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. Oh Wow! Heart-breakingly True! – all of it!
    My 6ft 6, 21 year old is at Uni, hes still my best friend & it is so gorgeous when he is home.
    No 14 just made me cry :)
    Mx

    • Ellen says...

      Same. It’s my son’s last year at home before heading off to 1 of 12 colleges he’s applied to. I have no idea where those big shoes will pile up in September which is so exciting, but I need a tissue just now.

  2. I read this with tears in my eyes. My son is just 3.5 and already I can look ahead at his teenaged and man-boy future and I’m so, so proud of him. I wish my own parents had been more like this mom. We might even still be talking. I especially love point 8: be trustworthy. I think that is something you need to be from the very start.
    Love, love LOVE this piece. I’m bookmarking it to read every year as my son grows.

  3. Ok, so it’s 9 o’clock in the morning, here in Belgrade, I am sipping my tea and having some quiet time before starting work and I read this and ended up in tears. So beautiful and so very true. Thank you for posts like these Cup of Jo team.
    Mama of a almost 9 year old boy and a almost 6 year old girl.

  4. Laughing and crying, as usual, about Catherine’s brilliant insights. Oh man.

  5. Kelly says...

    This is just beautiful. While, of course, I love the information, the actual writing is just incredible. Catherine Newman, you are such a gifted writer! Thank you for sharing your talents and wisdom with us!

  6. Brooke says...

    This is the most tender wonderful healing thing! This is how my parents were with my sister and I and we are still close to them both to this day, in our late 30s. There’s something about being respected and treated as a fellow human in adolescent years that means so much.

  7. Danielle Gomez says...

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. As I stare down the impending college send off for my 17 YO daughter, I realize how fleeting time is. My 15 YO boy is so different and this post hilights all the moments I need to see differently. He is not the only one who wants to sleep all day! He is full of one liners and loves to challenge us constantly and yet he will always text me that he loves me and that he’s sorry when he takes it too far. He and I can go toe to toe and yet I’m reminded how fiercely I love him and that I need to step back and see him for all that he is and soak it up.
    Thank you for sharing this, the teenage years can be so exhausting and it’s easy to get annoyed and complain instead of loving them and being there to soak it all in.

  8. Susan says...

    “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.” This sentence just made me burst into tears on the train!

  9. Kristin says...

    This is the sweetest. Im going to save it for when my 2 year old little boy is a bigger boy. Thank you.

  10. Sarah M says...

    Oh my dear, how this got to me. My son is just shy of two years old and while time seems to be flying by, these words make me look forward to all that is in store for us.

  11. Karin says...

    My son just left for college so I can vouch for #14 in particular. I used to read Ben & Birdy when he was a wee one. Thanks for posting this so I could rediscover Catherine Newman again!

  12. I’m tearing up reading this, thinking that not in the far off future our nearly 10 year old will be close to his teens. Thank you for the candid advice, which was given with deep love! Perfect!

  13. This is by far one of my favourite ever posts on Cup of Jo. I share Catherine’s delight in living with teenagers, and was moved by how beautifully she wrote about it.

    When my daughter and son were younger, I’d worried I’d lose them as they got older, but at 17 and 14, I can now see I’ve just gained larger, more independent, and even more lovely versions of their younger selves.

    I’d add to Catherine’s list, that when they are uncharacteristically grumpy or snappy, ask if they’d like a hug and summon up all your empathy – at 41, I still really just want someone to cuddle me when I’m feeling that way, and it’s always easier for them to make their way out of a bad mood if they’re not also carrying the weight of feeling disliked for it.

    Thank you so much for a wonderful article – Catherine’s comment about the shoes will make me feel more warmly (and possibly even grateful) when I find them scattered across the hallway tomorrow!

    Florence x

  14. Andrea says...

    My 14 year old son, tall and skinny, will still crawl into bed with us sometimes saying “Sorry, I just can’t sleep”. Every time he does I think “This will definitely be the last time”, and so I just savour having him there, holding my hand, falling asleep instantly, still small on the inside…..for today.

  15. GoldenMoon says...

    This is such a gift. I am raising two young children and this is valuable to take in now and it also speaks to clearly about my inner experience as a teenager growing up. You nailed it. All parents should print and post this one in the house no matter what age the kids are because it holds the horizon in view as you are building those relationships of safety and love all along the journey. Thank you for such beautiful, honest, and helpful words of wisdom.

  16. Sara says...

    Thank you for these beautiful lessons and words of advice. My son is only 2.5 and he’s already 2.5. These words will help me remember to be more present. To put my phone away in another room when it’s just the two of us at home and play together. It really does go quickly.

  17. Holly says...

    Thank you so much for this Catherine! I laughed at so many of these, but the tears escaped at #21. I have two boys the same age as Joanna’s, and my only point of reference over the years for boy/mom relationships was my brother’s strained relationship with my mom. I cried during my ultrasound when I found out I was having my first boy. “I’ve lost him already,” I said to my husband. I’ve noticed that my eyes scan the world for healthy relationships between moms and their adult sons. How do they do it?? I love my boys so desperately now, so thank you for the encouragement that this relationship may change, but is not fated to be lost when they grow older.

  18. Jen says...

    So good. Thanks

  19. Rachael says...

    I have two girls and four boys, and I am so so much sadder to think about my boys growing up, because while I talk to my
    mom almost every day, my husband has to be reminded to call his parents once a month, and I feel like i will die if my boys do that! (Because my daughters are definitely going to call every day RIGHT?!!!) Tonight my five-year-old was telling me that he was going to marry me when he grew up and his nine-year-old brother heaved a sigh and said, “I’m sorry to tell you, but you can’t. I remember being sad when I found out I couldn’t marry Mom either.” Oh gosh these sweet little boys have my whole heart.

  20. Sheila says...

    Oh how I wish my parents had been given this advice when my brother and I were teens. We both have a strained relationship with our mom, and I know that it’s because she did the exact opposite of all of these things (and more). I see friends who have wonderful relationships with their parents and I long for that.

    • holly says...

