From A Mother of Sons
When the ultrasound tech asked if we wanted to know the sex of our second child, we said yes. We’d already decided with our first son that the advice that made the most sense was that which suggested that we’d mourn the child who didn’t show up if we waited until birth to find out. I’d been so sick with both pregnancies: 20 hours a day for 5 1/2 months with the first one, and 24 hours a day for what would end up being 7 1/2 months with the second.
I still had hopes of joining the great matriarchal line of my family with a daughter of my own, and I’d been suffering badly with this pregnancy. So when it didn’t even feel like the tech had touched the ultrasound wand to my belly before she announced, “It’s a boy,” I burst out crying. “No, no! He’s okay! Everything looks fine!” she said in a frantic rush, as if she’d never before had a wildly hormonal woman on her table.
“I’m not worried,” I said, waving at the Darling Husband for a tissue. “It’s just another goddamned boy!”
It took me several years to come to peace with the fact that I am, for better or for worse, a Mother of Sons. All my dreams of braids and warrior women and Girl Scouts were exchanged for a clothing section 1/3 the size of the girls’ one and a future of ripe smells and gross habits.
Where I found that hard-won peace, though, was this: I was born to raise sons who are ready to be good men in this world of ours. And they’re amazing so far, if I do say so myself. The people they are have already changed how I feel about so many things, much like Ohio Senator Rob Portman has been changed by the experience of raising a gay son, as we learned this week. And if who we know changes who we are, I’m sure they’re changed by knowing a mother like me. (If only other men would have the transformative experience of knowing a woman….)
Especially this week, it feels like the next generation of men has a great deal to correct for their forebears. So this is my promise to the world, ten years after I began this great endeavor of mothering boys:
I am raising sons who will know that the best way to stop rape is to not rape.
I am raising sons who will wonder why anything would fail the Bechdel Test.
I am raising sons who will believe that consent of every kind is an inalienable human right.
I am raising sons who will stand on the side of love for everyone.
I am raising sons who will know that a mother has a woman’s body and everything that goes with one.
I am raising sons who will not be grossed out by breastfeeding.
I am raising sons who will be capable of comforting without fixing.
I am raising sons who will know how to take criticism and blame as easily as credit.
I am raising sons who will value their own bodies as much as those of others.
I am raising sons who will prefer their romantic encounters in the 1st person plural: “We,” not “I.”
I am raising sons who will leave the damn seat down and dry.
I am raising sons who will know the pleasures of folding warm laundry and cooking for loved ones.
I am raising sons who will understand that all bodies should be as varied and valued as all minds.
I am raising sons who will treat the names and images of fellow humans with as much care as their own.
I am raising sons who will reject carelessness that approaches maliciousness.
I am raising sons who will derive power from the happiness, not control, of others.
My mother thought she was raising sons with many of those same traits – imagine how betrayed she felt when one turned out to be a domestic abuser and the other a fundamentalist Christian of the worst variety (complete with pack of children and “subservient” wife.) It literally drove my mother insane and to tears. She was angry and spiraled into depression, fueled further by dementia.
Why do I tell this story here? Because it’s important that we also know that we’re only one piece of the puzzle – there’s a lot of control you lose over who your children are to become as they attend school, spend time time with friends and their families, and are exposed to our society in general. Had my brothers been raised somewhere other than the rural, overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly conservative town they grew up in, they might have turned out differently – my parents moved there so that my brothers wouldn’t be exposed to the “hard city life” I was exposed to growing up.
Do your best, teach what you can, push for change in the world – but also know that until there is change in the world we live in, there’s a certain number of promises you simply can’t realistically make about how a child will think when they are an adult.
Comforting without fixing is HARD. I still struggle with that.
You’re damn straight it is. I’m a fixer by nature; I want the patterns to fit, I want everyone happy because happy is the easiest emotion to deal with. I got myself into and stayed in an abusive relationship because I fell for the line that I was the only one who could fix him. It’s a lifelong lesson. So I’ll teach them, and hope they keep working on it.