Darel Clayton is the epitome of femininity, so when she and her husband Scott decided to enhance their family with children, Darel thought she would have given birth to at least one girl – and was waiting for her, a mini version of herself – but she gave birth to boys. Darel is a boy mom.
Used to Barbie and cooking and sewing and loving all things pink that she had looked forward to sharing with her girl child when she had her, Darel instead had to get comfortable with dirt, adventures and challenges.
“For me who is clean and OCD, I had to let my guard down, get dirty, and learn new sports. I had to let all inhibitions go, and getting dirty was part of the process of being a boy mom,” said Darel.
The mother of Gianluca, 13, and Andreas, 10, found she loves everything that comes with being a boy mom.
“The boys brought out a different side of me,” said Darel. “They deepened me, helped me to grow and helped me to know other sides of me, different parts of my personality.”
Darel came into motherhood later in life and takes her responsibility and role as a mother to Gianluca and Andreas, “deeply and spiritually”.
She went through a lot to give birth to her boys.
Her sons were conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) after Darel and her husband were unable to conceive and carry to term, naturally.
“It was quite traumatic trying and trying – you have a miscarriage, and people are having babies left, right, and center – and you want a baby and it’s not happening for you. That in itself made wanting to be a parent special to me because I know how hard it was becoming a parent. It wasn’t that natural process of lovemaking, it was hard work, but with the same amount of love.
It took a year of IVF before her first embryo stuck. In her late 30s at the time, Darel said it was emotional overjoy when it happened.
“That joy of knowing that gift of life is in you, it can’t be put to words, honestly. It was a feeling that came straight from the heart.”
And she sang her pregnancy and happiness from the rooftops. While most couples prefer to wait until they are out of their first trimester to share the news, Darel didn’t.
“From the moment they told me I was pregnant – I was pregnant, and I told everyone, but just told them to pray for me because we want this to happen. I know you should wait, but it was too much to keep in.”
She also said from the moment she was confirmed to be pregnant, that she knew it was a boy.
“I felt within my spirit that it was a boy. As much as everyone said it may not be, I knew it was.”
So certain was she in her son’s sex that she and her husband did not consider a female alternative as they set about deciding on what to name their son.
Darel liked the name Gian; her husband liked Luca. An Italian friend of the couple reminded them that the two names are combined in Italian and they did just that, bringing together the best of both worlds for Gianluca. It’s a name that she says also fits her son to a T. He looks like a Gianluca. Darel now looks back at the naming of her first born and how much they invested in coming up with a unique name for him, to have people at the end of the day call him, “Giany.”
The Scotts waited about a year-and-a-half before trying for their second child. They opted to try naturally, but when it did not work, they did IVF for the second time, a process which Darel said was easier because they already had frozen embryos that only needed to be implanted. The second round was not without its problems, as the first implant did not take, but she became pregnant with Andreas on the second try and gave birth at age 41.
During her second pregnancy, she did not have that certainty that he would be a boy, like she did with her first pregnancy. She felt the second time around she could have a girl. She also opted out of finding out the sex while pregnant, preferring to be surprised at birth. She was a boy mom – twice over.
Today, the epitome of femininity says she has boys “figured out”. And says she has also learned that boys are incredibly sensitive and loving.
“I don’t know if I reared that in them – because I wanted them to be manly, but also knowing that being masculine doesn’t mean not being in touch with their sensitive side, not showing feelings and being stern and brutish. I want them to show and express their feelings.”
Darel describes their mother-son bond as amazing and says she makes it a point to be a part of their world.
“You cannot be a parent and not put yourself into the role and shoes of what they’re into and you have to be technology savvy to be a part of their world.”
Which means Darel is hip to everything from Snapchat to TikTok. She may not necessarily use them herself, but she makes it a point to know the worlds her children are involved with.
With the knowledge that motherhood is a thankless job, and she may have to say something to them 100 times, she has come to realize they have their way of saying thank you.
“When they do things like clean their room without me having to nag, I take that as a thank you. When they go to someone else’s home and I hear they’re so well behaved, that’s my thank you as a mom. They may not behave at home, but when they’re out, they behave.”
In raising multiple children, Darel says you have to realize you are parenting two completely different individuals – two different personalities – even when it comes down to cooking for them.
Being present with children she says is also important.
“It’s important for parents to be present with their children especially in this day and time with technology. When they ask for your attention and time, you are there. And even when they don’t ask for it, you still need to be there. You have to have presence in their life.”
The mother of two boys says quality time with children is essential, together and individually, and that quality time is not the time spent in the car ferrying them to a baseball or soccer game.
“The first thing you have to do as a boy mom is you have to do what they want to do. If it’s soccer, I have to get out there and kick the ball around; I put myself in their space. And you schedule the time. Every Wednesday is Gianluca and mommy time; one night of the week Andreas and I have movie night and we break the rules for it – we have dinner at the dinner table, but on movie night we take our food, we sit on the floor, and this is when I find out all the things that is going on.”
Darel says becoming a mom has also helped her understand a lot more of what her parents said over the years, and appreciate what they told her.
“I think I was an easy child, but I had my moments, but it is with great reverence that I celebrate her [Ella], because I am the mom I am today because of her. Yes, there are wonderful books, seminars and speakers but what was instilled in me was because of my mother.
“Parenting itself has changed over the years, but that deep-rooted sense of motherhood, guidance, and morals are what I put into my children. It served me well, and is the blueprint imprinted on my life, that I now impart to them.”
As a mom in an unprecedented time of COVID-19, Darel encourages her boys to journal about this time and experience so that they can have something to look back on and share with their children in the future about being brought up in a pandemic.
“I encourage my children to journal and write, because what they are living is unprecedented times. I encourage them to write if only a sentence, because they can go back and read and share with their children. It doesn’t have to be a whole thing. It can be a word or something that impacted them. Gianluca is such a social child, and the world just stopped.”
She said writing and journaling also makes them aware of the other part of their present, knowing where they are living and what is going on.
“They are kids and shouldn’t take on too much, but just letting them be aware of what is happening in their life and lifetime. They, too, have a story to tell.”
As Mother’s Day is celebrated on Sunday, Darel said the perfect day for her would be her on a Family Island with her husband and boys.
“To be away from home, at home, and spend it with my husband and my boys, so we have just each other and not the distraction of other things.”