Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Oh Boy

I started this blog not knowing what it would be and I still don't really know what it is. I know I want it to be a place people can go to laugh, think, and read things that resonate with them. To that end, I asked people to start suggesting topics for posts. Two responses I received were: (1) Raising boys with an awareness of sexism; and (2) A spin on a Huffington Post blog post titled, "ten things your daughter should know before she's ten." This is an amalgam of those two ideas. When I was pregnant with Isaac, the sonogram tech told me he was a girl. For ten weeks, I thought Paige was going to have a sister only to discover toward the end of my pregnancy (in a second sonogram) that my sweet little girl had mysteriously sprouted a twig and berries. "What the hell am I going to do with a BOY?!" I thought to myself, slightly panicked. My mom gave me a book about raising boys, and I confess I haven't even cracked it, although Isaac turns four on Saturday. So I've read nothing about raising boys. No articles, no books, nothing. I'm totally winging it. But having a boy has turned out to be a wonderful gift, because the mother-son relationship is truly special. I know what I want Isaac to know, do, and be. Not necessarily before he's ten, but certainly by adulthood. I'm lucky to know many wonderful men, and I've known some not very wonderful ones as well. More commonly, I've known men who are wonderful, but who didn't always act that way. A quick skim of the interwebs reveals these sorts of lists are common, so I'm certainly not claiming originality in format or even in content, necessarily. With that disclaimer, here's my list for Isaac:

1. Know your power and use it wisely: A friend who works with victims of domestic violence said this to me once: like it or not, men have power in our society. Good men realize and accept that, and they use their power wisely and with discretion. 

2. Be kind to animals. A man who's kind to animals is usually kind to people. Always be kind to animals.

3. "No" means "no" and "yes" should be sober: Along the lines of #1, men should know their sexual power and always get safe, sober consent from a partner (male or female). For everything, every time.

4. Wear a dress/play with dolls: There's no such thing as "boy" and "girl" toys or clothes. These are imaginary social constructs. Feel free to experiment with clothes and toys and don't allow gender constructs to confine your play and style.

5. Strive for diversity in friendship: As a white male, it's easy to lose sight of the privilege you've been afforded by sheer dint of birth. Cultivate friendships with people of different races, religions, and sexual orientations. It will enrich your life deeply.

6. Always be polite to strangers in any interaction: Never talk down to another human being. Ever. You should extend the same level of respect to a homeless person that you would to the President of the United States.

7. Don't let your salary define your masculinity: Don't let a number on your paycheck define your value one way or the other. If you marry a woman, don't worry if she makes more (or less) money than you.

8. Hone some life skills: learn to be competent in key life skills: e.g., swimming, driving, cooking, sewing, laundry, changing a tire, cleaning, fixing things, growing things, managing a budget, etc. Not because you're male, but because you're human, and you should know how to do things for yourself.

9. Befriend strong women: Make female friends with opinions, interests, careers, goals, and talents. Learn from them, respect them, emulate them.

10. Travel: See the world. Find out how people live from Europe to Africa to Asia and beyond. Understand your privilege. Broaden your horizons. Always.

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