      Me too, sheila. You’re not alone on that. I marvel at close relationships between parents and their adult children…

    • Karen says...

      Exactly! Reading this, I found myself wishing she had been MY mom. I’d be a totally different person today
      Karen

    • Eve says...

      Same ;)

  21. Katy says...

    Heart-wrenching and beautiful! I’ll be re-reading this again and again to remind myself.

  22. Julia says...

    Oh my. I have a 3 year old son and an 8 month old daughter and this makes me weep and ache for them. How can I miss them so much already?

    • Sarah says...

      SAME! My son just turned 3 a few weeks ago and it’s my daughter’s first birthday and this has me so teary. But it’s beautiful and I’m tucking away for later. I don’t want them to grow up, but I’m encouraged when I read things like this…how to keep loving them through different stages

  23. Allie says...

    This is beautiful. I’m lying here holding tight to my seven year old son and feeling like this is an article I will come back to time and time again. Thank you for this.

  24. Barbara Jane says...

    My little guy is only 2. He’s growing so fast and is already so smart and funny. I treasure every moment with him, and I definitely love to smell his scalp! Good to see some things will never change :-)

  25. Barbara Dweck says...

    My boys are 3 and 5 and I’ve been so nostalgic for their baby days lately. But we went to get their flu shots today and holding them while they cried quietly in fear reminded me that they’ll always be my babies. I hope!

  26. Aly says...

    I have a son in kindergarten and am sobbing as I read this! I rushed him into his bed tonight after his 9th bedtime stalling tactic and now all I want to do is climb into his bunkbed to sniff his scalp.

    • Melina says...

      Yes – me too! They seem so big once they get to kindergarten, right?

  27. Martha says...

    As a Mama to a 14 year old boy (and his twin sister), this came at a perfect time! My baby boy is changing before my eyes (item 3 could not be more true!), and there are many days I am trying to figure out this person that I still remember sleeping on my chest who is now taller than me and varies between talking in a stream of conscious mode and hardly talking at all. Maybe because I am female my daughter seems far less mysterious to me. . . ? Anyway, thanks for this.

  28. Justine says...

    This is so beautiful. From this mama of two very little boys, thank you for posting. xo

  29. Sarah says...

    I have three boys, ages 11, 6, and 2, and this made me cry. #20! Oof!

  30. Kim says...

    One of my favorite things I’ve read here. And I agree they are good for girls, too. Tearing up a bit as I read the last two – my oldest daughter is just 13, but I am imagining her setting out in what feels like the not too distant future. While I am excited to see what she becomes and does on her own, I already feel the ache of a house devoid of her always-there presence. Tonight am soaking up listening to her help her little sister try to figure out how to set up a camera to definitively determine if Santa is real or not.

  31. Nigerian Girl says...

    Thanks for writing this. That first one had me going, Yes! Every woman in my country needs to adopt that particular rule because Nigerian men are….Let me just stop here. I’m in a good mood today.

  32. Amanda says...

    I loved this post. I just put my 2.5 year old son to bed after a long weekend trip to Williamsburg, VA where we did so many new fun things together. I love him at this age and worry about when he gets older and doesn’t want to spend every second of every day with me anymore. This post made me think it’s still possible to have those loving moments when he is all grown up. And it just reinforced that no matter what path he takes I hope he just grows up to be a good, kind person.

  33. Kerry says...

    Same as nearly everyone else, crying. My son is 14 and 6’2″ and suddenly full of disinterest and disrespect. This was a good reminder to be kind and consistent and to love him and not take it personally and to guide him gently down the path. I love the parts about allowing friends to accompany him and to always have these friends over for dinner. So smart and keeps them close. And fed.

  34. Sheila says...

    Crying, as my sons are now 21 & 24. The oldest has moved 2 1/2 hours away by plane, and I treasure every bit of time we spend together. The youngest is in his last year of college, sigh. For those of you with littles, treasure this time. Thank you for including those of us who have older kiddos, er adult sons, with this post. So tremendously well done, Cup of Jo xoxo

  35. Lauren says...

    I read this out loud to my dozing 3 month old son – perfect timing for a for a first time mom who just wants to raise a stand up guy.

  36. Jeanne says...

    I also sent off a son to college this fall. Wow that was hard. Everyone was telling me it was hard so I was expecting it but it was far harder than I anticipated. And I’m not an emotional parent! My husband and I cried on and off for 3 days and going to the airport was the worst. Your mom instincts are telling you that you’re driving the wrong direction.
    Anyway, one interesting physical observation I had about a teen son is how they suddenly start taking up “space”. For so long they are your little guys and then they start sprouting up taller than you, but they’re still sinewy. Then somewhere in their junior and senior years, they start becoming, well, manly. Their shoulders become really broad and they develop muscles and they take up like twice as much space than they did before. I still do a double take when I see my son at a distance. It’s a neat thing.
    PS: Thank you COJ for including the teen/college perspective

  37. Elizabth says...

    I’ve been reading Catherine since her Babycenter blog – when Ben (and my precious girl) where 3 and Birdy was only a glimmer in someone’s eye. I can’t even tell how grateful I am that when I sent my daughter off to school, I knew Ben was leaving too and that Catherine would be the voice that perfectly captured my breaking heart!

  38. Stefanie Onieal says...

    Love this so much…hard to read as I just returned from dropping my college freshman at his dorm and got dinner together for my high schooler.
    Here’s what I would add…be less eager to jump in with advice and more eager to just listen.

  39. Judy says...

    Really good tips, thank you! My beautiful boy is 14 and he has those longish hairs growing from the side of his face. I have not said anything as I don’t want to embarrass him.

  40. Kelly says...

    Shedding a tear after reading this one. I have 1.5 year old twins that drive me so crazy I often find myself daydreaming of the day they’re 18, but I don’t think my heart will actually be able to take it when they’re gone.

    • Penny says...

      I have 16 year old twins and have the same thought. It’s harder than I ever thought it would be and I also know I’m going to miss them so much.

