Thursday, June 20, 2013

Being The Mother Of A Son

One of the many wonders of my life is my four-year-old son Theodore. He is affectionate and noisy, warm and curious and kind, and I will never forget that first moment he was handed to me in the hospital. Red as a beetroot, and covered in blonde fluff, he looked like an angry orang-utan. Joy burst over me. A son! My son! My little boy!  It was electric, that moment, and something of the magic of it has never left me.

I take my job as his mum seriously. What his future holds, I don't know. Will he be a travelling minstrel? Petty criminal? Hairdresser? Molecular geneticist? At the minute he has rock-solid ambitions to be a baker with a shop called Teddy's Yum Yums, where I have a permanent table,  but, sadly,  I must face the the fact that this may not unfold as planned. So how should I raise this boy? How can I try to equip him for life? I have a few ideas. 

1.    1. Supply him with books.
I    I am told that the day will come when my barnacle boy will no longer beg me for cuddles (cue the sound of my breaking heart).  Apparently when boys reach a certain age they lose the ability to speak, and you are forced to interpret grunts and facial twitches in lieu of actual conversation.  For years now, I have been building a massive weaponry against this adolescent wall o’silence. It’s called the bookshelf. My teenager's collection, which grows with every school fete and Salvos visit, covers the spectrum from Judy Blume to Puberty Blues to The Outsiders to Bukowski to Nick Hornby.  I hope that opening up many worlds to my boy will help him to understand the lives of others, and to give flight to his dreams. I hope that in tough times, when he feels he cannot share his worries with anybody, that books will help him to feel less alone. I also hope that the wide sea of relationships he can explore in books will give him a more realistic picture of sex than the images he is likely - heartbreakingly likely -  to see on the internet. I take the job of supplying this alternative narrative of sex and relationships through fiction very seriously. It’s not like I anticipate easy conversations on the topic with thirteen year old Ted. ‘Sit down, darling. It’s time for Mummy to talk you through the layered gender politics of lady-bush.’ Um, no. Yet, I think the grip that the porn industry has on the net is viciously strong, and the messages it sends to young people are false and damaging. I don’t want to be creepy with my kids, but I am not afraid to let The Joy Of Sex (original Euromuff edition) be creepy for me.
     Of course, I hope Teddy’s instinct will not be to eschew reading altogether. I imagine, in fact, that this might be a pretty sweet rebellion against his nerdily eager, bookish mother. (Note to self: be cool, tool. Be cool.)
2.    2. Be happy in his masculinity.
Guilty as charged, yes, I am raising this boy to be a feminist like his wonderful dad. And like his dad,  I want him to feel proud that he is male, with all of the biological and social machinery that make men the fantastic creatures they are. I want him to glory in the strength of his body, and the magic of male friendship, and the man-flavoured thinking styles that will provide contrast to the thoughts and imaginings of his sisters. I feel lucky that this boy will be bringing his man-baggage to the family table, and also that he can carry all the shopping bags in from the car. (I’m told he will eat four cows and a half-ton of Weet-Bix every day, starting pretty soon, so this seems only fair.)
3.  3. Cherish his emotional self.  
It’s important to me to help Teddy to find ways to express his inner life. Music can be wonderful for this, so I’m going to try my best to have him learn at least one instrument, and I’ll pass on the cathartic wonders of really just belting the balls out of a  power ballad.    I hope to teach Teddy the language of feelings, helping him to pick through his worries and fears until he feels more at peace. I want him to know that vulnerability can be strength.
4.    4. Be his soft place to fall.
In the final reckoning, I cannot protect my little  boy child from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and mean bosses and bad decisions. He’s going to hit the wall sometimes, have his heart stomped, fail painfully. My main aim is to be here to hug him and talk to him, make him laugh, stroke his fluffy head, as long as I’m alive, no matter how big those arms and legs get. He's on his own for most of the road he has ahead, but I have these few years to do what I can to smooth the path. Me, and his amazing, thoughtful dad, who will be a beautiful role model to the little boy he loves so much. 
Several other bloggers are writing today about being the mother of a son, Lexi's idea,  a group response to the awful fanny-bashing that went on last week here in Australia. Read and enjoy. x

Meet Me At Mikes - meetmeatmikes.com
Kootoyoo - kootoyoo.com
Sadie and Lance - sadieandlance.blogspot.com.au/
Pigeon Pair - pigeon-pair.com/
Hugo and Elsa - hugoandelsa.com/
Checks and Spots - checksandspots.com/

19 comments:

  1. Such an insightful post, beautifully said.

    xx

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  2. If this post is any indication then I would say that Teddy is in VERY safe hands will be a rock star of a human being whatever path he chooses.

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  3. so so beautiful.
    he is darn good hands.
    reading around this morning at all theses amazing posts I can see that there are a whole lot of boys that will grow up to be super ace human beings.
    Didn't Lexi just have the best idea coming up with this!
    xxxx

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    1. Yes Ruth, me too. Such a lovely experience to read other peoples thoughts on boys and men, an excellent antidote to the negative craziness we've seen this week.

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  4. Good gawd I could not be happier to have found your blog. For this post and the rest of it.

    Every point you've mentioned resonates with me so strongly. Especially the part about Teddy being happy in his masculinity. I too am (happily and intentionally) guilty as charged of raising a feminist (two actually, I have a daughter).But I am always conscious of embracing the Smurf's masculinity and what it means, to him, to be a man.

    And ahhh, sweet rebellion. The hippies raise economists and the economists raise hippies. Your boy sounds completely awesome and in very safe hands surrounded by a beautiful family.

    Now I'm off to imagine the many different ways I could approach the "gendered politics of lady-bush" talk!

    And PS, thanks for making me google images of poo! blerg.

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    1. Well, if you find anything useful re lady-bush, let me know. Sorry about the poo xx

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  5. Magnificent, touching, hilarious, moving piece of writing Mrs M. As a stepmum to two boys who have navigated the teen years and are in their manly, awesome twenties, my only advice is . . . when the grunting starts, replace the talk with cuddles and just keep them coming. Never stop with the cuddles. xoxo

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    1. Mich, I can't wait until Ted is in his manly, awesome twenties. Am intensely curious to see whether he still adores pink by then...

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  6. I left a comment before and it's disappeared - sad face.
    Book me a table for five at Teddy's Yum Yums! The owner sounds like a cracker !
    Here's to cracking' good boys!

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    1. There is also Travelling Yum Yums, Flying Yum Yums and Submarine Yum Yums. They serve everything unhealthy in the whole world but sadly, no coffee Mrs S. You have to go next door to Ivy's Yum Yums for that.

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  7. Wonderful. So important to raise women-loving boys. Sounds like you're doing an incredible job.

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  8. Hi Rachael, I'm new here. Doing the rounds on all these awesome boy Posts (I have 4 myself :-)). Lovely Post! Mel x

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    1. HI Mel, welcome! 4 boys! well done you. That's a truckload of energy (and Weet-Bix.) x

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  9. Could not have read all of these at a better time. Please also reserve a seat at Teddy's Yum Yums for me. x

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    1. You are always welcome at my table Tor. Will reserve the high chair. SQWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!! x

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  10. Oh the vision and direction of already wanting to be a baker and proud owner of Teddy Yum Yum's! I love it!

    And such true words about nurturing boy's emotional self. The world needs more men with tenderness.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful perspective on the world - I'm so grateful for this series of posts leading me to your corner of the world. Will definitely drop by again soon!

    x

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Thanks for talking to me. I don't got cooties. Oh, except for when I got cooties.