room to take it in amidst the hectic life of four kids and three jobs and the world to save.

    I remember reading an excerpt by Anne Lamott recently in which she described her teenage son, having finally surpassed her in height one day by an inch. Upon taking notice, he patted her on the head and said something along the lines of, “You’re like a little elf to me now.” I hope one day I get to experience that sense of humor from my kid.

  17. Amy says...

    My son will be 13 in less than a month, so this came at the perfect time. Some of these things have started, and I know the others are on their way. He’s taller than me now and I look up at him everyday in wonder. His face is still the baby I remember, and his heart is showing me the man he will become. I am so grateful to be along for that journey.

  18. Chelsea says...

    This is so beautiful and funny and human and thank you so much Catherine.

  19. Vale Cervarich says...

    Oh Jeez!!! so excellent, I have no words. Thank you for this. Keeping this.

  20. Breanna says...

    I have a newly 4 year old son. We are going through a crazy moment, and you just gave me a calm in our current storm. Thank you.

  21. courtney says...

    gahhhhhhh – there should be a warning
    DO NOT READ THIS AT WORK – UGLY TEARS WILL FOLLOW
    this was such a good list as I teeter on the ledge of little kiddo and soon to be tween / teen with a 10 year old
    I loved every bit of this

  22. Madison says...

    I do not have children, nor do I plan to have them in the near future, but I am holding back tears reading this nonetheless. It makes me think of my brother and my mother. Beautiful writing, thank you for sharing.

  23. Liz says...

    I love this!! Catherine is such an extraordinary writer, please feature her again soon! I’m so nostalgic, I remember when Ben was 5! Why do they grow up so fast?

  24. Carol says...

    Oh, made me cry. So true, all of it, as I can attest first hand having gone through, and still going through it all, with my 19 year old baby. Enjoy every minute.

  25. Rosie says...

    I am literally crying, and my sons are only 6 and 2. SUCH good writing, straight to the heart!

  26. Judy says...

    This is just so beautiful. Thank you.

  27. Jill says...

    Mom of a 2 year old boy and dreams of having another here. Tears over this future truth and the weight of enjoying the pile of shoes by the door. Thankful for this beautiful recognition!

  28. Lori says...

    I can only add one thing: take a few minutes to stop and listen or look when he has something to show you or tell you—a song on the guitar, a poem, a big something he’s built in the garage—no matter how much of a hurry you’re in. And especially if it’s too late, you’re tired and in bed, and he wants to talk about how much he loves the way his girlfriend thinks…take the time. My son is 15 and we both take joy in the way he towers over me now. Still so many hugs, still so much connection. Thank you for this post!!

  29. Susan M. says...

    Kindness with #4 : Yaaaasss! And already with my 8-year-old — the “second dinner” is taking form with a much needed after dinner snack of cheese before doing teeth and winding down. Incredibly growing!

  30. Meg says...

    so lovely, so, so, so, so LOVELY.

    thank you!!

  31. Lauren says...

    I called my mother as i do every morning on my way to work. Yesterday morning was my birthday, and my mother said to hold on, she needed to find my dad, and they proceeded to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. I had read this essay the evening before, so although they sing to me (and my brothers as well as their grandchildren) every year, I listened to it through a different lens—I imagined them as very young parents, having their first child, and how they must have felt on that day 54 years ago. I had to hold back the tears as they serenaded me.

    • Tracy says...

      Oh man, this made me cry! Such a thoughtful reframe, Lauren.

  32. Kath says...

    I have two little boys and one unknown (probably another boy) on the way. Crying. My boys are 2.5 and 15 months and man do they test me every second. Thanks for the reminder how fleeting it all is and how it’s all a season. So well written and appreciated.

  33. Tracy says...

    I am not a parent, but I am a school counselor at an all-boys 7-12 school, and I love it almost every single day.

    If I could add one thing it would be this: let them cry, and normalize the crying. Whether they are stressed, or anxious, or pissed off at a friend (or you! or themselves!) – if the tears come, let them. Just push a box of tissues so they are within his reach and then (and this is the hard part), be silent. Let them cry, sniffle, sob, realize they don’t know how to use tissues properly. You don’t need to thank them for opening up or exclaim because they are showing emotion it’s your presence – before, during and after – that makes them feel comfortable with their tears.

  34. My son has been at the University of Michigan for three years now and his five siblings will eventually grow up as fast as he is. I know that the longest years are from 1-6 and are followed by the shortest. It flies by. So: make room on your lap for his 6’2″ self to lean into you; remember that even though it seems like it will never ever happen, the 8-year-old will be gone in a flash too; when your kids come home feed them, stuff grocery bags full of food for them to take back, light the candles, keep the same rhythms you have always kept. You will realize they are grateful for all it when they send you a text thanking you for making a cozy and welcoming space. And you will realize that is high and holy work and you will feel like in spite of the mess you have made of so many days, you must have done something right because your children are people you want to spend an evening with, and that is a lovely realization.

    • Kim says...

      Yes!!!! Beautifully said!!!!

  35. Michelle says...

    Mom of three little boys here and my heart can barely take this! What a lovely article.

  36. Stacy says...

    Such good guidelines! The only one I would add is to let your teenager, and all his/her friends, that you will come get them from an uncomfortable situation (date, party, etc.) at any time, no questions asked. Two of my daughter’s friends took me up on this.

    • Hannah says...

      We had this rule, too. I took my dad up on it once and I’m still so grateful he got me so quickly, and never to this day asked me any questions about it.

  37. t says...

    Random(ish) question: when talking to our daughters how do you navigate both trying to make them realize they are beautiful but also not stressing the value of appearance?

    I was never given accolades for my looks and my parents didn’t put value on appearances but I saw that the rest of the world did so without that confidence in my appearance I felt less than.

    • Mallory says...

      I had a similar experience and have the same concern. Right now with my girls (5 and 2) we talk about what their bodies can do (wow, look how fast you run, your legs are so strong, look how far your arms can reach, you can skip a bar on the monkey bars, etc.) I’m not really sure if/how I go past that? Also they hear all the time from family/strangers how cute they are, which I’m also not sure how to navigate!

    • Agnes says...