  41. Alexa says...

    Crying my eyes out. Mine is 10 months old, and already it’s going so, so fast. Too much, too soon. But also: each new day, every new joy, is the new best of my life. The stars in my constellation.

  42. Sara says...

    Geeze. This made me cry and I don’t even have kids yet! This is such a great post. I do think a lot about how to be a good parent one day. Thank you for writing this.

  43. Anne says...

    Crying. BOTH of my sons went off to college this year (one a year early!). It’s rough adjusting to this empty nest. I will add this: The notion “boys will be boys” is a social construct. Boys will be kind and caring and will interrupt that stereotype.

  44. Tami says...

    My son is 6 years old now….friends (and family) have told me not to be that Mom who has the loudest applause at the school play, not to enthusiastically wave out the window at carpool drop off saying, “Love you bunny!”, not to sleep in his bed when he needs me by his side and not to stick up for him when he’s dealing with bullies.
    I will continue to do all of these things. Unapologetically. Forever.

    • Liz says...

      Same. Love this. Thank you.

  45. Rachel says...

    My younger brother’s teen years were when I really fell in love with him as a person. Before then, we’d been at arms (literally, we wrestled a lot), but suddenly we could drive places alone, just the two of us, and talk about dating and religion and fears and sci-fi. He became the quiet kind of best friend you don’t have to be around all the time, but knows you to your core, no matter how long it’s been. This piece brought me back to the gangly boy with unruly hair who still asked me to help match his clothes—thank you.

    • Hollyl says...

      This is so lovely Rachel!

    • Brooke says...

      Oh wow, Rachel this is so wonderful. You were so right, my sister and I became close friends on an unexpected rafting trip together in high school. We then continued deep thoughtful conversations and hilarious- to us😂- inside jokes in the drive to school. Time alone as our own people made all the difference.

    • Christina M. says...

      So beautiful Rachel. I wish nothing more than for my own daughter (who’s 2) to say this about her brother (who’s 4) one day.

    • Karyn says...

      Thank you for sharing this! I live in hope for my 2 and 7 year olds’ future sibling relationship!

  46. Anne says...

    Gah! This made my eyes tear up. Wonderful post. My youngest, my fourth child, my second boy is 15 1/2, carefully driving us around, languishing in the easy chair with his iPad and headphones, interjecting with spot-on humor, practicing his amazing ping pong skills, earning excellent grades and keeping us entertained with stories about his friends and why he’s too young for a girlfriend. I’m soaking it all up. I’ve loved every age. It goes too fast.

    As always, I love this blog, it’s the only one I read everyday 😘

  47. KB says...

    This is exactly what I needed to read, as the mom of 12 and 13 year old boys. Thank you for these very wise words!

  48. katie says...

    i loved this more than i can possibly explain. I have 3.5 year old twin boys. i am going to print this out for now, for the future. so much goodness.

  49. laura says...

    I gave my son just one rule on the way off to college- cause there was only so much a guy can remember when there are so many new and exciting things going on…… It was….. DONT BE AN ASS_OLE…… now a little graphic you moms of sweet diapered baby boys are thinking- but it was a guiding light and was heard loudly in my slightly annoying voice in his head- and I have heard that it saved the day on more than a few occasions, and there was regret when he didn’t listen…. now I have nothing else left to say so I just smile kindly and sweetly. Cause he is an awesome human being :)

  50. Deserae says...

    Oh I love this. Teary eyed now. My boy will be 19 next month, and this is spot-on.

  51. Em says...

    #7! My 16 yo says funny things exactly like this. Who will make me laugh when he’s gone??
    Also, my husband would never allow our boys to sleep in past 9 or 10… but they so physically need it!

  52. Kattia says...

    I have a sweet & strong willed 5 year old boy! This made me cry my eyes out! Thank you!

  53. SB says...

    This is my baby brother too! The 6’4, 240 lb, bearded college football player who still calls me sissy, agrees to see Mamma Mia 2 with me in theaters and gives the best hugs.

  54. Candice says...

    One of the gajillion things I love about this post that is true in so many relationships – is that if you focus on improving you: being kind, gracious, etc, – that you’ll likely get way more out of the relationship. And what a great thing to remember, that we can practice this with our children.

    • Mary says...

      Yes to this!!

  55. Lori H says...

    BEST I HAVE EVER READ RE: RAISING BOYS! Sorry to yell, I just nodded my head through this whole list of rules! My son is 23 and I can tell you moms of younger boys – this list is perfect. I love my daughter with all my heart and I am so glad to have her ( we have a lot of fun together) so this is not a cut on daughters. Boys are very different from girls, and teenage boys are a force to themselves. Prepare for grocery bills you never thought you would see! Especially if you feed their friends too. And nothing is more satisfying than cooking for a group of teenage boys – they will express appreciation and thank you’s that will warm your heart! Now I am tearing up :)

  56. Jess V says...

    My 3 month old is sleeping on my chest while I’m reading this and I am crying. What a wild ride this is.

  57. Katie says...

    I have 3 boys and Catherine’s writing was a balm to my frantic, anxious self when pregnant and this is a salve as I look at my 6 year old and realize he will be a teenager next month at the rate things are going.

  58. Addie says...

    I have 3 sweet boys:8,nearly 5 and nearly 2 and when I had one, then two, then three I over the years have begun to see the sincere privilege of raising them-of teaching them
    To be good humans-from washing toilets to listening to the word stop the first time, but in that also appreciating they are each incrediblely unique boys. Reading this gave me a joy and appreciation for what is around the corner!

  59. Erin G says...

    Bawling over here. My boys just turned 13 and 15 in the past month. I’m constantly reminding myself to overlook the annoyances and embrace it – everything because these are the salad days. One day, not too long from now, I’ll miss the wet towels on the floor, the stinky soccer cleats in my car, the driving to school, soccer tourneys and guitar lessons, the people who think I’m the best cook in the world and the prettiest mom. Every year passes more quickly than the last. Ah, the passage of time.

