This morning I had breakfast with my son’s dad, and we were discussing our kid and how his behavior in second grade is an improvement over last year, save for an incident last week when some kid hit him with a lunchbox and Oliver retaliated by grabbing the kid’s ear.
Of course he got in trouble with the teacher (though the teacher said she understood why he did it -- he was only defending himself). And he got in trouble with us, too, because we want him to learn to react without getting physical. At the same time, I don’t want to teach my kid that it is wrong to stick up for himself.
Whenever Oliver comes home with a story about some kid who said something mean on the playground, I always tell him to just ignore that kid, to walk away and go play with someone else. I found out this morning that Seth has been telling Oliver to just tell the kid he’s being stupid. And that Oliver said to Seth, “But I don’t want to be mean, I want to be nice.”
So where is the line between self-defense and kindness? I don’t know, you guys. It’s a tough line to walk, and sometimes I guess you have to fall on one side of it or the other. I only hope that Oliver figures out which way to go when he's confronted with difficult situations.
And indeed, sometimes parenting a boy can be difficult, in that there is lots of societal pressure for boys to be tough and aggressive, yet in early childhood (in preschool, for example), acts of aggression are discouraged. Oliver has an inherent aggressiveness that is common to many boys (though not only boys; girls, too). He is physical, almost to the exclusion of everything else, sometimes. His energy is boundless. And we encourage him to release it through outlets that we find to be positive: skateboarding, climbing trees, or just running in the park.
But he is also incredibly sensitive. Just yesterday, he pulled a stunt where he got a running start and then dove (DOVE!) onto the sofa and nearly snapped his neck in the process. He definitely lost a marble for that. After I finished yelling at him about how the sofa is not a jungle gym, I decided to take the sympathetic route and tell him about the time when I was his age and was jumping on the bed at my grandma’s house, and I fell and hit my head on the concrete floor.
I thought that maybe telling Oliver this story would him would help him understand WHY I don’t want him jumping on the furniture. As if to say I understand why you want to do this, I was your age too, but please learn from my mistakes, kid. Except then Oliver burst into tears. “I’m so sad that you hit your head!” he wailed, as his little face crumpled up and he put his hand over his eyes. Never mind that it was almost 30 years ago, just the thought of me being hurt is enough to rip my kid's heart to pieces.
He’s very protective of me, telling me on more than one occasion that he doesn’t ever want me to learn to skateboard, because he’s afraid I’ll get hurt. If I accidentally cut myself or drop something on my foot (really, I shouldn't be allowed near a kitchen knife) and yelp out in pain, he gets really concerned. If someone cuts me off in traffic, he yells to himself, “Hey, don’t do that to my mom!”
Sensitive kid, this one. He feels things very deeply, and I know that as he grows up he will protect me, and certainly anyone he loves, in any way he can. He has a dear heart.
And I want him to keep that part of him, but still be able to defend himself when necessary, and to find positive outlets for his aggression. This, to me, seems like the kind of man I hope he becomes. One who is confident and sympathetic.
Not all parents feel this way about raising boys, of course. I have a friend who is very much into making sure her boy knows how to throw a punch, and that's about it. I have another friend who discourages any kind of rough play with her son. I may not agree with either of these positions, but hey, they’re not my kids. You see, the more experience I gain as a mom, the more I realize that I cannot judge the parenting styles employed in other families. I’m sure there are many parenting decisions I make that tons of people would disagree with.
But goddamn it if this new parenting book doesn’t make me mad. Seethingly angry, in fact. And maybe it will make you mad, too. In fact, why don’t we all take a deep, cleansing breath before we proceed?
Deep, deep breath.
I downloaded a sample to my Kindle, because I am definitely not going to pay money for this thing. And honestly? I can’t get past the first two sentences of the Introduction:
“Feminists would love nothing more than to take your son and eradicate his masculine uniqueness. They hate men, and therefore, they will hate your son.”
I’m not sure if the author means to imply that all those feminists with children actually hate their own male offspring, or that feminists don’t actually have children. (After all, man-hating lesbian feminists can’t procreate anyway, right!?)
I can’t even. I can’t. Not even for you guys. Those two sentences make me so angry, that I cannot continue reading.
But don’t worry. The author is soooo not a misogynist. He loves girls (as long as they aren’t feminists, of course). He wrote another book, “Raising Righteous and Rowdy Girls,” the cover of which includes a five-inch stiletto heel, a tube of red lipstick and a gun. Because we all know that THAT is what being a woman is all about, for every person born with two X chromosomes.
So there you go. If this guy wants to assume that we “man-hating feminists” want to neuter little boys, then I’m going to assume, based on the cover of one of his books and two sentences of the other that a) he wants his daughters to be gun-toting sexpots, because the only value they have in society is related to how sexy they are, and b) he is raising his sons to be hard-muscled walking penises, because the only value they have in society is spreading their seed and learning to kill stuff. I’m going to assume that the author lacks the intelligence to realize that there is more than one way to be a man, and one way to be a woman. Because blanket statements and ill-informed presumptions are super helpful, right?
Anyway, I’ll be over here, quietly seething and raising my sweet kid who uses his brain to solve problems first, but who also would not be afraid to punch someone if it came to that. Heart and fist do not have to be mutually exclusive. As human beings, we can be more than one thing.
Gee, what do you guys think? I know you must have opinions.
Somer is on Twitter, liking lots of men in spite of her haircut, @somersherwood