I’ve always wanted to be a mom.
It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. When that dream came true, I was ecstatic, but as the years have gone by, I’m starting to realize the enormity of what it means to actually be a parent. I think that it’s safe to say, that the primary goal of parenting is to raise little humans into big humans who can fend for themselves and function in society. What that looks like, varies from person to person, culture to culture, place to place.
You don’t just provide your child nutrition, you provide shelter and clothing. You also are teaching your children, knowingly or unknowingly, the rules of life.
I was driving recently and a car cut me off. I immediately let loose an expletive and called the driver a name. Then, from the back seat came a little voice, “Momma, those aren’t nice words.” Never have I been so humbled in my life. I was also grateful that he recited back to me the lesson I have taught him in the past and not the naughty words that had spewed from my mouth.
As my boys get older, I know that the lessons are going to become more difficult and more important. When I look at them, I try to picture the kind of men that I want them to be when they grow up. Then I begin to understand the lessons of life that I need to make sure I pass onto them.
1. Gender alone, does not define you.
My husband and I have been very careful to not push gender roles on our children. Our boys have trucks and dolls. My oldest son’s lovey is a pink Carebear. We want our children to understand that women and men should be equal, and that anything a boy does, a girl can do too. We have taught our sons that its okay for them to be sensitive, it’s okay for them to cry, and that it’s okay for them express their feelings.
2. Girls can do anything that boys can do.
I never want my sons to be the kind of adult who sees a woman and automatically assumes that, because of her sex, that she can’t do everything he can. We read them books that highlight female heroes, where the princess is the one doing the saving. My oldest son has been known to stand up for his female classmates when the other boys try to leave them out of games simply because they are girls. He often remarks that the girls in his class are “smart,” “funny,” and “strong” instead of being pretty.
3. Do not be colorblind. People are different races.
I am a firm believer that in order to heal the wounds that racism has inflicted on our society, that we have to acknowledge that it does exist and that people of color have experienced the world in a way that my white children could never possibly understand. I want them to learn to listen to people of color. People of color have been in this fight against racism a lot longer than white people have. They are the true leaders, I want my boys to follow and support – not try to fix or save. Acknowledge the differences in each other and celebrate them.
4. Be kind and empathetic. Give.
The world is a very cruel place at times. I want my boys to be the helpers, to be the people who help without thinking. I want them to be kind to others and to lift others up when they are down. I also want them to acknowledge their privilege and to not judge someone for not having what they have. I want them to understand the importance of giving. Not just monetary, but their time. Once they are a bit older, we plan on beginning to volunteer more in the community so they learn the importance of giving back.
5. No means no.
Consent is so important. You will never hear the phrase “Boys will be boys” in my home. No means no. End of story. Point blank. I want them to understand that if someone tells you to stop, you stop.
6. I am always a safe place.
I want my children to know that I will always listen. That they can come to me when they have made mistakes. Now, I won’t always give them advice on how to correct those mistakes, but I know that just having someone to express those to, is huge. It is so important to know that where they are, that they can come home, and I will love them.
I hope that by instilling these lessons and values into them, that they will grow up to be kind, respectful men. I’m sure there will be days where I will forget to follow these lessons myself. I can only hope that on days like that, one of my sweet boys will remind me what the lesson is.
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