It’s not so easy to be a man today. What is a good man these days? Do you know? Do you think your son knows?
I have always had my feet planted firmly in the raising adults camp as opposed to the raising kids playground. It just makes sense to me. Start as you mean to go on and all that kind of logic. Having two sons means that I am deeply entrenched in the business of raising men. Good men. Men who will succeed in love and life and happiness and self. It is one of the greatest challenges of parenthood to have the foresight to teach the right lessons for an outcome that may not even exist.
I am constantly, CONSTANTLY thinking about the right lessons to teach my boys but, to be perfectly basic, it’s just so confusing. I am an empowered woman. I am empowered because my society has empowered me. Our focus has been and is to teach girls that we can be anything we want to be. Anything. Because the greatest power you can bestow upon someone is freedom. Choice. Independent thought. I know what a good woman is. A good woman is anything you want to be – unless you’re a bad mother. That is the mother of all sins in womanhood... pardon the pun. You can choose not have children. You can choose to adopt your children out. You can choose multiple fathers for your children. You can even choose to end a pregnancy to avoid having children. But if you’re shit at raising them... god fucking help you.
How can I teach my sons to celebrate their own selves when there is very little room to do that?
Consider this – a young girl doesn’t like to wear dresses so much. She prefers to rough and tumble in a pair of shorts on the soccer field. Her parents are so proud and delighted that she’s so strong willed. They call her a tomboy. She’ll be able to do anything when she’s older, their friends say. On the other hand there’s a young boy who’s not so keen on sport. He prefers to play music and dress ups and have tea parties. He likes pink. He’s interested in mum’s make-up and likes the feel of silk on his skin. His parents try to channel his masculine spirit into any sport then can. They downplay his creativity. They call him different. He’ll probably be gay, their friends say. As if that's a destination or a definition.
A strong willed girl is going places. A strong willed boy will have anger management issues. An emotional girl is understood. An emotional boy is a cry baby. A boy who gets into a playground fight school is aggressive and a trouble maker. A girl who gets into a playground fight at school is tough and can ‘hold her own’.
Don’t mollycoddle your boys is the message I get loud and clear. They should be strong. Why are you crying little Johnny? Only girls cry... are you a girl? So, girls are allowed to cry and fight. They’re allowed to be girlie and tough. But boys? Boys are expected to act like men.
And how should a man ‘act’? In this age where the traditional family unit is predominantly non-existent, there are no more villages to raise our children and we have CONSTANT access to every type of media, our boys’ role models are confusing. And, I suspect, confused. How does our society focus on our men today? By adoring massive sporting idols covered in tattoos who drink too much, take drugs, mistreat women and believe in their own infallibility so much that they jump from the sky expecting to survive. By glorifying our criminals in ridiculous television franchises like Underbelly. Today’s male tv sitcom characters are socially inept geeks, bumbling idiots, overtly camp or useless husbands berated by their wives. Our male politicians are represented as sexist, racist, backstabbers or just dickheads.
What the fuck happened to our men?
For me to raise good men I must be able to explain what a ‘good’ man is. I think this will mean explaining to my sons that, like their female friends, they also have choices. They can choose their own paths too. To be sporty, to be musical, to be creative, to be tough, to be emotional, to be open, to be loving, to be scared, to be brave, to dance, to be true, to cry, to be shy, to sing, to be competitive, to be alone, to be honest, to like dressing up, to be a reader, to be dependable.
Could a 'good man' simply just be a grown-up 'good boy', after all?