04/24/2015 02:56 pm ET Updated Jun 24, 2015

What I Learned From the Other Team

Jonas Hellstadius/500px

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails -- or sugar and spice. There was a recent conversation around the office water cooler about the pros and cons of sons or daughters. The consensus was that, if given a choice, more women would choose girls, more men would choose boys, and most wanted to know the gender before birth.

Apparently, I love adventure and the thrill of the unknown, because when I was pregnant, I was game for whatever nature had in mind.

Although the ideal option may be one of each, I have two sons, and found raising them to be a lot of fun. And even when their fun got out of hand, it was hard not to smile at where their curiosity lead them -- once the smoke cleared, or the water was mopped up -- and they were safely grounded in their rooms.

I used to tease my sister about making it look easy to raise boys -- because my nephews were the quiet, intellectual type. Her oldest son once asked for a globe for Christmas, whereas my kids were more likely to ask for things that explode. And I was always grateful Santa never delivered the goods. My sister blames my sons' extremely active nature on their dad's red hair -- but I doubt research would support that theory.

I learned a lot from the experience of raising two people who were not "just like me." It may have even given me some extra perspective in my relationships with the other men in my life. However, I know mothers and daughters do enjoy a lot of shared experiences. And there were times when I had to try a little harder to bond with my boys, but I was up for the challenge -- most of the time.

When the kids were little, we enjoyed playing make believe games with their stuffed animals. But unfortunately, our puppy had a habit of chewing the ears and tails off of them. I started making new ones out of felt, and sewed them back on. They loved it, and no longer complained when their puppy misbehaved. Thankfully, my lack of skill at creating well-crafted body parts was forgiven.

I gave my sons dolls to play with to help develop their future parenting skills, but after watching them drag the dolls around the house, naked and covered with grime -- I decided it might be awhile before their nurturing sides would emerge.

Although many girls are athletic, I was not one of them. In fact, my lack of coordination and interest left me nothing but negative feelings about all things related to sports. And when I did attend a game, it was not unusual for me to accidentally cheer for the wrong team.

So I came to understand the value of sports through my boys. My son, Andy, was a quarterback, and I remember the coach explaining it was a leadership position. And at his high school graduation ceremony, my son, Dylan, was recognized for the determination he developed while on the basketball team. I've also heard many adults say participating in sports taught them how to be "team players" in their work life.

When Andy was 9 years old, he asked me to play baseball with him because he had exhausted all of his other options for playmates. He tried to teach me how to hold the bat just right, and then threw the ball, expecting a fairly positive response. After I missed it several times, he decided I might be afraid of the ball. I laughed pretty hard, and said I could have told him that before we began.

I used to think having sons would relieve me of any hair styling duties, because I never learned to do things like braid or create "up dos." But when they were in high school, it became popular for boys to dye their hair. Andy came home one day and asked me to help him dye his brown hair blonde. I read the box carefully, and proceeded to turn his hair into a blotchy disaster.

And all I have to say is... better his than mine.