      I was a fairly normal looking child but since my mom’s mom told her she was ugly, my mom told me all the time that I was beautiful. Now I look in the mirror and know I’m no Claudia Schiffer, but I feel beautiful, probably more than I really am. And no, it’s not what I base my worth on – I have a meaningful career, I’m aging gracefully and it’s fine. I’m glad she gave me that and wish she could have had it herself.

  38. Darrah Blanton says...

    Thank you for this. It’s just beautiful.

  39. just casually crying at my desk.

  40. Karen says...

    Thank you, smiling through tears as my 13 year beautiful boy sleeps in 😉 it has been a challenge to adapt to a teenager in the house but so beautiful no different to other changes baby to toddler toddler to little boy, it is us parents to have to let go, get out of their way, let them me themselves and a smile and a hug food in the fridge and good boundaries seem to work for us. Always the hugs 🤗

  41. Karla says...

    Probably the most relatable thing I’ve ever read on here. Often, I feel the job of raising teenage boys as a mother gets overlooked, but THIS! So so good. Thank you.

  42. Jenn D. says...

    As a mom of two boys I love this so much. 😭

  43. Kate says...

    I’m not crying, you crying man. I’m currently picturing my highly sensitive, intelligent and strong willed nearly 4 year old blonde boy as a…MAN. And I just unravel. His scalp is the best scent in the world, next to his little sisters, and I feel so grateful to have given birth to a boy. Thank you for this perspective.

  44. Abigail says...

    I just had a baby boy 9 weeks ago and this made me boo hoo something fierce. What an incredible honor to have the privilege of raising a boy. I’m in the love with the present and can’t wait for the future!

  45. Tara says...

    I have 4 year old twin boys and love this post so much. I thought it was so sweet when I read it the first time yesterday and so many other things written made me continue to think about it as the day went on. Thank you so much for these words and for such a wonderful blog that is uplifting and full of love.

  46. Valerie says...

    Immediately sent this post to all of my friends who have toddler boys. This makes me appreciate my 7 year old son and, at the same time, makes me excited about his future teenage self. And I love the writer’s voice too!

  47. Jenn says...

    OMG. I have had my fair share of COJ cries in my office behind my desk screen… but jeez louise, this one may have taken the cake. “14. Take a picture of the heap of gigantic shoes by your front door because one day they will not be there and you will want to tearfully reminisce.” My heart! My first baby boy is 15 months old and I just can’t imagine him as a big old teenager, but I know, somehow, I will blink and there he will be in front of my eyes. This was so heartbreaking and beautiful. Thank you Catherine!

  48. Alina says...

    Now I’m bawling – thanks a lot. Really, thank you. My son is three but something in this article really hit me. Maybe it’s that many of these apply to my threenager (already always in the fridge!!!) and also that I know he is growing so fast now and I need to savor every little moment.

  49. Kendra says...

    I have loved Catherine Newman’s writing for a long time, so I feel a bit audacious adding this nugget. Remember that the ultimate goal is to become a trusted advisor who they can live without. It is heartbreakingly beautiful parenting teenagers and young adults.

  50. Nina says...

    I’m currently being held hostage by my sick 3 year old leaning on my shoulder and my sick 8 month old non-stop nursing. It’s been a long week with my boys and this post just made me bawl. It also put into perspective that they really do need me right now and will need me when they are older, just in different ways. Can’t. Stop. Crying.

  51. Ileana says...

    My 6-month-old son is currently asleep on me and we’re cozy in matching socks—this post did me in! 😭

  52. Haley says...

    Marvelous. I’m trying to think of how to email myself this in 5 years.

    • Julie says...

      haha yes!!

    • Heidi says...

      Use futureme!

  53. Annie says...

    I never really consider the possibility of having boys someday. Logically I know it is a 50/50 situation, but I still only have a list of girls names I love and have always imagined how I would raise a girl. What would I keep from my childhood? (A lot). What would I change? (A LOT). I know nothing about boys! This post makes me excited and hopeful about that 50% chance.

  54. Anna Cohen says...

    As a Mama of two beautiful, sensitive, growing-too-fast boys down here in Australia, your post made me cry. So, so many good points to be reminded of!! Thank you!

  55. Azza says...

    Reading this, wow. You are such a great mom. Thank you.

  56. Hope says...

    Tears in my eyes as I’m thanking this beautiful mama for sharing this insight and wisdom (as my rapidly-growing 3 year old takes a late, long nap). Thank you for showing us how to keep on loving these boys as they grow. My mantra is that I just want him to have a happy childhood (pick your battles, right?), and feel just how much his Mum loves him no matter what. I love this! <3

  57. Helen says...

    Like everyone else here, PASS THE TISSUES!!!
    Parenthood is trying, and relentless and not for the timid but boy does it sure make for the time of your life.
    My kids are only 5 and 1, but I look at my loving, adorable and fearless toddler son and already mourn the day he’ll have grown up and left me behind for his big, wonderful life (God-willing.) Some days this love and joy we parents feel seems too big, too much, too addictive to contain and keep.

  58. Tracy says...

    Such a good list! My boys are 24, 22 & 19. I continue to try very hard to refrain from strong judgments – about their actions & those of others. I am not always successful, but the hope is that they will feel comfortable coming to me should they find themselves in a difficult situation – that I won’t jump to “I told you so.” My heart is warmed when they call seeking my opinion or just to chat & catch me up on their lives, or when they text, asking if I’m up on the latest meme – which I am usually not – yet. They are still so much the same sweet boys they always were. While lists like this always make me a bit teary, they are the good kind of tears – bittersweet – me knowing they are where they should be & them knowing they always have a home wherever I am.

  59. Kathy says...

    Oh, this is wonderful! I`ve read Catherines book “Catastrophic Happiness”. The most beautiful book about bringing up bigger kids, ever!
    Can you get her to write about that perimenopause? I´m very interested!

  60. Kate says...

    Love this! I have two boys who are the same ages as Ben and Birdy and I have been a fan of Catherine’s since her Baby Center days. This post resonates with me, all the joy and all the heartache. My oldest son also just left for college this fall and I have that boy-shaped hole in my heart. I grew up in a family of girls and the thing that has surprised me the most about teenage boys is their kindness, sensitivity, caring and thoughtfulness. The little boys are still inside the teenage boys. They grow up fast, so treasure the time you have with them. I would love to see more on COJ from Catherine and more generally about parenting teens.

