A mother works full time to get herself out of the job

by Denise Dykstra

We met with some new friends this past weekend and were talking about our families. “Wait, four boys? You have FOUR boys?” one asked.

Yes. And look, still surviving it all.

Because it is the week of Mother’s Day, I thought I would attempt to share with you a brief look at what it has been like to raise four boys.

It was harder to sum it up than I expected. There is so much to say — how do I fit it all in one column?

Here is my secret to raising boys: I didn’t know what I was doing, I missed the class on how to raise them, so I just kept learning as I went along.

When someone asks me how on earth I survived raising four boys, I can tell you that I honestly don’t know. I was too tired to take notes (though, I did blog a lot about our adventures when they were little). I was legit learning as I went. I failed a lot. It helped greatly that God gave me my amazing mom to help me when I became a new mom myself (thank you!). It also helped that God gave me this absolute adoration for being these boys’ mom.

I remember well, that July day, when our first son was put into my arms. And then they sent us home. How on earth were we to know what to do to raise this tiny little human? He couldn’t tell us anything he needed! I think I logged the most phone calls to my mom in that time of our history.

And then those boys just kept coming. When we announced we were expecting boy number four, my father-in-law shook his head in disbelief, and went out and bought us a great big cooking pot. He knew we would need it. He was correct.

When the boys were young, walking through our very small farmhouse was trickier than anything they had to do in a “Mission Impossible” movie. If you could safely make it from one end of the room to the other, without stepping on legos, you really deserved a trophy.

I have unknowingly housed snakes, frogs, turtles and fish in our home. Guess how I found out they were there? We have a family of very good friends who came to visit, and the seven boys found approximately 70 tadpoles that they brought into the house, and I was suddenly enlisted as the one to keep them all alive. Sadly, the tadpoles did not survive.

I swear boys just try to think up great adventures to do, and assume they will just barely miss getting hurt, and then are shocked when they do. I recently learned that one of my boys knew he was going to get in huge trouble for sneaking a jackknife outside to cut down a limb. He then proceeded to cut his finger, JUST LIKE HIS MOTHER TOLD HIM HE WOULD, and concocted some bandage that managed to keep his finger together. Never underestimate a boy’s creativity.

They fight like crazy, wrestle each other to the ground, eat pre-breakfast, breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, after school lunch, dinner, leftovers and snacks before bed. When they were young, I had to tell them what we were having for dinner every single time I dropped them off at school or the fear of starvation would set in on them.

They spent hours in the sandbox making roads and farm fields, crafted forts and stick weapons, jumped insane high jumps on bikes, created motor vehicles to race around the yard in and it was my job to keep them all alive.

It was a full-time job.

We used to show up at the beach with every boy hauling down a large metal Tonka truck, a cooler full of food, every swim thing they could carry, shovels and buckets, as well as fishing poles and fish bait. We would arrive at the beach in a loud, screaming heap and people all around us would create quite a wide circle around us. Listen, once we made it to the beach, we were there for the duration. That was way too much work for a quick one hour swim.

My husband will ask me if I remember such and such or so and so from our past, and I will look at him as if he is speaking a foreign language. Did we even live the same life? I was just trying to keep all these boys alive, there was no time for anything more than that.

And keeping those boys alive was the best time of my life.

I have never laughed so much as when they were little. Our youngest would tell us these long, drawn out, never-ending stories until he fell asleep. I’d give anything to hear a “When I was a little kid” story again. Our third would run circles, literal circles, around our driveway and he jumped his bike so many times the wheels fell off. Our second son did every dangerous thing he could think of and lived to tell the story, and he tells some great stories of it all. Our oldest was born with an old soul. At 2, he figured out how to unscrew the screws holding the crib together so he could get out whenever he wanted; he carried that on to fixing bikes and now engines.

But I also had a million hugs a day. I was brought every flower and pretty weed to wear behind my ear. My boys would run to my protection to keep me from all sorts of snakes, or vermin that we would find on the farm. We worked on so many projects, we had so many conversations, we sang so many silly songs, they watched so many hunting videos and John Deere videos and professional bull riding videos. We read so many books and listened to so many audio books.

I hate fish and worms, but we put in some serious hours fishing. I have visited them at tractor shows and sporting events and radio controlled airplane flyovers. I have been exhausted to the point of tears, like me actually crying because I was so tired, and I have laughed to the point of tears because loving them was so much fun.

It’s an odd occurrence then, when these boys I have strived so hard to keep alive end up having turned out to be these very interesting men that I sit and have coffee with and talk all the life things out with. And that they grow up and leave.

I wish baking them fresh, chocolate chip cookies could solve all our world’s problems like it did when they were little. I wish I could go back and have a day of pure chaos and soak in all of their fights and tattling and hugs and kisses and laughs and tears. Being a mom to four boys is not for the faint of heart, but I am so glad God gave me the task.

As my boys grow into adulthood, I am learning to be a mom all over again. I am insanely proud of the men my boys have become and are becoming still. Having your little boys grow to be men is also fun and exciting, and I still get hugs and love.

I foresee a day when I am making chocolate chip cookies for their sons, and I’ll see my little boys in their sons’ smiles. I hope they know that I am always cheering for them, always praying for them, always willing to make them chocolate chip cookies… I think that part of motherhood always stays the same. But for now, I’ll keep learning, and we’ll all keep changing, and I think that is the most beautiful part of life…the loving, learning, changing adventure of it all.

And I must admit, it is nice not to be shocked by snakes being found, and then immediately being shown to me, so they could laugh at my screaming. I am glad they have (mostly) outgrown that.

A shout out to all the moms!

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