Thursday, June 20, 2013

Being the Mother of a Son

Being the mother of a son, or sons in my case, I have found, involves lots of dirt, action heroes, big collections of collectibles, a lot of video games, sports gear, food preparation and more Adam Sandler movies than I care to mention, 

It's a big job. Don't you think? To mother a son. To bring up a man. Hopefully a good man? 

Good. 'Good'. I am rolling the word around my tongue and brain. 'Good'... really? I am not sure that 'good' is my aspiration for my sons. What is 'good' anyway? 

Apparently, according to a random on WikiHow, being a 'good son' involves being nice to your siblings even though you hate them, doing all your homework, being loving towards your parents and not using bad language.


Not 'good' then.  Particularly in view of that criteria, as I consider it an essential life lesson for my children to learn the art of contextual swearing, and am proud to say that their skills are coming along nicely.  

Anyway, my boys are better than good, my boys are gold. But they do know how to be good, which I think is very important. My boys do behave well ... at school.  At home things get a bit more loud, messy and swear-y obviously. 

It is, on one level, gratifying to know that my boys can behave well, can 'be good'.  My boys, they are not very boys-y boys. They are definitely boys, but they are quite gentle my lads, most of the time. And funny, they are really funny, by accident and on purpose. One is also intolerably messy and inclined to pick up dead animals with his bare hands and the other loves hockey and skateboards and cartooning and they dig music and dancing and are loving and kind. I think all that is good. 

We have brought our lads up to work hard and be kind, and to tread through life gently with consideration, but as we have seen all too much lately, the world, still a man's world, often doesn't play that way.  So have we really done our lads a disservice? We often watch our gentle boys railroaded by their alpha peers, particularly our eldest. He has been pushed around a bit by boys who have been encouraged 'to be boys', in that rough-and-tumble-wrestle-and-shout-playing-violent-video-games-and-calling-girls-'bitches'-kind of way. These boys leave my boys a little knocked around and a bit confused.

My first son has had to pick his way through a minefield of bullies and more alpha males in his classes and I am impressed to say he has started to figure it out. He has the gift of perseverance, my boy, dogged persistence, and he is using it to find his place in the world of boys. He is figuring out when to stand up for himself, when 'to hold 'em and when to fold 'em'.  (And did I tell you he is the lead in the school musical this year? Thought I'd just drop that in.) 

With the second son, just as if he was born with wings, he has fallen on his feet. He is in a class with lovely boys who, while they themselves are gung-ho crazy, give him no grief for sitting out of the lunchtime football tussle in favour of going to play with the Preps, as is his want.  There were a few issues with argy-bargy in the playground recently and I asked his teacher if my quiet little lad was ok, if he got caught up in the rough and tumble of his peer group? She assured me that he was very good at being clear when he didn't want to get involved in the other boys' shenanigans and that the other boys always accepted that. If only life always worked out that way. He is lucky, my lad. 

I love the gentleness of my boys and that they will review one of their little sister's drawings earnestly with  "That is beautiful, Sophie" and that Joshie has been known to brush her hair and read her a story at bedtime. I love that they get angry and scream and swear but rarely raise a hand to each other.  I love that they don't define feminine and masculine in the same way that tradition or society does. I love that they can run around, dig holes, hit balls, build stuff, be noisy and tell each other to 'get stuffed' (in the contextually appropriate moment, of course), and that they can be quiet and creative, affectionate, sweet and soft, at least some of the time. 

Sometimes, though, I wonder, should we have taught our two little men to wrestle and wrangle and be tough? Should I be concerned that my number two son, stands in the back of the soccer field during a match, ignoring the ball as he is too busy re-enacting the entire choreography from the Bellas "I Saw The Sign/Turn the Beat Around" mash up  routine from 'Pitch Perfect' while his team mates are hell bent on the ball and the goals? That in the school nursery rhyme play he wants to audition for the part of  "Jill"? Should we berate ourselves for not pushing our sons towards a more traditional masculinity so that they can mix it with the big boys when they are men? Naaaah.  I never held much respect for the 'boys wiill be boys' philosophy.  And, no matter what philosophy I hold, my boys can only be themselves. 

But its not easy for the gentle guys in a world where the alpha man (and woman) is still such a dominant force. So what have we set our sons up for? Happily, I have faith that our generation and the younger boys, like Sacha's friends, are much more accepting and comfortable with making room for difference than the generations that have gone before. But then again, I am not sure that most men aren't in fact just like my boys, pretty lovely: kind, committed men who love their families, friends and communities. Most of the men I know certainly are. But sheesh, the ones who aren't so kind sure make a lotta noise, don't they? 

There is nothing I can teach my sons about becoming a man. What I can teach them, I hope,  is how to look after themselves, how to live and love wholeheartedly and what it is to be loved wholeheartedly by their Mum, (and, of course, the right moment to use the words 'shit, bugger and douchebag'.)

My aspiration for my golden sons is not to be 'good', but to be themselves and to live their lives as they see fit. To be wholehearted men of joy, kindness, pride and passion. 

I wonder if my mother-in-law realises how lucky she is? 

Thank you to Lexi from Pottymouthmama for inviting me to join in on blogging about 'Being the mother of a son'. Other great blogs participating are:

Checks and Spots <>  Kootoyoo <> Sadie and Lance