    • Trish says...

      Ditto what you said Kate! Jr in HS and looking at colleges now and already freaking out about how much I’ll miss him. More on parenting teens as well please!

  61. Molly says...

    Oh boy. Sobbing over here (4 and 6 year old boys asleep in their beds). What a beautiful and heart-grabbing yet comforting piece. Thank you.

    • Molly K says...

      Also crying here! Also have 4 and 6 year old boys sleeping in their beds right now. And also named Molly. This Cup of Jo community is trippy 😂

    • MJ says...

      Ditto after reading this morning, (1 and 3 year old boys here). As if I needed an excuse, snuggling in a little closer to my feverish preschooler who is home sick today. <3

    • Molly says...

      Molly K your reply made my day! :) What a coincidence— I love it.

  62. Samantha says...

    I don’t have any kids, I’m only 26. But this made me want to cry. I hope to be this mom one day!

  63. Nessa Bixler says...

    My husband’s sister made a lot of bad choices that eventually put her 17 year old son, our nephew on the streets.(She was not homeless but sold her home to move in with her boyfriend who did not want kids.) Our nephew moved in with his girlfriend and then ended up having a baby.

    We were not living close at the time, but we called, had him visit, went to his graduation, babies birth and the eventual beautiful wedding. We helped him with college applications, finding apartments, groceries…

    He is now 22, entering medical school in a year and he came and hugged me tight recently and said, “Thank you for being there, always.”.

    Sometimes, we just need to be the eyes in the stands, the hello on the other line, a place at our table, the hug you didn’t know you needed, and the constant in a world of change and uncertainty.

    I have a 6 year old son with 3 sisters. I hope to be that constant for them all.

    • Maria Cadiz says...

      Ms. Bixler, you’re an awesome human.

    • Kate says...

      You are incredible. And, I just love this line so much:

      Sometimes, we just need to be the eyes in the stands, the hello on the other line, a place at our table, the hug you didn’t know you needed, and the constant in a world of change and uncertainty.

  64. Robin says...

    Oh man, my boys are 2 and 5 and this made me cry. I can still picture my now-husband at 14, so very many years ago. All arms and legs and puffy early 90s hair and that smile. Only nine years to go and my sweet boy will be a big kid in earnest. Be still my heart.

    • Jess says...

      Me, too.
      2 and 5, asleep upstairs (after a battle), and tears in my eyes down here.

      Thanks for the longview…needed it tonight.

    • margie says...

      Robin- same, lady, same. I met my husband when we were 14!!! I think about my 9 year old, and think, only 5 years until someone could possibly steal him away from me? Isn’t that what I want? Yes and no. So many feelings. I am crying for something that hasn’t even happened yet!

  65. Heather says...

    #15 all damn day!!!

  66. Ana says...

    Sob!

  67. Karen says...

    My boys are currently 1 & 3 and this made me so happy to read. I don’t want to rush now, but I also don’t fear the future of teenage boys. Thanks for a great post!

  68. Listen, listen and listen some more. Don’t try to fix everything. Sometimes all anyone needs is a safe place to vent.

    • H says...

      Yes, this! I wish more people in my life now would heed this advice. I think it’s great advice to parents but also something to teach kids.

  69. Adrianne says...

    Catherine and Cup Of Jo? A match made in that ol’ proverbial heaven. More please!

  70. Marie says...

    I think I sobbed out loud at “he will leave behind a heartbreaking boy-shaped hole.” Mine is 8-1/2 right now. This gives me hope that our snuggles and quiet before-bed heart to hearts and mother-son adventures are not quite so numbered as I had previously thought. <<>> THANK YOU.

  71. Stacy S. says...

    And I’m crying! My little guy is still pretty new (4 months in week!) and it amazes me every day how much he’s grown and learned in this short amount of time already!

    • Meliss says...

      Mine too! And this makes me excited about watching him grow, as heartbreaking as leaving the baby phase will be.

  72. Libbynan says...

    My son will be 50 in February. He has had his share of problems and issues. Being on his side always has been my #1 job since he was born. There is, however, a fine line between being supportive and helicopter parenting. An example…when he was in third grade he got an unsatisfactory deportment grade the first nine weeks (never happened before) and a note from his teacher asking to see me. The problem was that he and another boy who sat next to him talked….a lot! I suggested that she separate them. Her answer was that she didn’t want to change her seating chart. I told her I would do what I could and left. I then visited the other boy’s mother and we agreed on a course of action….if you want to call it that. We simply reminded our boys every school day to try not to talk too much and accepted poor deportment grades without comment. We did not punish them or point out that the teacher was an idiot. We just did what we were able and did nothing to lead our boys to feel badly about themselves. We also did nothing to undermine their respect for authority.
    Things will happen. You must do your dead level best to allow them to handle situations to the best of their ability, not to the best of yours.

    • Ruby says...

      As a teacher and mum to a boy, hats off to you. This is awesome.

  73. MW says...

    About a year ago my heart began to ache as I realised I was running out of kitchen door against which to measure my teenage son’s height. It stands at 6ft 3, and now so does he. I am at #20 on the list and I realise we have come full circle: I think back to those small starfish palms flung out above his head when he slept in his crib – they are now large enough to completely encompass my own. I think back to the laughter as his toddler feet flapped around in my shoes – I can now slip my entire foot, complete with shoe, inside his trainers and it’s me that looks like the clown. In a few short months I have to face that most bittersweet of moments, when a single parent waves goodbye to their only child. I’d like to think that if we’ve got this far then it’s a job well done, but I know nothing, but nothing, is going to fill that 6ft 3 void!

    • Nicole K says...

      MW- My son is almost 8 months old and sleeps with his small starfish palms flung out above his head and when I read your comment I gasped out loud. His hands are so tiny and sweet, I cannot imagine them bigger than my own. I’ve got a real lump in my throat but it’s also so joyful to think of all the memories we still have to make together!

    • Jackie says...

      I hope you are a writer. This is beautiful.

  74. Sara says...

    ZING…right to the ❤️!! And so v true.

  75. Karen says...

    Tears! this is all so true. My 17 year old still likes a snuggle. calls me by his own cute nickname for me. I cherish every minute, good and bad. We travel, laugh, watch stupid You Tube videos. He’s not embarrassed to ask me for anything…gasp even condoms. Would trade him or this time for anything!

