On Raising Boys and Raising Girls

Dear Billy,

This is the first letter I’ve ever written you. I’m not sure why I haven’t written before. I think it’s because you’re a boy, and I assume once you’re grown and hairy and off running around pulling branches off trees and wanting to break stuff, you wouldn’t be interested in the ramblings of your mother’s heart.

I realize that’s just silly and presumptuous and, frankly, I don’t quite mind if you read my letters or not. I want you to know you are loved, yes, but if you only ever realized that through some letter I posted on a blog years before you were even able to read it, well, I’ll take a wild stab in the dark to admit that I might have missed the mark.

I do not plan on missing the mark. I plan on bull’s eye-ing that mark smack bang in its centre with my great, heaving, overzealous heart. But you know what I’ve learned? You know what you’ve taught me, in the three weeks you’ve been here with me?

That bull’s-eyeing the mark is something which needs to be learned. It’s not enough to just love. It’s not enough to just show our love in the way we like to show our love. We need to stop for one hot little second and ask ourselves how the person we love best feels loved.

When Ella was born, I became a mum. And since I had nothing to compare the experience of mothering to, I assumed that, when I fell pregnant with you, the way in which I loved her would be the same way in which I loved you. It’s not.

It’s not, you see.

The feelings are the same, certainly, and the strength in which they pierce my heart is equal, but I see now, in retrospect, that I learned how to love Ella, much like I will learn how to love you.

Because the thing is this.

If I have realized anything in my life, it’s that love is not simply something we feel, but rather something we do. And what we do changes for each person we love. What is required of us is learning our people and talking so they hear. What is required is discovering how the person we love best feels loved and then loving them like that.

I had to learn what Ella likes and dislikes, what she needs from me and what she wants to do without. Loving her came a little naturally to me, I must admit, because of the simple fact that she is a girl. She talks girl and I talk girl and so the way in which she feels special and loved is the exact way I instinctively show my love. I paint her toenails. I massage her. We put lipgloss on together.

But you?  In the three weeks you’ve been here, I’ve recognized that you are you. Already, you are different to the way she was as a baby in many ways, and I realize that you too, will have a language you will speak in. A boy language, yes, but really just a Billy language, for learning our children goes far deeper than simple gender comparison. The fact that you are a boy certainly makes me wonder how I might go about connecting with you in the deep way I hope to; about how I might show you how much I love you, but this hesitation diminishes when I realize that all I have to do is learn you. All I have to do is speak your language. Playing toy trains, maybe, for a little while. Wrestling, perhaps. Cuddling and reading stories, hopefully. Going on shopping sprees for fashionable shoes, certainly a possibility. Teenage grunting, presumably.

It excites me the most, this part of being your mama. For all the blissful moments I feel right now in my days with you – the way your legs curl up like a little frog, resting under your tummy as you lie across my chest…the way you smell like, well, God…..the way you sleep so soundly, so innocently…the way you are so utterly dependant on me for your survival and how ferocious that makes me feel in my love and protection of you, what I smile when I think about is the path we will tread together. The boy I will get to know. The insides which will become so familiar to me I will be able to read them in a heart beat.

You know what the best thing about being your mum is? Being one of the lucky people who will get to know you so utterly thoroughly, so inside-out. Being part of your life, in whatever big or small ways the future holds.

Learning you.

Knowing you.

Loving you.

In your own special way.




I love you beautiful boy, but then again, by the time you can read this, I hope to God you already knew.

Your Mama


2 Responses to “On Raising Boys and Raising Girls”

  1. Nurdan

    Hi Rachel, I found your blog before I gave birth to my baby boy Hakan this January. I also have a little girl who just turned two in Jan. I just wanted to say thankyou for sharing your thoughts, since I am going through exactly the same things as you. Sometimes I pop by into the tent and find that you have written about the same struggles and joys I’m experiencing…and when things are going bad, you change my mind and help me see things from another perspective. Thanks for writing and sharing…
    Xo nurdan from sydney

    • The Red Tent

      Hi Nurdan,
      Thanks for writing in. I know the feeling of sharing your experiences with someone going through the same thing, and I’m glad you feel better for reading the blogs. It’s so nice to know we’re not alone in our feelings. I hope you’re going okay with your two babies. It can be quite a juggling act! xx


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