Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys

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Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don’t let ’em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make ’em be doctors and lawyers and such

Thank you, Willie Nelson. This iconic song is a reminder of one of the really important rules of childrearing:

We don’t get to choose for them.

The truth is our children will grow up to be what they grow up to be.  Chances are better than even that who they become will clearly reflect the values and style they’ve witnessed along the way, but we can’t force them to be, or not be, anything. How can I state this so unequivocally?  Case in point …

This weekend Younger Son is home from college.  He’s brought his first really serious girlfriend home to meet us.  I know it’s serious, because unlike all the ‘girl dash friends’ we’ve met before, he refers to this one as his girlfriend, and actually called home several weeks ago to announce the relationship.  That’s serious.

Older Son is also home for a visit with his girlfriend.  They’re the ones who just got back from 4 months traveling in South America (thank goodness they’re still speaking to each other and don’t appear to be parasite-ridden).

As a result, I have this wonderful opportunity to watch both my sons with women, other than their Mommy, who are clearly important to them.  I get an up-close view of what they absorbed while watching what the grownups did.  And here’s some of what I see …

Both pitch in to clean the room they share (including linen changes and vacuuming) the night before the girls arrive.  The last time they voluntarily cleaned anything without my arm-twisting undoubtedly involved sports equipment or cars. Then they ask if I need help getting the guest room ready.

Younger picks up his lady at the airport and detours on the way home to show her a sentimental family spot we call ‘the special place’.  He hasn’t been there in years. I didn’t even know he remembered it.

Older turns down a (free) restaurant meal to stay home and prepare dinner with his lady. At least I think they’re preparing dinner.

Both gladly accept our suggestion of a family hike in the local state park with a magnificent view of the Pacific.  They guide the girls skillfully over rocks and familiar slippery places.  There’s noticeably less testosterone-driven competition on the trail.

Younger Sister is totally comfortable with both women.  In fact, all 5 of them seem to be having a really good time together.  No tension, no awkwardness, no uncomfortable silences, no red flags.

All the kids are light-heartedly respectful.  We tell funny family stories about each other that are revealing, but not embarrassingly so.  The weekend is amazingly close to the mental movie I’d make about myself as the mom of adult kids and their families.  The truth is, I’m pretty much in mommy heaven.

Both have chosen lovely, smart women I’d be pleased to welcome into our family. It’s unlikely that either is THE ONE  (at least I don’t think so, since my guys are only 20 and 22)  but it gives me a view of the future that’s truly wonderful.  My deepest fears about multiple piercings and full body tattoos may not come to pass after all.

So Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
They’ll never be home and they’re always alone
Even with someone they love

Another really important rule of childrearing?  Monkey see, monkey do.

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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?


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One response to “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys”

  1. Lori

    in full appreciation of how wonderfully hopeful this post is. It’s so inspirational to look ahead and see what’s possible if you raise your kids with “goals” in mind, yet with the knowledge that while you can guide them, you can’t control who they turn out to be.

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