  76. I love these! while my kids are still very young, I certainly agree with all and some resonated more with me. Thank you for this piece.

  77. MB says...

    ❤️❤️❤️

  78. Kristen says...

    Probably one of the best posts I’ve read on here in awhile (I mean they’re all good, but this one…perfection). My son is about to turn 4 and I think about how quickly time is passing, how much I want to teach him, and how much I want to stop time and remember and breathe in these moments. Timely and beautiful.

  79. Kate says...

    My first(a boy) is turning 10 in two weeks and I am sitting here literally crying. This is such a great list but very hard to realize I have so very few years left with this boy who stole my heart!

  80. Avigail B says...

    Not relevant to this exact post but Catherine has THE BEST CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE IN THE WORLD on her blog. And it has no flour. It’s made with ALMOND BUTTER! They come out perfect every time, have been making them every week for about 2 years now. Better than any cookie. Please try it and feature it on your blog! I have converted mor than a dozen peopl to only make this recipe too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you!!!

    • Michelle Jensen says...

      Do you have this link?! I can’t find!

  81. Rachelle says...

    I haven’t read through all the comments but I would add: Trust him.
    he’ll prove you right.

  82. Greta says...

    This made me tearful and my son is only 6 months old. I’m never going to make it through this parenting thing! Thank you for this beautiful piece!

    • Courtney Berner says...

      I felt the same way! My son is only two and this made me cry on the bus this morning. :-)

  83. Meghan says...

    While I’m not a parent (I am a high school teacher), I cannot tell you how much #4 resonated with me. If there is one piece of life advice that I try to remind myself on a near daily basis, it’s to never underestimate the power of kindness. I would further advocate that ANYONE, not just a parent, shows kindness to teens (especially young men). They are so often loud, stinky, obnoxious creatures and it’s hard not to huff with exasperation and purse your lips in disapproval while in their presence. But underneath it all, they are desperate to connect, to know they matter (I guess they’re not so different from us, after all). Research shows that the one thing that can change the course of an at-risk teenager’s life for the better is for one adult to care about them. That’s it – just a simple demonstration that they matter to someone. It’s free and quick to change someone’s life for the better.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, meghan, this is beautiful. i want to print this out and frame it.

    • Chelsey says...

      I think I will print this out and frame it! Cup of jo you really really really need to make a coffee table book. Full of beautiful pictures and all the comment WISDOM!

    • Jess says...

      Seconding Chelsey’s comment about a COJ coffee table book. I would buy it in a heartbeat!

  84. Emily W says...

    My son isn’t even 6 months old and this makes me cry. He’s already gotten so big!
    Thank you for this post.

  85. Kate says...

    This is beautiful! What a way with words she has!

    I still remember, in Waiting for Birdy, how she recalled that Ben said, “Mama, sing happy birthday to my meat tunnel!” That got very pregnant me so tickled. :)

  86. Justine Clark says...

    Oh my heart. My son is 14 and a half, going on 100 and these all resonated so, so much with my mother’s heart. This weekend was filled with several reminders of the simple pleasure of witnessing my son growing into a man and I treasured every moment.

  87. Michelle says...

    … Still crying! Thank you for this. Mom of 2 boys and although they’re still fairly young, I know this is coming and it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  88. Cynthia says...

    oh boy…I have two 30 something, wonderful, sweet, independent, well educated salmon fishermen. I read one time that the writer considered her greatest achievement as raising humorous, empathetic, well-adjusted kids whose favorite place to collapse was her couch. I keep it on my bulletin board to remind me.
    Also, #14

  89. Ginny says...

    Favorite Cup of Jo post ever (and that’s saying a lot). I teared up at a coffee shop, reading this, and really want to run straight to check my son out of preschool. Mothering is so emotional and fraught, but it’s just the very, very best.

  90. Kirsten says...

    Thank you for this, as I cried both grief and happy tears. My son will be 17 in February and I can resonate with all of it. It’s all so beautiful, bittersweet, and heartbreaking in the best way.

    • Leah says...

      My son also turns 17 in February. My heart.

  91. Claudia Depkin says...

    Thank you for sharing this!! My son is a junior, and I know we’ll be adding those twin XL sheets to our cart before we know it. I so appreciate the reminder that the pile of shoes matters not one bit.

  92. K says...

    Mom of two boys here- Bookmarking this!!

  93. Casey says...

    We just celebrated five and a HALF this weekend and this post just made me cry!!!

  94. Meg says...

    Oh dear *sniff*… this life is so beautiful. <3 True words.

  95. Gahh. This had me in tears and I only have a 3 year old (plus a pile of tiny shoes by the door)!

  96. Sarah says...

    My love for Catherine Newman knows no bounds. No one writes about motherhood as beautifully as she does. And she also manages to be hilarious as well. My go-to baby shower gift is Waiting for Birdy.

    I have two little boys and I’m crying like a baby right now.

  97. Kate says...

    As a chaplain at a college who deals with the fallout of lack of or bad education around consent, I’m glad consent was raised. However, I hope if anyone is using the tea and consent video to talk about consent, you raise a lot of the following issues:
    -consent is not as simple as it’s presented here. There is a lot more nuance in real life situations that require planning, communicating, thoughtful decision making, etc. The video suggests consent is straightforward. It’s not.
    -What about the drunken person who insists they want a cup of tea when they don’t actually have the capacity to make that decision? Situations involving substances are usually more gray than whether someone is conscious or unconscious.
    -The video doesn’t address power differences that might come into play around whether or not someone consents. If my boss offers me tea, I’m more likely to say yes than if a coworker offers.
    -The analogy doesn’t translate well. Tea is about producing something and serving it to another person. Sex is not a served product; it is a collaborative activity participated in by two people where there is creativity and mutuality.
    -It doesn’t address how difficult it can be to communicate about sexual activity, boundaries, expectations, desires, or what it might really look like to talk about these things in a natural way. It almost mocks the idea of this being difficult to understand or navigate.
    -The consequences of consent for tea and sex are not equivalent.
    -Consent should be about respect of the other person-we should really be spending our time talking more about how to engage in a mutually respectful, mutually agreed upon, and mutually satisfying sexual experience, not simply getting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to certain behaviors

    I would much more highly recommend Al Vernacchio’s TED talk on pizza and sex over the tea video. Check it out!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, kate!

