We had our second child a month ago – another little boy. I looked down at the end of an evening and in the middle of the kitchen floor was a bike and a football. It occurred to me that herein lies pretty much what the rest of my life is looking like raising two sons. How do you take on a job like that? Raising boys and raising girls requires different parenting, the aim being to get the best out of their character in the most non-destructive or self-destructive way. How do we raise, confident, honest, responsible, empathetic human beings who will be good men, fathers, siblings, partners, husbands, sons?
As emancipated as it may seem, we live in a culture which has possibly vilified masculinity, and we still seem to suffer a stereotypical yet contradictory hangover as to what a man should be: I want my boys to be sensitive but tough as nails and strong as lead. I want them to dress well and smell clean but be wild and rugged with a smudge of grease on their cheek. I want them to be leaders and to take charge but know humility. I would like them to speak their minds but be able to listen. To hold open a door for their loved one as well as to hold them up when they fall. To be gallant and mindful and smart and successful. To have patience and to be polite. To be safe and to protect others. To not be afraid to show their feelings and to communicate but to still be stoic and silent and wise enough to know when to hold their tongue. To be free to laugh and to cry unashamedly. To be athletic, play sport and to appreciate art all at once. To make the rules but to break them – to be good and a little bit bad. To love and to be loved. To be happy and healthy. To be kind. To respect and to be respected. To understand and appreciate the opposite sex, to be affectionate. I want them to be themselves and to pursue their dreams and to live fearlessly. All while being able to cook, clean and balance a baby on one hip, and still remain masculine enough to keep us interested. We expect a lot from our men and are hard on them, maybe too much so, considering this generation of fathers are doing so much more than their fathers ever did when it comes to hands on parenting. They really should be getting more credit.
My own experience with men has been a little confused – I grew up in an environment where women ran businesses and the home while the men played golf, so to think that we had to rely on men to get things done was not on my radar. As a kid I was a tomboy with loads of boy friends, so it never really dawned on me until recent years that there is a vast chasm between sexes and what they may be able to do, even if it is just physically or emotionally. My dad died when I was 12 so I had very little male influence through my teenage years. I have had to invest in a huge amount of self help sessions to understand how different men and women are and to get how men function. I worked most of my life in the Arts or in Fashion and Design where the majority of the male population were either metro or gay or somewhere in between. I couldn’t understand why, when I met my sports loving, alpha male partner, he wasn’t in tune with aesthetics or interiors or hanging up the bath mat. I had to do a complete 180 in my approach to the male race. And so it goes I end up with two boys. Simple, straightforward, easy – the idea that a punch on the arm can take the place of years of therapy runs deep through their DNA. How can I change that in a lifetime? Of all my ambitions, to be a strong woman for my sons to admire and be inspired by is most important to me. I am up for a challenge and if I didn’t have a backbone before I will have to grow one very quickly.