  60. Kayla says...

    This underscores how effortlessly beautiful it is to love another human being while at the same time requiring such intentional, enduring work. Thank you for raising the glass to parenthood, for reminding in us of both the big picture and the meaningful details. Cheers to all the mothers and fathers, the mamas and daddys, tucking in toddlers and saying goodnight to their kiddos and walking past now empty bedrooms tonight.

  61. Christine Kueter says...

    Oh my … this is heartbreaking and so lovely and beautiful. SO well said. thank you for making my evening – and buzzing me back to appreciation mode! I am endlessly enchanted (and annoyed, perplexed, delighted … &tc) by my boys who aren’t yet old enough to have a ‘style’ or girlfriends. I love how you captured the tenderness that we all owe to our boys!

    ps: i have to say that I loathe it when people say, “oh, you have only sons? they won’t come back and visit you the way daughters will.” I don’t believe it for a minute. Elemental understanding and endless love is what mothers and sons share (if always FIRM but kind) … and sons and fathers, too, though of a different cast. thank you!!

    • Amy says...

      Sons definitely come back and visit (7 pairs of siblings/in-laws experience with my family and my husband’s) – but it sure helps if you are able to welcome and bond with their significant others! I know it’s not always possible, but if you can attempt to set aside the very natural skepticism and apprehension to genuinely welcome this new person, it makes such a difference in how much they (as a couple) prioritize visiting.

    • Kristie says...

      For your p.s. As a sister to four boys, let me tell you they all have gone back to live with our parents for various reasons over the years since leaving home, and they visit way more than I do (although I live 4000kms away from my family so fair enough). So there! to all the naysayers ;)

  62. Beatrice says...

    So lovely.

  63. Ann says...

    This is goddamn perfect (crying mother of 2 teenage boys).

  64. samara says...

    whew😩 and, floodgates😭❤️
    mom of an 8 year old son. this is all so beautiful, perfect, uh-mazing, and profound. thank you, catherine🙌🏽thank you, coj team🌟 already sent to every parent i know👏🏽

    thank you❤️

  65. Midge says...

    My God, #20.

  66. Heather says...

    Ohhhh, as the mom of 6- and 3-year-old boys, I alternately giggled and teared up my way through this entire list until I was going both at the same time.

  67. Margaret Lamson says...

    I have three teens—two of them boys—and, like Catherine, I just launched one to college this fall. Her rules are spot on in my estimation because she lets unconditional love, respect and open-handed decision guiding (rather than helicoptering control) create an environment in which her boys can grow, be themselves, take risks with support and learn to be good men. Her words make me teary-eyed because she articulates so accurately many of the ways I’ve attempted to parent these fast-growing humans. Love the list!

  68. Liz says...

    This is such a beautiful article. My baby is now 12 and much taller than I. But these bits of wisdom will help keep him my baby in this hard time for both of us.

  69. A says...

    As a woman in my early 20s, without any kids, this made me tear up and laugh much more than I expected <3

  70. Gretta says...

    My big boy turned twenty on 23rd Nov and moved out on the 24th Nov (I’ve made a rule for his younger brothers that moving out the day after a significant birthday is NOT ALLOWED) and I had given myself an award yesterday when I managed to drop him to the station yesterday after a visit and not cry as I drove home alone so I’m glad I wasn’t the only one crying at this. The first weekend C moved after I managed to carry boxes, not to cry in front of him, and give him wine and playing cards, and came home and made myself be brave enough to look in his empty room for the first time I thought..I wish there was something good on Cup of Jo about when they get big and move out, and you are proud and happy and greatful and know it is right and is everything you have worked for for twenty years and they are ready…but still you need a good cry. And there is! Thank you.

  71. Allie says...

    What a wonderful and touching list! So many of these emotions really resonated with me. My son (12 years old today!) is a long-armed, long-haired boy-man. This morning after opening his presents, eating a birthday doughnut and reading a multitude of birthday themed gifs from friends, he wrapped himself in a blanket and curled up with a battered copy of the star wars visual dictionary from a birthday years ago. Somehow he seemed just as conflicted as I am about how to feel about this whole getting older thing. I don’t want to go back in time (ack, diapers, ack sleepless nights) but at the same time, I also cannot bear what the future holds. Going right now to give my darling mom a big hug for surviving the tragedy that is parenting…

  72. Margaret says...

    Yes, yes, yes to #9, particularly, give them the “space and room for it.” Maybe it is because I am Dutch, but I am a firm believer in making sex as normalized and natural as possible. Teach them about respect, consent, and safe sex and kids will listen!

  73. Laura says...

    Squeezed my three month old son a little tighter as I read this. Everything I left halfway-done downstairs to rock him back to sleep suddenly seems so unimportant <3

  74. j.fizz says...

    This post reminds me of all the ways that being a parent has made me a better daughter.

  75. Monica says...

    I have been reading Catherine since before Ben and Birdy- back in her Babycenter days! I have a son, also named Ben, who is the same age as her Ben and a second son who is the same age as Birdy.

    My added advice is to love the time when they are learning to drive! There is no other time in their lives when they will have to sit next to you and not be able to look at a phone. They are sort of forced into conversation with you! I remember thinking “Wow, Ben can actually have an adult conversation!” when my son began driving and we had hour long drives to and from basketball games all over the state!

    Also, as someone else already said – always say Yes when they want to have friend over and have food hidden away that they can snack on!

    • bippy says...

      Oh my gosh I never thought of them driving in that way! My son will start driver’s ed next year and I’ve been prepping my husband to bear the brunt of it. Maybe I need to rethink that plan…

  76. stephanie says...

    So, so beautiful. I love how every single rule is underscored with so much love. Thank you for sharing!

  77. Molly says...

    Oh how I loved this. I have a 13 month old boy and pregnant with another; sometimes I think he’ll grow up one day and get married and he won’t be my boy anymore. But this made my heart swell and gave me some relief. Thank you coj.

  78. Mandy says...

    I have three sons, the oldest being almost 17 this made me cry beautiful tears about how wonderful it is to be a mother of boys.