    • Joana says...

      Kate this is really really great, I teach sex ed and am always searching for new ways to pass on values/ideas and this talk about pizza and sex is just superb! Also hilarious 😬

  98. Robin says...

    Crying, I have two boys, 5 and 2. Yes, will you please flag and repost this in 10 years? I’m printing it out, but still……thank you for having Catherine here, she is the absolute best.

  99. Sandy says...

    Thank you for this beautiful piece which twisted my gut and brought tears to my eyes. My two lovely boys are 20 and 25, and I fully agree with everything here, and my family is proof that #16 can work to keep our kids alive and well. Mummas of little ones, immediately embrace #20 with all your heart and savour, savour, savour. One thing I would add: when my boys were little, my sister started saying to them, “You’re one of the good guys,” and it became something that I would say too. Kids tend to believe what they hear about themselves, and “you’re one of the good guys” is a great alternative to “you’re messy, you’re forgetful, you’re always x, y, or z.” My boys certainly believed it, and they are two of the good guys, no doubt about it!

    • florence says...

      love this! (and my son who is 5 is really obsessed with good guys and bad guys right now)

    • Sam says...

      I love this! Going to tell my son tonight that he’s one of the good guys :-)

    • Mikaela says...

      Thank you, I needed this reminder as a mother of a OBJECTIVELY CRAZY 4 yr old….I need to stop calling him crazy and tell him how good he is.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is beautiful, sandy.

  100. Meredith says...

    This made me cry and I don’t even have kids! (Yet!) beautifully written and such great words of advice that I can imagine I’ll turn back to this post in 15 years or so ;)

  101. gfy says...

    Thank you for this post. Also, you guys have a TALENT for selecting the best header photos. Love this one!

  102. Kimberly says...

    Well, now I’m weeping whilst nursing my one year old son. Saving this for the future of his adolescence, which will arrive in half a blink.

    • Alba says...

      Same here! I will always remember this advice :)

  103. Jennifer says...

    How refreshing! I have a six year old boy (and his baby sister) and as soon as he turned six all of a sudden he felt more grown up already, like where did the first five years go! I feel like time is slipped away like grains of sand, and I’m trying so hard to just breathe it all in and enjoy it. Gah, good thing I’m working from home today. Tears.

  104. Katie Olsen says...

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for these reminders to shape our boys into kind men and to savor the crazy times at home. We have two boys, a 3.5 year-old and a 6-month old, and I know the next 18 years are going to be beautiful, hard, busy, tiring, but so, so wonderful. These tips put everything into perspective. My heart thanks you!

  105. Nina says...

    First, I love this! Tearing up thinking of my boy who is almost as tall as me and how I wish I could still hold him to my chest and just bask in new mother amazement.

    I’d add: Recognize that they still don’t know. (For that matter neither do we sometimes)
    Make it as comfortable as you can for them to ask questions. And share with you.
    Almost everyday my child is all over with his emotions. As long as he is not hurting himself or someone else I try to let him know THEY ARE ALL OK.
    My son is 11. We moved last week and I was busy unpacking and ran into his room and saw him reading (one of the many) books I bought about your body, and body development, and sex. He was all “sorry” I was like “why sorry, books are for reading, let me know if you have any questions” In 5th grade they are having health education and he asks me uncomfortable question – I heard a girl say “we have cum too, what is that” “what is a boner?” so I just casually keep doing what we were doing and answer him. hoping I make it no big deal.

    I would love an article/interview/insight about how to talk about how sex is and should be pleasurable. Someone mentioned this on facebook the other day. They said we teach how they should have safe sex. And consent. Say no. And it’s natural but they said, especially for girls, we never talk about how it should feel good and is good for you. I thought about this with my boy. I’m not sure I’m at a level of comfort that I feel prepared to talk about this BUT I do think I need to, it’s important. Any tips?

  106. My son (my eldest) is about to turn 17, and this made me cry. It is so thoughtful and true. I would add: Buy a ping-pong table and put it in your basement. It’s SO much better than video games. They will play with their friends, with their little sister and her friends, and even with their mom. A little friendly competition is fun, and by the time they become an adult, they will be wicked good.

  107. Andrea says...

    As a mom to three sons who were all teenagers at the same time but are now in their 30’s, I recently went to my middle son & daughter in law’s condo to check on the cats while they were out of town. Before I left I used the bathroom and there on the mirror was a post it my son had left for his wife that started out “my dearest beloved”. My eyes filled with tears, I didn’t read the rest of the note, it was just those three words. That simple moment made me realize the pick & choose your battles moments, the stinkies that cling to their bedrooms, the moods, the astronomical food bills, the sneakers every two months, and yes, the condoms in the washer, the “iffy” girlfriends, was all so worth it to realize you raised wonderful and fiercely protective men and one in particular who leaves a post it on the bathroom mirror, my dearest beloved……..

    • Jac says...

      That is very sweet. I have always hoped if I had a boy, I would raise a Laurie from Little Women. Toby is a little Laurie. <3

  108. Jennifer says...

    This brought tears to my eyes! With a 15 year old daughter in the throws of the I love you/I hate you phase, my 11 year old son is still my baby boy. I know these days are numbered and I dread it so much. This advice is priceless. I have made many, many parenting mistakes but I’m trying hard to be more accepting and understanding while still holding them both to certain standards. Number 8 stands out. Growing up, I never felt like I could go to my parents with personal problems. Though I cringe hard when my daughter talks to me about sex or drugs (thankfully not experimenting herself yet), I don’t judge and I’m honest with her and try to give her meaningful advice without making her feel bad about anything. And I thank God that she feels comfortable talking to me about anything at all! This time goes by all too quick!!

  109. Adding a boy to our family in January – saving this for when he grows.

  110. cgw says...

    Mama of a daughter here, no sons, but this seems nearly true for raising girls too. When she was 3 she used to love to run across the living room, between me and my husband with new found running legs. At 10 she loved to sit between us and put together puzzles. At 12 she would sit between us on the couch after dinner playing on her device. Then 13 came and suddenly we realized she was upstairs in her room, music blaring out from the crack of the closed door, doing her teenage thing. It was such a change, I was heartbroken in some ways. She’s 14 now, still in her room, still with the closed door and music playing. But now that she has a phone of her own, and will text… from upstairs, to us, downstairs. Sometimes they are of her concerns, sometimes to tell me she’s made plans with friends, other times I just get smiley-kissy faces. I’m grateful for them all because it’s currently how she feels comfortable about communicating with us, and I remind myself that as long as she’s communicating then it’s all good.

