Raising sons

I got my hair done on Friday. This is a luxury I didn’t often allow myself in the past, but blessed be the wiry, gray curlycues that started sprouting, now I get pampered regularly. And lucky me, I’ve made a new friend, to boot. While brushing out my mane, my mother-of-two-girls and pregnant-with-a-boy hair stylist shared with me that she’s terrified of raising a boy. There is the issue of outdoor plumbing and all the foreignness that it entails, but even bigger than questions about circumcision and adolescence, she quoted Gloria Steinem to capture her unease:

We’ve begun to raise daughters more like sons…
but few have the courage
to raise our sons more like our daughters.

I so get it. Raising daughters is scary. As the smaller and physically weaker of the two sexes, they are the ones more likely to be taken advantage of. They are the ones that need more protection. We consciously teach our daughters to be big and strong and proud so that they can grow and succeed and be safe in a man’s world. Society accepts and even encourages us to actively and consciously engage in creating girl power and cultivating the masculine in our girls.

But are we cultivating the feminine in our boys?

This may require a bit more bravery as the task of feminizing our boys is more taboo in our patriarchal society than is masculinizing our girls. But if we want to encourage our girls to take up more space and speak up in a way that they can truly be heard, it involves teaching our boys to listen, to accept and to be soft. We must not simply tolerate, but rather encourage their innate emotional, sensitive and nurturing parts.

I don’t have the answers as to how to do this, but I do have a few questions we can ask ourselves as parents that may get us thinking.

When it comes to our boys:

Do we advocate for the the arts as much as athletics?
Do we encourage expressing difficult emotions?
Do we listen to understand and do we make space for what we hear?
Do we demonstrate non-traditional division of labor at home?
Do we value connection as highly as competition?
Do we celebrate creativity like we do productivity?
Do we provide as much exposure to compassion as aggression?
Do we cultivate a sense of belonging to and responsibility for Mother Earth and all her inhabitants?

When it comes to our girls:

Are we asking the same questions?

Listening to my friend’s angst about raising a little man in a world that begs to soften and be nurtured, I am assured she has the courage to raise her son just as conscientiously as she is currently raising her beautiful and strong daughters. She will be an active participant in the paradigm shift that is burgeoning.

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