  79. Amanda says...

    Mom of an almost-3-year-old boy here. Tears! I love these parent-of-teenagers posts…they give me a lot of hope and things to look forward to! Thank you! :)

  80. Chelsea says...

    Quietly wiping away tears as I rock my six-month-old boy to sleep … also, can we talk about how wonderful it is to see Catherine Newman’s name pop up on Cup of Jo?!? I’m a Real Simple subscriber and flip to Modern Manners the second I get the newest issue. Love love love!!!

  81. Wesley says...

    And….I’m crying as I read this while nursing my 3 month old son.

    The idea of my little bunny being old enough for college, even though that is YEARS away is too much for me.

    What great lessons to keep in mind as he grows though.

  82. aya says...

    Geez, these are making me cry–thinking about my 3-year-old daughter growing up and what a thoughtful mother you are.

  83. Quinn says...

    I am sitting at my desk fighting back tears! My son is only 3 but this post was just so beautiful, funny and heartwarming! And an important reminder to appreciate all the time I have with him and his sister while they still live at home – and that they won’t always verbalize how much they need me. Thank you for this.

    • Kelly says...

      Gah! Son is almost 5 (daughter 7) doing and feeling the exact same thing.

    • Debbie says...

      My son is ONE and I’ve got tears coming down my cheeks right now. What a lovely reminder to savor all the little moments.

  84. Julee says...

    This. So many times over. Thank you Catherine Newman. And I would add to #10:

    Assuming no one is deathly ill and it isn’t Mother’s Day, the answer to the question “Is it okay if my friends come over?” should also always be yes. Because being the home where the teenage boys congregate is better than not being the place where he wants to hang out.

  85. Suzanne says...

    I discovered Catherine Newman when we both had tiny children. My oldest daughter left for college this fall when Ben did, and I have a 16-year-old son, so it won’t be long before there’s another “heartbreaking boy-shaped hole” in my life. Catherine is wise and funny and one of my all-time favorite writers. So happy to find her here, though I find it hard to read anything she writes without weeping.

  86. jeannie says...

    What a great post! Love about teaching them consent and also letting them lie on the bed with you and your cats for comfort. Those are polar opposites! My son is way past college and still walks down the street holding his grandmother’s hand bc they feel so tender toward each other. And definitely teach them to do chores and be aware of helping!

  87. Caitlin says...

    This makes me want to write a thank you letter to my mother and father-in-law for raising such an incredible son, who I was lucky to find and marry.
    If I am ever a boy mom, I will come back to this post.

  88. Erin says...

    I’m not a mom, but the first thing I thought of was my boyfriend’s mom, and my mom (+ my brother) and I got so, so teary. To the moms out there: thanks for raising the good ones. The work and love you put into it is not going unnoticed. Love to you all.

  89. Erin says...

    I love this! I love everything Catherine writes. It’s interested to me that the comments are so different from the comments on Jenny’s post re: teenage girls. So many more tears shed and heartstrings pulled for sons!!! I’ve noticed that in Cup of Jo posts/comments over the years, and in our culture in general, women are so much more comfortable expressing their love for their sons than they are for their daughters. You virtually never see anyone write about their daughters with the tenderness Joanna (and commenters) express for their sons. We’re so much more critical of our daughters, and hesitant to publically swoon over their beauty. But we need to! They deserve our swooning too!!

    • Midge says...

      Beautiful. Bravo.

    • Neen says...

      I noticed this too! Thanks for so eloquently pointing it out.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I also think different tenors of the two comment sections might be because of the different tones of the two posts. Jenny’s was funny and frank and matter of fact — she has two daughters living under her roof. Catherine’s was nostalgic and bittersweet — her son moved away to college this fall. So that headspace makes her tips feel more emotional and tender, and brings those feelings out in the commenters!

    • t says...

      I am sure there is truth to what you said Joanna but I can’t help feeling differently about my son and daughter and their behavior and my hopes for them. They are twins so they are at exactly the same stage but there is something different about my son and our relationship than my daughter and our relationship.

      This might only apply to me but I am trying to raise a strong, confident daughter and a kind, gentle boy so I absolutely think there is a societal impact on how we talk about our daughters and our sons. And when I get those tender moments from my son for some reason they feel more special and when I get those moments of confidence and strength from my daughter they feels more special. I love them both equally and value each hug but there is absolutely more to it than just the tenor of the two posts IMO.

    • Midge says...

      Circling back: in our house, the dad/daughter relationship is sweet and tender, as is mine with our son. My husband is the one who worries about the trials and tribulations of becoming a man, and I worry about the trials and tribulations of becoming a woman. I think we both think about “preparing” our same-gendered child for the world, whereas we can sort of purely enjoy the other-gendered child. Of course, we both adore and worry about both children, but I think there’s something about knowing what’s really involved in navigating the world as a man/ woman that is in play. I said Bravo! because I need that reminder, to not always be Parenting my daughter with a capital P, but to swoon over her. She is the loveliest.

  90. Callie says...

    Oh wow. Caught me off guard as I think about how unimaginable it is that my own sweet three year old boy who was scared to do his first day of swim class yesterday and needed snuggling on the pool deck will one day transform into someone who needs extra long twin dorm sheets.

  91. Lizzy says...

    Ok, my son is only 3 years old but I’m crying over the “boy-shaped hole”. Stop it, too much. Wonderful piece, saving it for later.

  92. Jess says...

    Crying and smiling…these are brilliant. While every age has it’s challenges, I have so enjoyed every stage in my 2 & 5 year old boys’ lives thus far…and this helps soften the blow that they won’t be little forever. But they’ll always be my sweet boys, no matter how big their shoes get.

  93. Sonja says...

    Well, that just about did me in. Excuse me while I pick my three-year-old up early from school and go play in the park and drink cocoa because this broke me apart in the best way.

  94. Denise says...

    Wow, I love all her advice. Parents of boys, keep parenting your boys in this sweet and tender way! (girls too of course!) The world at large depends on you.