  111. Mary says...

    If you find an unused condom package in their pants pocket when your’e doing the laundry, take it and then put it back before returning clean pants to their room. Condoms are a good thing! And don’t be afraid to have the talk with them. And 13 is not too early for the talk.

    • mamabear says...

      This is weird to me…any kid old enough to have a condom is old enough to do their own laundry! Otherwise you are literally training them to expect someone who does it for them. Which is fine if you are employing maid service but not if his mother is his maid. Unless, of course, he wants to pay mom with his allowance money…that would teach several lessons at one time: gratitude, responsibility, budgeting, respect, etc.

    • Tis says...

      Yes, but always replace with a new one.

    • wendy says...

      Amen!
      My son was 12 and he cringed when I had “the talk” with him and gave him a pack of condoms. For me it was important I tell him that when he was ready he needed to be safe.
      @tis – good call on the new one.
      @mamabear – I cant speak for Mary but watching my monthly electric bill I decided laundry was cheaper to do all at once vs everyone doing their own. I’m sure all our boys are well taught on laundry skills before they leave home and don’t rely on others to do it.

    • Ginny says...

      Hmm, I think that’s a really interesting point about laundry, but I was raised by a mom who did all of my laundry until I went to college, and I never really had a problem stepping into that role (nor did my brother, who also had his laundry done for him until college and now does both his and his girlfriend’s laundry. I know because the only time we talk is when he’s on the weekly laundromat run, ha!). I do my children’s laundry, and find it to be a wonderfully tactile way of loving them.

      I suppose my thought it just that there are lots of ways of doing things and still producing thoughtful and kind people!

  112. Wendy says...

    Absolutely loved this!!

    2 years ago, my only child, left home to start his next adventure.
    He excitedly packed his vehicle and headed West to Vancouver. 4,361 km away (but who’s counting) to live his dream of getting into the TV and film industry.
    I may or may not have tracked his travel across country through the find my iphone app.
    While I was proud that I was able to raise a child on my own who was smart, kind, thoughtful etc. I knew that having him leave home was going to be a huge adjustment for me never mind him!
    After almost 2 years I’ve been doing some reflecting and I’m happy to say we have survived and we have both grown.
    Yes, some shitty things have happened that I wished we were together for but we did the best we could with the situation(s) and survived and learned.
    On trying to be a cool Mum…
    After not hearing from him for a week I sent him a text – cause who calls anymore – referencing a popular Drake song. It wasn’t as funny as I thought it would be.
    Mum: You used to call me on my cell phone…
    Son: Are you drunk?
    Mum: NO, I’m at the office!
    When you do finally get to actually speak or FaceTime with them TRY not to be a Mum…
    Don’t ask when they last did laundry – you don’t want to know!
    Don’t ask if they are eating – they are most likely eating crap and drinking and being a young adult.
    If you keep hounding them on every call about switching over their provincial health card they will stop calling. Let it go. This is a life lesson and they will learn quickly when the day comes that they (ok, realistically you) have to pay for them to see a Dr.
    Don’t freak out when they tell you they want to get into movie stunts. Yes, this is happening now…
    Visits:
    When you visit them, stay in a hotel. The urge to clean and cook will otherwise be too strong and take over.
    Cherish every call and visit and listen. If they want or need your advice they will ask.
    Social Media:
    Yes, its ok to follow them but for the love of god, don’t scold them on social media. They will block you.
    What can we do?
    Send money
    Send flights
    Breathe, you did a good job and they will be fine!

  113. Diane says...

    My once teen boys are now in their 30s. This is so poignant and true! When my oldest was heading to college, I was at a parenting conference and stood up in the audience and shared my grief about his leaving. Actually cried. The kind leader of the workshop, Peggy O’Mara of “Mothering” magazine said, “The relationship you’ve built with him will always be there.” And it’s been true for both of them. Our friendship as adults is one of the deepest, most fulfilling relationships in my life.

  114. Cailin says...

    This made me cry and I don’t even have kids.

  115. Emily says...

    Catherine Newman, you’re the absolute best! My daughter is 8, and my son is 6. I am always thankful for your words of wisdom. Had to step away from my desk for this one. The tears are flowing!

  116. Abbie Nelson says...

    absolutely perfect.

  117. Maria says...

    Oh I love Catherine so, so so much! I was so happy to find her wisdom here. She always gives me so muc hope for the future. The teenage years are still far away for my kids but I do dread them.
    Can you not get her on board as a regular contributor? I would love to read more of her here!

    • Emily says...

      YES! Please. More inspiring wisdom from Catherine Newman! She is my hero. :)

  118. Laur says...

    Ugly crying at work! I have two little boys, 5 and 1, and I love them so much it feels like my heart will burst. I can’t imagine them as adults, but also can’t wait for them to become adults – hopefully kind, patient, hardworking, loving adults…. thanks for this advice! (especially the heap of shoes… i already know I’ll mourn the messy home when they are older and there aren’t toys everywhere…)

  119. Jen says...

    Mom to two teenage boys here, ages 16 and 13. Feeling particularly vulnerable about that situation today as my 13 year old who has always shown nothing but love and softness for me is suddenly hurdling into the surly, mom-can-do-nothing-right stage. Luckily my 16 year old has emerged from this and gave me a big understanding hug as he left for this school this morning—a reminder me that it’ll be ok. Oh, and the food…buy a lot and then double it and repeat. Twice a week, at least.

  120. Stefanie says...

    i love this. so many good reminders even when their young. thank you!

  121. jr says...

    i don’t even have kids and this one made me tear up!

    15. Teach them the important life skills: How to send a thank-you note. How to listen and ask questions. How to walk into a kitchen and say, “Put me to work.” How to call their representatives about an important issue. How to clean a bathroom, do a load of laundry, scramble an egg. How to sit patiently on the sofa between their two grandparents with their two new iPhones, nodding slowly and saying, “Here, let me show you,” when the grandparents are convinced the Google has gone missing.

