What I Learned From My Mother-in-law About Raising BoysWritten by Linda Hill
Today marks 15 years since the passing of my dear mother-in-law, Donna Hill. She was an amazing woman – maybe not by the world's standards, but certainly by mine...
Today marks 15 years since the passing of my dear mother-in-law, Donna Hill. She was an amazing woman – maybe not by the world's standards, but certainly by mine. She raised 8 children; seven of them were boys (the first son passed away from spinal meningitis at 18 months). As for myself, I was raised in a family of 5 girls and boys were quite a mystery to me. My best friend knew of my fears and once, when folding her family’s laundry, she picked up a (clean) jock strap and flung it at me and “cursed” me to have all boys! When my first child, a son, was born, my friend called me, laughed wickedly into the phone and said “Ha! My curse is coming true!” and then she hung up! Truthfully, I WAS scared because I didn’t know the first thing about raising boys! Fortunately, my amazing mother-in-law did! I watched Donna closely during my early parenting years. She passed along far before any of us expected, but I think I managed to get the gist of her philosophies (after all, I have the blessing of being married to one of those great men she produced!) Here are a few things I learned about raising boys from Donna:
1) A home is NOT a palace or showroom! It is where kids play, run around, learn, spill milk, make messes, clean up messes, have LOTS of friends over, drink from the same milk jug (when no one is looking, of course) and where they are LOVED. She believed that THINGS are just THINGS and no one possession is more important than a human being, so why fill your house with all that unnecessary STUFF? For Donna, her house wasn’t a “Parade of Homes”….it was a constant Parade THROUGH her home!
2) Boys need the outdoors! They need to breathe fresh air, play in the mud, run, bike, hike, fish, climb rocks, back-pack, and have adventures – even ones that might be best shared much later in life (because if she knew that you almost died three times in a day, you might not get to go again!) Sometimes allowing boys to have adventures leads to nasty scars, scrapes with danger and even broken bones….but boys wear those scars like badges of honor. They’ll re-tell those stories for many, many years to come. How sorry Donna would feel for any “bubble-wrapped,” video-game playing boy who rarely sees the light of day.
3) Natural Consequences are the best teacher. Donna was under no delusion that her kids were perfect. She knew they’d make mistakes. She had a teenage son who was making some pretty poor choices at one time and I asked her how she handled it. She simply replied, “I just pray every night that if my child makes a bad choice, that they’ll be caught!” It sounds so simple, but in this world where people hire attorneys to get their kids out of trouble and even lie for them, I found this advice so refreshing. Donna believed in consequences and wanted her boys to feel every bit of them while they were in her home. That way, she could love and counsel them through their bad choices. She told me she felt sorry for a kid in the neighborhood who never seemed to get caught. She was afraid of what he’d turn into later in life if he never had to pay up.
4) Donna knew that T-I-M-E is how kids spell the word “love.” She took time and talked with her kids about everything….she’d make observations about good and bad choices people made and how they affected not only their lives, but the lives of people who loved them. She took time to get to know her children’s friends and loved them, too. She always had fresh snickerdoodles in the kitchen to draw the kids to the counter of her very humble, tiny kitchen (I still marvel at how she cooked for a family of 8 in that 8” x 10” kitchen). She talked to her kids in a way that they KNEW what she expected of them and they KNEW what she stood for. They also KNEW that if they messed up, she still loved them.
Obviously, much of the parenting wisdom I picked up from Donna isn’t only for boys, but having two sons of my own, I’m so grateful for her example and her wisdom. This world seems increasingly deficient of good, honest and upright men. Thank you, dear Donna, for shedding a little light on the subject of raising boys. As a mother of three daughters, I can only hope and pray that there are more mothers like you out there raising good men for my girls!
Linda Hill is a native of…well, nowhere really. She grew up as an Air Force brat and currently claims Littleton, CO as her home of 8 years (the longest she’s lived any one place in her life so far!) She is the mother of 5 children, two sons and a daughter who have already “flown the coop” and 2 daughters in high School. She is a graduate of Brigham Young University in Family Science and put her degree to use as she raised her large family and operated several home-based businesses while serving in many volunteer positions in her church, community and the schools. She has been married to Kent Hill for 25 years and they look forward to at least another 125! Currently she is an instructor to teens for a daily early morning religion class. She is passionate about her family, storytelling, politics and when she gets the time – locking herself in her sewing room with a chick flick and getting her “creative” on!
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