  95. EJ says...

    Don’t yet have children but do have two younger brothers… there’s a 7 year age difference between the youngest and I and though he’s off at college and “very cool” there, whenever we’re together he still lets me snuggle in for tv on the couch, wants to come on whatever errand I’m running and will lay his (enormous) man head in my lap and ask for a head scratch. Fingers crossed he always stays this way, but I have a good feeling he will.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, want to cry from this comment too now!

    • SB says...

      This is my baby brother too! The 6’4, 240 lb, bearded college football player who still calls me sissy, agrees to see Mamma Mia 2 with me in theaters and gives the best hugs.

  96. Rebecca says...

    I adore you, Catherine! I just sent my college freshman daughter a care package with your amazing granola (it’s been a family favorite for years!), and came home to read this. It brought tears to my eyes. I also have an almost 16 year old son, and so relate to all these rules. I’m about to leave to pick him up from school, which is one of my favorite times of the day because of the conversations that only seem to happen sitting side by side in the car. I dread his turning 16 next month and the end of our drives! So bittersweet. Thank you for being such a lovely human- the world needs more of you!

  97. oh my heart!!!

  98. Leah says...

    This made me so tear-eyed and I’m not a parent, wishing for a child!

  99. Karen T. says...

    I love the comments from all the moms of little boys–so sweet and such a good reminder of days gone by. As the mom of an almost 16 year old (two weeks until he’s licensed and driving!!) and a 12 year old boy, I agree with all of this (and have so loved Catherine Newman since ’00 BabyCenter days) and would only add a rule about giving them space–in all ways, all the time–on vacation, at home, in the car. They’ll come to you when they want to with their wants or needs and maybe they’ll share their day with you on their time when they’re ready. Forcing it just doesn’t work but what a day-maker when they do show up and share.

  100. Kimberly says...

    “I’m so glad you told me”. I just love this. Not only the message it sends, and the subliminal encouragement to continue doing so, but because it gives you a moment to breathe, regroup and, if necessary, to recover from whatever preceded that response and to formulate a compassionate follow-up sentence. Specifically, this would have come in handy when my 15-year-old daughter told me that she had a “stick and poke” tattoo. Evidently this is taking the place of the ice cube and needle ear piercing of my youth. Be still my heart and thank goodness for a wonderfully insightful mother who put things into perspective.
    I will use this often; thank you.

    • Melissa says...

      Hi Kimberly, I work in the field of abuse prevention, and I just want to echo that this feels like one of the most important things I teach parents and adults in the world at large. Any time a kid comes to you with something hard to hear, opening with “Thanks for telling me. I’m so glad you did. I know that wasn’t easy.” is so so very powerful. I’m a parent, too, and it’s advice I’ve taken to heart so many times. Hugs to you on this parenting journey!

  101. As I sit here reading this while my four-year-old son hangs out on the couch and my three-month-old son naps in his crib, I am teary thinking about how many sweet, wonderful years are ahead of us. I could not possibly love this post more!

  102. Elizabeth says...

    As a long-time Catherine Newman fan, please make her a regular!

    • Hanna says...

      Yes!

    • Mom of boys says...

      Ditto! Love Catherine! (And I just bought Azul for my soon-to-be 12 year old)! Thanks for the tip!

    • Kate says...

      Yes please!

  103. Em says...

    I’m weary of the “don’t ever do ___” rule. While I agree that drugs are bad, I just remember being so defiant as a teenager that I did almost anything and everything I was told not to do because I’m a contrarian. Instead, I would say “___ is a bad because___”. I would talk about real world issues, for instance- the opiate epidemic- and let the teenager come to the conclusion that it’s a bad idea to go down that path. Just my two cents.

  104. Chris says...

    All this and more. My boys (young men) are 37 and 40 and between them they have an 8, 2.5 and 2 year old boys. Remembering to start applying all of the advice to my grandsons.

  105. Robin says...

    Thank you for demonstrating how to handle the tough topics so honestly and gracefully.

  106. Sarah says...

    I’m sniffling and teary-eyed. My boys are 7 and 3 and I feel so many of these already apply. At the same time, the teen years seem so scary and I’m grateful for this perspective.

  107. Marcella says...

    Oh man.. my younger brothers are 22 and 18 (I’m 25) and my youngest brother went off to college this year. I can’t believe it because I feel like he’s such an innocent baby still!! This post definitely resonated with me especially when we all 3 had to share a bathroom…

  108. Jenny says...

    Oh, my heart. The tears started at #14. I have a daughter who somehow just turned 3, and a son who somehow just turned 6 months. When did this happen?! They were both tiny wee babes sleeping on my chest just yesterday, I swear. I know they’re still very young but, oh, how the passage of time aches sometimes!

  109. Becky says...

    This is what I’ve needed to read for so long now. In my 12 years of parenting I’ve never needed advice like I need it now and it’s so hard to find. I look back and can’t believe how much information we are inundated with when we have babies (for whom it is comparitivley dead simple to care) compared to the dearth of information about dealing with the complicated, drama-wrought mystery that is a teenager. I opened this in a tab and will keep it there for the next 20 years. Thank you!

    • Lin says...

      Hi Becky,
      I agree with you. There’s so much information on caring for babies and toddlers and yet the teenage years are the toughest emotionally and psychologically yet there’s much less information.
      I’m a mother of 2 teenage boys and a tween boy and this was such good help. Great job again CoJ team! Thank you! Please keep bringing the teenage and divorce posts 😊
      I’m going through a divorce so need the help and kind words as much as I can get ❤️

  110. Karen says...

    What a writer!! I read this, blinked back tears, and immediately ordered one of Catherine’s books from the library. Discovering new (to me) voices is one of the most wonderful things about visiting CoJ!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i loved her memoir Waiting for Birdy so much — i read it when i was pregnant with toby and it was such a salve.

  111. Lauren says...

    I have two boys – ages 1 and 3. I come from a family of all girls, so little boys were a total mystery to me. It has been the delight of my life to get to know them and experience the wonder of seeing the world through their eyes.
    My whole heart is wrapped up in the joy of being their mom, and the thought of my sweet, soft little babies growing up into giant almost-men crosses my mind daily. This is the sweetest and most thoughtful advice for mothering young men that I have ever read – bookmarking for future reference!