  122. Emma says...

    I love Catherine Newman SO much, and have been reading her work for years. She so perfectly expresses the joy and humor and humility and difficulty in parenting.

  123. Anna says...

    Will you repost this in about 12 years? So beautiful.

    • Tracy says...

      4 please! :)

  124. Robin says...

    This is incredible. I have a five-month-old son, and his doctor is encouraging me to move him out of his little rocking cradle in our bedroom and into his own crib in his nursery. We’ll get there soon, but I’m going to enjoy a few more nights of watching my baby boy sleep from my spot on the bed. He looks so peaceful and safe. I can’t imagine rolling over and not seeing that beautiful sight.

    • Ella says...

      I kept my kids in my room for much longer than five months haha. Do what feels right to you and don’t let anyone pressure you into giving up the parts of motherhood that fill you up. There’s enough about it that’s hard, hold on tight to the good stuff.

    • debo says...

      Oh Robin
      your comment made me sad. Enjoy your baby in bed with you. it’s a once in a lifetime experience. If it does not feel right to you anymore, by all means, make the transition to his own crib. But if it feels right for you, keep him where he belongs. That is with you.
      If you look at other cultures you will notice, that most do not sleep separate from the kids. Animals sleep with the young and even with the whole family sometimes.
      I hope you can make a decision that works for your family, not for the pediatician. Listen to your heart and your instincts. What you hear there will be the right decision.

    • Holly says...

      take your time

    • Robin says...

      Well, now I’m crying :) Thank you all for the encouraging words. They are so appreciated.

    • Barbara says...

      I have a 6 month old son and his doctor told me to stop the nighttime feeding. There’s only one left and I cherish it so much – I know exactly how you are feeling! I’d rather have this time than have him sleep through the night – he’ll get there when he’s ready.

    • Sasha L says...

      Mamas, you are the expert on your baby.

      Dr James McKenna has lots of encouragement for mamas who choose to sleep closely with their babies, in case anyone is interested.

    • Mae says...

      Hi Robin,

      We are just now moving our two-year-old (ahem, 26-month-old) into his own room. Partly it was a space issue, but even after we moved into a two-bedroom house, none of us were ready. We were able to fit both our bed and our son’s crib in our room, so we at least had that, and I think it was a great set-up. He woke frequently and nursed at night until he was about eighteen months old; having to go back and forth from one bedroom to another would have done me in! He’s a very active kid during the day, and seems hungry for snuggling at night. All I’m saying is, you know your family better than any doctor or author, and you’ll know when the time is right. Enjoy your nights with him nearby.

    • GoldenMoon says...

      I agree! Keep you baby where your heart wants him! I have co-slept with my two children and still have my 4 year old with me. Not for one moment have I regretted it. I so cherish the snuggles, seeing their oh so tiny bodies grow, feeling their warmth, and so deeply knowing their rhythms. Everyone goes at their own pace and there’s not one right choice. Let your heart guide you. Mammas always know what they and their children are thriving on.

    • Crystine says...

      Robin! There is no magic number for much of anything! I promise. It will be ok if your heart tells you different then your doctor, your best friend or your mama. All too soon that baby will be 2 then 5 then 10 and you will not understand where the time has flown. Take your time. I promise you will never regret the memories.

  125. Chelsey says...

    This is fantastic. Thanks for posting!

  126. Elizabeth says...

    Oh my god, she nailed it. Thank you! I have two little boys, almost your sons’ ages, Joanna, and I hope to have this same love in our home when they are older.

  127. Jill Neal says...

    Oh this made me cry. My boys are 10 and 8 and I am in this sort of sweet spot in my relationships with them. I worry about the years ahead a bit and your words are so full of wisdom and give me courage! Thank you!!

  128. Sasha L says...

    Whenever the topic of older kids/tends comes up I have to recommend this book: Hold On To Your Kids by Dr Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate. It’s such an important read, all based on attachment and it will truly be a life line in helping you maintain a solid and guiding connection to your kids. If you can find someone (often therapists) in your area teaching classes or workshops based on this work, take them. If you find yourself lost with your kids, find a therapist trained in these ideas. I don’t usually prescribe to *one idea can help everyone*, but truly, attachment is the biological foundation of all human relationships and that’s what this is all about. Hope this is helpful for someone out there.

    • Margot says...

      Yes! This book has been our go to parenting book since our first was born nearly 13 years ago. I go back to it, year over year and get more and different things out of it as our boys grow. Highly, highly second this recommendation!

  129. Sasha L says...

    As a recent graduate of teen girls (my youngest just turned twenty), I can relate to most of this list. It’s heart wrenching and bittersweet. I could’ve used this list! My only add is you won’t always like them. It’s ok. Sometimes they are in a place/mood/year! that’s just not particularly easy to like. But you will keep loving, no matter how they befuddle or disappoint or scare you to death. I don’t mean to sound overly negative, but truly, for many parents these years are just plain hard. It does get better ❤️

  130. I love this.

  131. patricia blaettler says...

    Whenever I found balled up socks strewn across the floor (2 sons and a husband), I mentally referred to them as ‘love tokens’. No sense getting mad about it. And guess what, the boys are grown now, and my floors stay clean.

  132. Jenna says...

    Reading this with tears in my eyes, while holding my sleeping baby son with tears in my eyes. Just so beautiful and the best advice I have ever read. Thank you.

  133. Janice says...

    These rules are spot-on!! And it’s true – the time you invest in your sons when they’re little will pay BIG dividends when they’re grown. You’ll not only still love them completely, you’ll really like the men they’ve become. I adore mine!

  134. Alyssa says...

    Crying at this for a different reason. Crying because I’m so grateful to have had parents who did so many of these things, most of all just always letting me be a kid, their kid.

    And mostly because I realize how my parents must really feel now that I’m 28 and not living at home. Makes me realize why they love so much when I come home and fall asleep on the couch and leave shoes everywhere. It’s a little taste of what used to be the norm. <3

  135. Marisa says...

    This is all so so true!!!!!! My son is now 22, and I am so grateful for our close mother/son bond. The part about the food and sleep, in particular, makes me laugh. My son still requests all his favorites every time he comes home.

