By: Shannon Ralph
What do I know about raising boys? I have come to the conclusion that boys are an absolutely mystery to me. My dad died when I was 11, so I spent most of my adolescence and all of my adulthood without a father. I do have one brother, but he was raised in a household of women, so he’s practically a girl in my eyes. I don’t have a lot of dating experience when it comes to the opposite sex. I’ve been with Ruanita for 15 years. So, let’s be honest…what in the hell do I know about raising boys? Pretty much nothing.
As such, I have decided that I must rely on that age-old paragon of parenting strategies. Prayer. That’s right. I am down on my knees appealing to my heavenly father above to please….for the love of God, please…help me raise these strange little creatures that smell like sweat and dirt. These little bodies harboring unfamiliar Y chromosomes. I present to you a Prayer for My Boys.
Dear Lord, it’s me. Shannon. Do you remember me? It’s been a while, I know. I was the tall skinny girl with the knobby knees who used to play the organ at your house every Saturday night. Remember? I used to annoy you every night when I went to bed begging you to please let me gain weight so my cousin Denny, Jr. would stop making fun of me. Well, I no longer play the organ. And oh, yea…thanks for the extra hundred pounds. Good one, Lord.
I am praying to you today because I have these two little boys. Amazing little creatures that you gave me. I like them. Really, I do. But here’s the thing. I think you may have made a mistake because…well…I don’t know what I am doing. I know nothing about boys. I don’t know how to raise them. I don’t know how to teach them. I don’t understand their need to pin one another to the floor and sit on each others’ heads. I don’t understand why every twig becomes a gun and every stick becomes a sword. I don’t understand how they can sit for hours on end with joystick in hand staring at blinking dots on a television screen. And please, can you explain to me what is so damn funny about fart noises?
I simply do not get them. As such, I have some specific requests to make of you. I will try to keep this brief, as I know you have more important things to worry about. Like the Middle East peace process and North Korea and The Bachelorette (please help that poor girl find love).
Dear Lord, please teach my boys, at some point in their lives, to hit the toilet. No woman wants to clean (or sit on) a urine-soaked toilet seat.
Please give them enough confidence in their own masculinity to never question another man’s.
When the time comes that my sons begin hiding the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition under their mattresses, please have mercy on their poor lesbian mother and give them the common sense to lock their bedroom door. I don’t think either of us would survive my walking in on that business.
Please instill in them a desire to participate in team activities. I realize that neither of them are exactly gifted athletes, but I would be happy with the debate team. Or the Lego team. Or even first tuba in the marching band. Whatever. Something…anything…that provides them with that all-important sense of teamwork that will get them further in life.
Please provide them with good friends. Friends who will sneak beer from their father’s liquor cabinet on Friday nights, but will not, under any circumstances, introduce my sons to anything more illicit than the occasional brew.
When, years from now, I am summoned to the county jail to pick up my son after he is caught drinking that smuggled beer, please strike him mute so I do not have to listen to his slurred words or declarations of love. If they are anything like their mother, my sons will be extremely happy and loving drunks. I don’t need to hear that shit.
Though they do not have a dad of their own, please let them be amazing fathers one day. Please make them nurturing and fun-loving and generous fathers.
Please allow them to realize—at some point before high school graduation—that grades matter. School is important. And education will get you further in life than anything else.
Please send them to college far enough away that they can enjoy freedom. Pizza for breakfast and keg parties and fraternity life. But not so far away that I cannot visit often. And unannounced.
Please let my boys fall in love. Deep, mad passionate love. Please let them find someone who makes their little hearts sing. And, if it is not too much trouble, please don’t let her be a bitch. I am afraid I have a soft spot for crying boys and I might just have to hunt her down and hurt the bitch.
Please give them the strength to stand up for those in need. Whether it be the kid being bullied in school or the woman who is the butt of inappropriate jokes at the office. Please let them know that all people are worthy of respect and give them the courage to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Let them be leaders, not lemmings.
Please make them love one another. Right now, their relationship is tenuous, at best. There is a whole lot of hero worship tempered with an odious amount of contempt. Please let that even out one day. They each only have one brother, and that relationship should be one of the best of their lives.
Please instill in them a deep sense of respect for women. Let them know in their heart of hearts that if they ever use their larger size or greater strength to intimidate or physically hurt a woman, their mother has ways of making them wish they were dead.
Please steer them away from jack-ass style stunts. Please make them see the idiocy of skateboards on rooftops. Please open their eyes to the fact that staplers and human flesh do not mix. Please keep them away from electricity and gas and fire and dry ice. Please keep them from ingesting inanimate objects that are not meant to be food. They are not the brightest bulbs on the Christmas tree. Please, Lord, protect them from their idiot selves.
Please allow them to keep their sensitivity. Despite its best efforts, do not let this world pound it out of them. Let them always understand that men can cry. And men can laugh and love and kiss and hug. Men can say “I love you.” And men can say “I’m sorry.”
Please provide them with a sense of adventure. Let them see the world. Make their own paths. Chart their own courses. Let them be risk-takers.
And above all else, Lord, let them grow up to be happy men.