    • teegan says...

      ^This. Except my boys are three and six, and the older one already seems so tall and grown-up in so many unexpected ways!
      On boys: My husband had two brothers and one step-brother, whereas I only had a sister. I laugh at so many things my boys do now because my husband is telling them to be safer and I’m thinking of all of the stories I heard from his childhood! Jumping from haylofts onto stored sailboat masts a la Errol Flynn, literally swinging birches, all of the emergency room visits. I’m very grateful to have my mother-in-law’s wild stories to make my boys seem (so far) pretty tame.

  112. Melissa says...

    I don’t even have kids and this left me teary.

  113. Gemma says...

    I truly love this list. No. 10 makes me feel weepy – we are in the shy stage now – and I thought I was the only one who did No.20!! xxxx

  114. Eliza Hall says...

    I love you, Catherine, for this. You might have just saved my mama life (figuratively but maybe also literally).

  115. Barb says...

    My oldest son is 9 and I’m straight up bawling at this. It goes so fast.

  116. Gillian says...

    Oh, I am crying! I am the mom of 3 boys, the oldest of whom is turning into a teen before my eyes. He is both a little boy and a big one. He is both maddening a lovable. this came just at the right time for me to remember to focus on the lovable parts more.

  117. Amoreena says...

    I love Catherine Newman and I love all of this advice! Taking it to heart as I navigate life with a 13 and 10 year old.

  118. Gabriele says...

    Crying, and still sobbing. Beautifully written. My son, 2nd child, is a senior and will leave for college next fall. Trying to savor every single moment. Time went by so fast. Read somewhere the ….nights are long, but the days are short….so spot in. We managed to drag him to a holiday song-a-long last weekend that we did when they were little. Looking at him sitting there in his lanky six foot one frame, belting out the Christmas songs, I was also silently crying…I will miss this guy soooo much next year. Even though I am so happy for him at the same time.

  119. Alexandra says...

    Thank you for this list, it is so full of love for your young men. I am crying, just a little bit, thinking of my 13-year old man-child at home, who has the 6 ft. body of a teenager, but is still my little guy who enjoys to hug and cuddle. I love hanging out in his room before he goes to bed, talking about music and comedy, and his dreams how to renovate the kitchen; sometimes I want to hold on to these moments. Working on the life skills right now – laundry, changing sheets, preparing a simple meal.

  120. Yael says...

    I have twin 3 year old boys. I’m finding it wonderful to be a mom of boys, but honestly am a little scared that they’ll feel like strangers as they grow older. Thank you for this. Currently tearing up (happily!!) at my desk at work :)

  121. Lindsey says...

    Ok, I am near tears and feeling like I need to go ahead and have a baby IMMEDIATELY!!

    (The pile of shoes by the door….that one really got me. And the secret scalp smelling…)

  122. This made me really miss my brothers. <3

  123. As a mom of 4 boys (newly 12 on down to almost 6), I can tell we’re just about to enter these years. This afternoon, I was sitting listening to my 12 year old go on and on about obscure dodgeball strategy from gym class. He made a self-conscious comment like “I don’t know why I’m droning on about dodgeball” and all I could think of is how he’s so grown up and how I’d listen to him talk about anything so long as we’re still talking.

    Being a mother to many boys (brothers! best friends!) is a gigantic (LOUD! ROWDY!) pleasure and joy.

  124. Beth says...

    Bwaaaaaaaaa…. cant stop crying. This is so helpful and lovely and loving. Thank you! My boys are 7 and 6 (and my little lady is 2) so I can’t imagine this next step, but I appreciate the guidance!

  125. Sonia says...

    When he won’t talk, take him for a drive. If he still won’t talk, ask him to hand you his phone. If he still won’t talk, go get a milkshake. Once he starts talking, listen without trying to fix it.

    • Claire says...

      I love this, Sonia!

  126. Tara Ilsley says...

    I’ve been thinking of solo parenting after a loss of a child and husband and this bought me to my knees. I can’t wait to see those shoes. thank you.

    • FGB says...

      Sending you so much love Tara.

    • Sally says...

      So terribly sorry

    • Jess says...

      Oh Tara, sending you so much love. You will see those shoes, I can feel it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      tara, sending you so much love. i’m so deeply sorry for your devastating losses. you will see those shoes, and the person who wears them will adore you to the moon and back. xoxo

    • DG says...

      Gentle hugs for you, Tara, if you want them. Best wishes for the journey onwards.

  127. Katie Niersbach says...

    Thank you for this – I also have two young boys (4 and infant). I can’t imagine them as teens but then, yet, I do – esp when I catch movies like Love, Simon and find myself watching from a mom perspective. When did I get old?

    Back to how I have two young boys – I would really, really, really like a “how do they do it?” post/series. Particularly as a working mom – what SPECIFICALLY are folks doing to get out the door in the mornings, and then once home at night? I’m talking a schedule that may go down to 5 minute increments. We struggle sometimes and ask ourselves how are others managing? I’d be fascinated to peek into other routines and hopefully learn some tips/tricks in the process. Get kids dressed, myself dressed, everyone fed…etc etc… Thank you!

    • amanda says...

      I love this idea! In our house we have two working parents with commutes, a 6 year old in public school with an early start time, and a noisy cat. How do we all get out of the house by 7:40am without hating life? Would love to hear a play-by-play from some more experienced families! :)

    • Anne says...

      Ditto! I’m constantly wondering about how other parents handle logistics.

    • Sara says...

      We have a routine in theory, but it definitely crumbles some mornings! I’d like to see this also.

    • Mom of 4 boys here! Oldest is 12 and youngest is just about 6. I’m pretty confident you’re doing better than you perceive. Those years are just HARD I general. I call them the “sit down, stand up years” because you’re always rescuing someone from near-danger. :)

    • Abesha1 says...