  136. Blimey, I’m tearing up reading this! Excellent advice.

  137. Sharon says...

    Such a poignant post! My heart aches! I remember my son at 13 wanting to sit and watch a movie and eat popcorn together, then he turned 18 and it all changed, and I would find myself longing for those days when I could just reach out and hug him…Now he’s 21, he moved out, is studying and has a girlfriend…he comes to visit every Monday and gives me a big bear hug and a kiss and my heart just melts…it’s all gone in a whisper…enjoy those moments while you can…they go from boys to men in a blink!

  138. Janna says...

    I don’t even have kids, but still has made me cry.

  139. Scarlett says...

    I’m 33 weeks along with my first, a boy. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

    • Robin says...

      Congratulations on your baby boy, Scarlett!

  140. Kristen says...

    Oh, my heart! My little man isn’t quite 5 months old yet, but this still has me sobbing. It is so beautifully bittersweet to mentally fast-forward to his teenage years, and I’m grateful for the reassurance that, despite the inevitable heap of gigantic shoes to suggest otherwise, he’ll still be my baby boy. Thank you for this.

  141. Holy moly… I am not a mother. I’m 30 and continue to struggle daily with whether or not I want to be a mother, whether my husband and I want to be parents together, in this world and this life. This though… wow. This is beautiful. I’m typing through watery eyes so thankful for someone who sees motherhood this way. Thank you.

  142. Jenny says...

    Oh I’m trying not to cry at my desk to this! Lovely advice. My twin boys are almost 20 months old. I love tip 19, I often wonder if giving me a hug brings my Mum as much happiness as when I hug my little boys and sniff their sweet little heads. So nice to hear that you never grow out of it.

  143. Rachel says...

    Thinking about my four month old little boy asleep upstairs (who I love so fiercely despite being scared and doubtful about having a boy given my much greater comfort level with little girls) and tearing up. I know that these moments and feelings will come much sooner than I think (particularly after seeing how quickly his big sister has reached three) and I’m so grateful for this wisdom and perspective.

  144. Jamie says...

    I needed this. My son is 12 and changing in so many ways. I swear he was just sleeping with his stuffed fox! Its a shock to the heart, and I’ve been having a hard time accepting, adapting and adjusting. I didn’t expect this to be so hard. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and realizing he is changing just like other boys his age. The more I know, the better I feel. Thank you for adding the heart and soul to my near future. <3

  145. Kelly G. says...

    Love this so much! Found myself nodding along in agreement while reading, and then laughing out loud about taking a picture of the giant heap of giant shoes at the door! I’m so guilty of this one.

  146. My son is 8 and I am teaching him consent. It is so hard to teach a boy to respect a yes and a no because sometimes I want him to do something and I get a no! Do I compromise? He will think that no can have loopholes. So when I want him to do something I do it. If I want him to read a book. I go and read a book. And weirdly enough he picks up a book! I want him to see how interesting music can be, I play the guitar in front of him and we sang something together. And again he would play something by himself (I am counting that table tapping as something musical =p). I am so amazed at how leading by example really worked! COnsent is so hard to teach especially when I myself is finding it hard to respect his decisions. But as I am teaching it, I am learning too. Its so nice to have a son and these tips are amazing and though my son is not yet a teenager I am already nodding on some of the bits here as I am experiencing them already. My son eats like a construction worker!

    • Kate says...

      This is hard! We are trying with our 2 year old to only phrase things as questions when her input would alter what we do. If we really cannot allow her input to alter what we do, we do not phrase it as a question. We want her to learn that when we ask her input and she gives it, it has weight. So if I need her to put on her coat, I do not say “Want to put your coat on?” or any other varying question. I say “It’s time to put on your coat.” It’s easy to slip into phrasing things as questions, but in my mind it’s important to separate out when I will accept her input and when I won’t, so she feels she does have agency when responding to questions. Perhaps this doesn’t apply to an 8 year old! It is hard to navigate control with these kiddos!

    • Laura Doherty says...

      i’m a crown attorney (DA in the states) and i hear well meaning parents and teachers say ‘no means no’ all the time, which is awesome, they’re trying, they care, huge high five. But, in reality (in canada) our laws on consent more accurately translate to ‘yes means yes’ – that accounts for the idea that a scared/numb/unwilling partner might NOT say no – but still not be okay with it. so i would emphasize to your kid to ‘look for the yes’. if you haven’t gotten a yes, or you’re not sure it’s a yes, then it’s on him to either check (not sure) or stop (no yes).

      It is VERY common for an unwilling partner to not feel confident enough to say no, and ‘let it happen’. that is NOT consent. :)

    • t says...

      Merlinda I think leading by example is the most wonderful thing to do. I wish I were better at it and am trying to get into the habit more. That being said there is a big difference between teaching consent and teaching a child to be compliant with parental requirements in my opinion.

      When we say “teaching consent” we usually mean teaching sexual/physical consent. I recognize for a younger boy it isn’t yet sexual but it is often still physical. That is so, so different than when a parent tells a child that they have to go do their homework.

  147. andrea says...

    I was thinking of my son with every point I read and I look forward to every single one of them! Be still my mama heart! <3

  148. Helen says...

    Oh my heart! What a wonderful list. My boy is still a baby – not yet one – and the thought of him being a teenager seems so very far away, and yet this list helps it feel like when those teenage years are here they will be just as full of joy as the baby years are. Thank you 💙

  149. Ally says...

    So beautifully expressed, and here’s to hoping I always remember #8 especially. As a mom to a 10 year old boy, and my only child, I’ve already started to notice (with a lump in my throat!) a slight pulling away as he starts to process his day and thoughts on his own, and I’m needing to learn to wait patiently (still working on that….) until he’s ready to share. So many new boundaries I have to learn to accept and respect (don’t come into the bathroom, don’t come into the classroom, just drop me off etc!!) But at the end of the day, he still wants cuddles and chats after lights out – proof he’s still my little guy. It’s so reassuring to read this article and all the comments and know that there’s so much I can do on my end to ensure we keep the bond strong…..thank you!

  150. Sarah says...

    My only child and son turns 25 today. As a teen mom who was no where near ready/prepared/qualified to be a parent, my list of missteps and regrets are long and I often feel he paid the emotional price for it. This beautifully warm list touched my heart in both memories and reminders on this special day. Number 8 is timeless and will, no doubt, be utilized as I journey on in my quest to effectively and lovingly parent an adult child.