5.28.2011

Pink (Ode to My Son)

He might like trucks and
he might like dolls.


I hope he helps his dolls
drive his trucks.


Someday his sister's frilly tutu
will fit him
and he might want to wear it
which means we'll have to find one to fit me too.


I hope he will dance like a maniac.


Maybe he'll play football and hit very hard.


Maybe he'll ice skate and leap very high.







I want him to grow up and be
himself all along the way.


And keep the optimism and
curiousity and imagination of


CHILDHOOD


so I can keep clinging to it too.


Boots and blue and ammo belts,
swing a hammer and


BE TOUGH!


Little boys are like this
and
Little girls are like that.


Raise your fist, son,
to those who tell
you The Rules for (y)our gender.


Be Martin Luther,
King, do not bow to old patriarchs,
at venerated notions of manliness.


To be a man is to be yourself.
That is what I want you to be.


Do not prove your masculinity by
disparaging
Hugh Grant and rom coms.


(Thou dost protest too much)


Construct, deconstruct,
do not destruct
yourself or others.


Build up, be a bridge, open doors
for everyone.


There is a time to fix
and a time to listen.


Be a leader, and remember
to let others lead too.


A loud voice doesn't make you a leader. Sing.
Be kind.


There is an art director who got in
     hot water
for photographing her young son
     wearing
bright pink nail polish, which he liked.


     "There's got to be a 
     DIFFERENCE
     between boys and girls,"


the wise ones say.


     "Otherwise it gets confusing.
     We've got to protect those differences
      and keep things un-confusing."


Which made so much sense 
a century ago.


They have their drinking fountain, and
     we have ours,


spoke Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896. And that's how things were,
for another 58 years.


Hunters and gatherers,
Protectors and warriors
     returning


to the caregivers, the
matrons and mothers and childraisers.


It is embedded from an early age
what toys and colours and traits


      Boys Like,


innocuously, innocently, an open feedback
loop of preconceptions turned into actions that
create self-fulfilling reality.


      Boys argue.
      Boys fight.
      Boys are about Action.


      Girls gossip.
      Girls bicker.
      Girls are about Talking.

My problem is not that there is no historic or biological reasons for differences between gender.


      MY PROBLEM


is when these traits are treated as inviolable facts, as raison d'etre for how one gender or the other responds to a given situation in life.


If Johannes grows up loving yellow Tonka trucks and camouflage attire,
     that is fine.


If Johannes grows up loving pink dolls and purple kilts,
     that is fine.


Being a man is developing the self-confidence to be yourself, to like what you want, to live how you want, to approach life with your own rulebook, not one that's been handed to you by a centuries-old code of gender expectations.


There is a troglodytic paranoia that for a 
little boy
to grow up playing with the wrong things or
liking the wrong toys
will turn him into something not...
     blue-blooded manly.


Be kind. Be respectful. Be curious and imaginative.
Those are my commandments, son.


There is nothing,
     NOTHING
that will ever make me disown, or
turn my back on my son.


MY PROBLEM
is when people make assumptions about what kind of person
he will be.


He is eleven months old,
and the wise ones make their assumptions already, because
that's the way Little Boys are.


Why are so many fathers disengaged from
     their children's lives?


(because)
They grew up with embedded ideas and
expectations of what Men do 
     and what
Women do.


And raising children is still looked at by many
as a Woman's Job.


Dad can step in at some point when the kid's
old enough to start hunting, playing football,
     or dating cheerleaders, and


     catch him up on "the guy stuff."


Another cycle continues.


     "This is who I am expected to be,
     therefore that must be who I am,"


     the implicit idea.


"You're not a normal guy," I have heard,
     an ambiguous compliment?


Thank you, I think.


I am not betraying my gender. I am proud to be a Man.


     Tarzan.
     Korak.
     Conan, I roar.


I am proud to be me.
There are many like me, similar,


     'not normal,'


and with raised melodic gorilla voices,
maybe our sons will someday be the


     New Normal.


Men of strength and kindness, confidence and humility,
     empathy and
     humor,
     proud to acknowledge the beauty in the world
     and


     to build lasting relationships of love and respect.


Son, I love you. Let's go paint our nails.

9 comments:

  1. Very inspiring. Thank you for your words.

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  2. Thank you, Anonymous! I appreciate it.

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  3. Perfectly put. Can't agree more.

    p.s. So glad you shared your blog with me. It's been a long time since I've been on blogger and your blog is inspiring me. I've been composing stuff in my head but never manage to write it down. This is a good reminder... time is fleeting.

    p.p.s. I'm going to share this with Brian. He feels exactly the way you do about manhood and raising a boy/man. I know he'd enjoy reading this.

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  4. "A loud voice doesn't make you a leader."

    Thank you for this brilliantly true entry! The measure of a true manhood is not how aggressive and boisterous one is. I too, want to raise my son by a higher standard of manhood that is not limited by male stereotypes. I want to teach him that courage and integrity must stand above aggression, volume and winning at all costs. True manhood puts Courage and integrity above ego, and sometimes even requires a stubborn silence in the face of a screaming mob. This is much harder than reactionary, physical aggression.

    I'm also in full agreement that being who you are, not who people expect you to be as a man, is much manlier than caving to their expectations.

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  5. WOW! I've read this before, but reading it aloud stirred my soul even more! I am deeply humbled and forever grateful for having YOU for my son--a true MAN! Love you!

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  6. I second that, Gramma Susie. Wow. I am so thankful Johannes has you for his papa. My brothers have set some high high standards.

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  7. Just read again. Love love love love.

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  8. I just read this to my wife. "He's a good writer," she just said. I agree.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Aaron - really appreciate it!

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