      Two things that have helped me:
      1) do absolutely anything possible, down to any single tiny detail that irks you in the morning (i.e., even get out your vitamins, or place favorite coffee mug onto the counter) the night before. Everyone’s clothes out, lunches packed (even put the whole lunchbox in fridge if you can!), backpacks and purse packed, breakfast ready to warm up or eat, shoes/jackets/hats by the door.
      2) even though I’m exhausted because the toddler doesn’t sleep through the night, if I get myself up 15 minutes earlier than they do, mornings go much better.

  128. Nicola says...

    My God this is so beautiful! I am a sister of a big hairy boy, and the only thing I would add is ‘quantity time’. Doing things that take a long time (road trips, going to football games, running together) give rise to much better conversations than staring across the table at a restaurant probing for answers.

    Works best if said activity doesn’t involve eye contact, my brother opens up so much more when we’re side by side, not face to face.

    • kay banks says...

      so helpful, thank you for chiming in with that. I think my son does better that way too but hadn’t thought about it with such astuteness. He’s lucky to have a sister like you!

  129. Shauna says...

    My goodness. This is so beautiful. My son is only 3 but I’m so grateful to read this now and I will turn to it over and over again in the years to come.
    Thank you.

  130. Meg says...

    wow! my son is just barely 2 and this is already bringing tears to my eyes. beautiful words of wisdom, and super-mom inspiration!

  131. Sarah says...

    I really love all of this except for the comment about sex. (On board with the comments about consent, obviously.) Having lost two friends this year to cancers that were cause by HPV I just can’t condone casual and early sex.

    • Mims says...

      Teach your kids about safe sex and buy them condoms and make sure they know how to properly use them. The HPV vaccine is not full proof, nor does it cover all strains of HPV. Many are going to have sex anyway. I am a primary care physician, and seriously, biological drives and hormones can wreak havoc on the best intentioned self controlled person. Condoms are win-win in my book. Thy should have them around all the time.

    • Hanna says...

      I think Catherine’s point is that the sex will probably happen anyway. As a parent, it’s important to make sure teens have the time, space, and knowledge to do it as safely as possible. I expect her outlook extends to making sure kids are vaccinated against HPV and knowledgeable about emotional and physical risks.

    • Amy says...

      Agreed, Sarah. There aren’t any condoms for the heart, and all teenagers are not having sex.

  132. Mara says...

    Well, now I’m full-on sobbing in my office. What a beautiful, humorous reminder of the wonder that is parenthood.

  133. kathy says...

    just this morning my 1.5 year old found an old ladybag backpack, had his two older sisters put it on him, and waited at the back door patiently to be taken to school. tears when we left him behind with the babysitter. this post made him growing up seem so vivid. it will be so bittersweet.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my heart!

  134. Kate says...

    Gorgeous! I have no sons or daughters but I might someday and since I only grew up with sisters I could never picture what it would be like to raise boys. This made me feel like it would be funny and beautiful.

  135. M says...

    I made it all the way to #20 before crying… I have 2 boys, 5 years old and almost 2. This was lovely! She sounds like a seriously wonderful mom.

  136. Lydia says...

    Sitting here nursing my 7 month son and crying. #14 got me started because I recently photographed the tiny socks in my laundry pile and thought. “One day these won’t be in here and my heart will be broken.” Thank you for sharing positive articles about parenting, they are much appreciated.

  137. Nerissa says...

    This made me tear up at work. As mother to a boundary-testing 3-year old boy (and 3- year old girl) I needed this reminder to be present and grateful for the precious moments with them this evening even if the night ends with a tantrum.

  138. D says...

    Crying! My son turns 1 next week, and I’m pregnant with what I secretly think is a boy. My heart just exploded.

  139. Jessie James says...

    This is by far one of my favorite posts. I’ve created a new board in Pinterest just to keep this on hand.

  140. Jenny says...

    Catherine, I am a (deliberately) child-free thirty-something who regularly reads your blog because I LOVE your version of parenting. Even though I don’t plan to become a parent, I am an auntie, and so pick up lots of wonderful, delightful, amazing advice from you anyway. Oh and I love your taste in games, too. Thank you!

  141. The warmth of the rules made my heart melt. Especially since I have 2 sons of my own. Loved all 21 of them.

  142. Oh, this has me crying. Not least of all because my 4-year-old, who no longer naps, just fell asleep on the couch and as I went to put a blanket on him and sneak in some work, realized he looks so much less like a baby and so much more like a little boy these days. Thank you for this.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i cried at #19.

  143. Beautiful, I love this. And helpful for mother’s of 12-year olds, soon to be teenagers.

  144. oh my heavens I was not expecting to start balling over my lunch today. This is beautiful and as I squeeze my 5 year old I wonder… can I be THIS good of a mom? I think so. I hope so. Thanks for this.

  145. Maggie says...

    I have two boys under age two, and while I can’t imagine them as teenagers, I know it’s right around the corner. This is just so great. Thank you!

  146. Bethany says...

    Tears. This post was wonderful, both heartbreaking and reassuring.

    I’m the mom of 2 boys, ages almost-5 and almost-3, and I’m at the same time terribly nervous and terribly excited for their future. Watching them grow up is like watching the most thrilling suspense movie, but one that unfolds at a snail’s pace. It can be overwhelming sometimes, and usually I have no idea what I’m doing, but I feel so lucky to be their mom and get to witness these little people becoming who they will be.

  147. LT says...

    Bookmarked this! I have a 6 year old, in a blink he will be a teen. Gah!

  148. I love this list. It makes me cry with its deep truth and humor, too. xoxoxo

  149. Lauren B says...

    My son is only 4….and apparently someone just started chopping onions in my office, because now I have tears running down my cheeks.

    Thank you for this sweet, heartfelt reminder and advice.

  150. Kelli says...

    Oh my goodness, this is so so so impossibly sweet. I always read the comments section on each post, seeing all the comments about “sitting at my desk, crying,” but I’ve never actually **cried** at work just from reading a blog post!! Well, finally, I can honestly join the gang and say, I’m sitting here at my desk, crying.

    • Beth says...

      Also, your gift guides of games, etc, are ALWAYS THE BEST