Saturday, October 07, 2006

Saturday Soapbox

When we found out at five months into my pregnancy that I was going to have a boy, I was pleased. Then, I panicked.

I grew up in a family dominated with estrogen. I had a boy I was friends with in the early grades, but as we got older, we sort of drifted apart. I went to an all-girl's high school. My first date in high school turned out to be a guy I was with for three years. After two years in which I sort of successfully honored my vow to be fairly man-free, I fell in love with Hubba-hubba at the age of 21. Hubba-hubba was it, so no more men for me.

Even though I love the men in my life very very much, I have always felt a bit lacking in the understanding of the male of the species.

Knowing my son was counting on me, I picked up as many books as I could find on raising boys, and "boy" psychology. The biggest thing I learned from all my reading was that a lot of the time, we in America push our boys to be something they aren't. We push them to hide their emotions, to be strong, to be physical, to attain this "manly" facade. Yet on the other hand, we expect them to be understanding, gentle boyfriends as well as tender husbands and fathers. These mixed messages are unfair to them and their rather delicate psyches. As a result, conflicted boys grow up to be conflicted adults. Unless the parents, especially fathers, are there to help guide them through the already confusing process of growing up in America, things can turn out not so great.

Rubbing my pregnant belly, I swore that I would raise my son to be exactly who he is. That I would not ever expect him to behave in a way that was foreign to him just because society says that is the way he should behave because of his gender.

What I hadn't counted on was the millions of parents who don't think like me.

In an ideal world, parents would not tell their sons that they cannot cry. In an ideal world, using physicality to solve a dispute would be anathema. In an ideal world, our boys should be able to like the color pink without being thought a sissy.

But, we live in something far from an ideal world.

And I am afraid for my son. Because I will be completely honest, if he were to listen to me and follow my instructions exactly, he would get his ass kicked on a daily basis. Does that make you angry? You may not agree, but it is the truth. It makes me angry too, but I feel helpless.

Hubba-hubba and I have had major discussions about this issue, and I have agreed to allow Hubba-hubba to induct him into the "ways" of men, because I cannot fathom it, but I know with great certainty that it is there. Let's quit all the PC stuff and just acknowledge that. By no means are we going to advocate a "pre-emptive strike" philosophy, but teaching him how to defend himself, both psychologically and physically is going to have to happen. Despite the wishful thinking on my part that it didn't have to be that way.

And that is exactly what it is, wishful thinking. Because I have seen these other boys in action, with parents who let them watch violent movies and video games, who don't react when their sons push and shove other boys. The posturing, the grandstanding, the bravado, the teasing, it's all there already and these boys are only in grade school. It is as cutthroat on the playground as in any corporate boardroom. In fact, moreso. There are parents who obviously don't give a flying whatever and think that it is fine for their boys to act that way, because that is how our society has deemed boys should act.

Society sucks, but I am only one person. How can I stand alone against this overwhelming tide and expect my son to ride the wave with me?

Will I be guilty of continuing the cycle? I suppose I will. All I can do is provide a home environment that is welcoming and accepting of who he really is, along with teaching him to be honest and honorable. But at the end of the day, is that realy enough? Because it is a dog-eat-dog world out there, and I'll be damned if my son winds up being somebody's afternoon snack.

No comments: