Sunday, 14 July 2013

Bringing up boy(s)

When I was pregnant my then mother-in-law was convinced I was going to have a boy because of the way I carried my bump. My mother was desperately praying for one, insisting Krishna himself was coming to our house. My ex was ready to start teaching the little one how to trek (or roll joints) while still in my womb. Random strangers, not-so-well-meaning relatives, friends, the verdict was unanimous. It was going to be a boy.

I, on the other hand, was terrified at the idea of popping out a male member of our species. I fervently hoped and prayed that I would have myself a sweet little girl. I said again and again that I don't want a boy. I won't know what to do with one. You see I am the youngest of three sisters. My mother is the eldest of three sisters. All the extended family kids I interacted with were girls. I had no experience with little boys and my experience with big boys (or men as they like to call themselves) hadn't been that great!

And so on that fateful day, when the doctor proudly said "It's a boy", along with tears of joy I also felt my heart sink just a tiny little bit. (It plummeted when I was told I would have to pull back his foreskin and clean his penis while bathing! My head was screaming, I'll have to what???? There is no way I know how to handle little boy wee-wees!!!)

I soon found myself wondering what I wanted from myself as a mother and from my son. I thought of why I feel the way I do about boys. And I decided I want my son to be different.

I want my son to be happy and sad. I want him to cry when he is hurt. I want him to ask for comfort when he needs it and to give it when others need it. I want him to love, deeply. His life, the people in it, his work, everything he does. I want him to admit that he is scared and then face his fears.

I want my son to respect people. Men and women. He needs to know that sex, colour, race, class, none of them are a good reason to discriminate against another. He must respect each person, understand and empathize with their journey.

He has to learn that life is a series of choices and you're responsible for the ones you make. Not your friends, not your parents, not your girlfriend/boyfriend. Just you. Because each person has the knowledge, deep within them, to do what's best for them.

I want my son to grow up.

He will always be my baby. But I want for him one day to stand tall and proud and be a man. To make for himself a beautiful life and know that he did it on his own. To say this is what my mother gave me, the ability and knowledge to be the best person I can be.

And so began my journey. To get out of a hopelessly unhappy marriage. To shed the various illnesses that beleaguered me. To step out into the real world and rebuild my life. To learn to love and respect myself as I learnt to love and respect others. To be happy and to be there for myself. To work, not just for the money, but because it gives me a great sense of achievement. To reconstruct my shattered self-esteem and live my life on my terms with no apologies.

More than anything to be the kind of mother who can bring up a new kind of man. A man who doesn't prescribe to the subtle and not-so-subtle patriarchal norms our society lays down for men. To be a mother and woman he can love and respect. To set an example of how to live your life to the fullest.

In short, to be the best person I can be.

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