It’s a … BOY? How Do I Raise a BOY?

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It was February 2011, when the ultrasound tech announced that my husband and I would be having a boy.  As my husband high-fived the tech, I stared at the screen not knowing what I was going to do with a little boy. I. Just. Stared.

Age 5

Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled that he was healthy and all ours, but I never grew up around boys. I am an only child, an only grandchild on one side of my family, and I was raised among a bunch of women. Having started dance when I was 3 years old, all I have known is a life of glitter, sequins, and fancy feathery headbands for all occasions. I was that ONE girl who knew all the rules of football (thanks Mom!), but I was ALL GIRL. I knew nothing about what I thought boys were about: mud, trucks, playing with lizards, and always smelling like outside.

So there I was. Staring at the screen. No big bows, no princess tea parties, no dance recitals…

The only thing that I was totally confident about with regards to parenting just got tossed out the window with three little words: “It’s a BOY.” I remember crying on the way back home that day. Not because we were having a boy, but because I didn’t know what to do with one. I hate going outside. Insects and mud make me itchy, and sweaty little boy heads are gross. I was terrified that the one area of parenting I thought I had a handle on, had just vanished.

I had no earthly idea how to even hold a baby!

June 2011 Eric and I had the most amazing little boy enter this world, Quinn.

I was so scared. You can even see it in the first picture they took of us. They handed this little baby to me all wrapped up like a baby burrito and expected me to know what to do with it. Even in the picture, I didn’t even know how to hold him, much less how to naturally parent a little boy.

I was now the mom of a little boy. Over the last five years, I have caught up and learned about Star Wars (yawn), learned to have a love/hate relationship with Legos. And I have endured many instances of frustration as I walk through the “boy” department, which is a quarter of the size of the “girl” section nearly anywhere. But here I am, rocking being a mom of a boy. I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

Rage 2018 Hip Hop Crew

As Quinn started to gain his own unique personality, he started to come out of his shell. One day, he told us he wanted to take a hip-hop class.

“WHAAAAAAT?” I may have burned rubber out of my driveway to get him up to the studio to sign up. I figured he would hate it once he saw that all of his friends were playing soccer or baseball. And I would be sentenced to the sidelines of a ball field, battling mosquitoes and sunburn for at least the next 13 years. It was too good to be true, I was about to live my dream of being a DANCE MOM!

Boys will be boys…

Fast forward two recitals later, and not only is he a hip-hopper, but this year he enjoyed ballet and jazz. He loves it. We love it. His studio loves it. He is happy, and he is learning that practice makes perfect, that structure is a necessity of life, and that boys can dance. There are several boys in his classes, all of which are loving the art of dance.

When I go back to that ultrasound room in 2011, I saw Quinn in that square monitor and instantly put him in a box. The BOY box.

He has taught me so much about just letting kids be kids. Letting them enjoy what they enjoy. Letting them explore their interests, and not putting them in a box. He will dance as long as he wants to, and we will continue to encourage him to grow and expand his potential, both in dance and in other areas of his life. We have received some thinly veiled questions and comments about why he isn’t playing football or that “putting him in ballet” will require some sort of “counter balance” of testosterone. For every side-eye comment like that, we get thirty positive remarks. He is happy, he is healthy, and he is DANCING.

It’s easy to say that you would never assume gender roles for your child or that you would be “happy with either gender” when expecting. 

But let’s face it – everyone plans a future for their children. And because of many gender norms and sometimes your own unknown biases, you place kids in these boxes, just as I unknowingly did. Let me be the first to tell you. They will surely escape those boxes and show you exactly what they are capable of if you just give them a little time and space to learn who they are and who they want to be.

2018-2019 RDC Mini-Company Team

In the meantime, should you need me, I’ll be over here in the air condition celebrating Quinn making the Rage Mini-Dance Company 2018-2019 team while others are sitting on the baseball field covered in insect repellent and sunscreen. He made my dreams come true when I had him, and now once more because…. I am finally a DANCE MOM!

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Lauren Rhodes Braden is a native of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where she resides with her husband, Eric and her son, Quinn. She has perfected the art of balancing better than most trained circus acts. She is a mother of one, and recently completed her J.D. at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota, and is co-owner of Braden Valladares, LLC, a mediation and arbitration firm. An alum of Ocean Springs High School (2001), Ole Miss (B.S. in Criminal Justice 2006), Delta State University (M.S. in Criminal Justice 2008), and Mitchell Hamline School of Law (J.D. 2018), Lauren plans to take the Mississippi bar exam as well as the Louisiana Bar Exam to move Braden Valladares, LLC into an all-inclusive legal services practice in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, specializing in areas of litigation such as family law, juvenile law, elder law, adoptions, guardianships, conservatorships, and dispute resolution such as mediation and arbitration. She is one of the first incoming classes of the new hybrid J.D. program at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, allowing her to meet her Docket Divas and future law partners, and blog about their journey through raising families, attending law school, continuing to work full-time, and still maintaining shreds of sanity. Lauren has written for all court levels in Mississippi, the U.S. Federal District Court, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, and most recently the United States Supreme Court. As a non-traditional mom, Lauren brings a fresh perspective of being a career focused mom, encouraging moms to go back to school or focus on their careers while still being an attentive, fun, and loving mom. Additionally, Lauren was raised in a multi-generational home and has chosen the same path, as her mom plays a very important role in their small nuclear family, making sure that Quinn makes it to hip hop class on time and ensuring that there is a hot meal on the table- cooking was never Lauren’s strong suit (along with cleaning… laundry…. outdoor projects….etc.) When not having dance parties around the house or attending concerts, Lauren and the family can be found in their second home, New Orleans. They enjoy shopping the local markets and stores, attending festivals, eating all of the amazing food the city has to offer, and parading like fools! Her philosophy as a mom is to live and enjoy the moments- both big and small, and to not take life or parenting too seriously. She has been known to blast Taylor Swift and sing to the top of her lungs as a solution to having to listen to a whiny kid, and rescue a giant hundred-pound dog on a random Monday after a tough day at work. It’s a good thing she is a juggler, because at the Braden house, it’s always a circus!