kme + parenthood   5

The Fear of Having a Son - The New York Times
An informal Facebook survey she took yielded these results: “I wanted a girl mainly because I felt it was harder to be a boy in today’s society. If I have a boy I will embrace the challenge of raising a boy…who can learn the power of vulnerability even as male culture tries to make him see it as weakness. But, frankly, I hope that when I have a second child, it’ll be another girl.’” This was emblematic of a lot of the responses, which revealed that men felt more confident, or “better equipped,” co-parenting “a strong, confident daughter.”

Recently, I sent Macallah, now 5, to his room after he ignored my repeated requests to stop yelling and throwing his toys. More than even his dismissal, what bothered me was what many people refer to as “boy energy.” It’s a reactive, sometimes destructive, force that unnerved me even as a child. Then I heard the voice of my wife, Liz, in my head: “He only wants your attention. Boys don’t always know how to ask for what they want.”

I found Macallah in his room, repeating the same behavior. I took a deep breath.

“Were you upset because I wasn’t paying attention to you?” I asked. Head and eyes downcast, he nodded. I bent down and hugged him, then looked at him. “It’s important that you learn to tell Mama and me what you need — sometimes that means telling us what you’re feeling inside, understand?” He nodded. “You do it,” I said. “Tell me what you really wanted.”

He shrugged, still looking down. “You to pay attention to me,” he said.

He threw his arms around my waist, leaning his head into me. I didn’t need words to know what filled my young son: He felt wanted.


From the comments:
If my next child is a girl, to raise a strong daughter, no matter how amazing of a job I do and however tough she is, she will be paid less, sexualized at a young age, have to learn a life of playing defense, be held accountable for other people's behavior, have to work twice as hard to get half as far, and when she's a mom herself, will have two full time jobs (at home and work). Chances are, my son will have it easier. And frankly, so will I during adolescence.
masculinity  parenthood  gender  forthecomments 
october 2016 by kme
The Fear of Having a Son - The New York Times
An informal Facebook survey she took yielded these results: “I wanted a girl mainly because I felt it was harder to be a boy in today’s society. If I have a boy I will embrace the challenge of raising a boy…who can learn the power of vulnerability even as male culture tries to make him see it as weakness. But, frankly, I hope that when I have a second child, it’ll be another girl.’” This was emblematic of a lot of the responses, which revealed that men felt more confident, or “better equipped,” co-parenting “a strong, confident daughter.”

Recently, I sent Macallah, now 5, to his room after he ignored my repeated requests to stop yelling and throwing his toys. More than even his dismissal, what bothered me was what many people refer to as “boy energy.” It’s a reactive, sometimes destructive, force that unnerved me even as a child. Then I heard the voice of my wife, Liz, in my head: “He only wants your attention. Boys don’t always know how to ask for what they want.”

I found Macallah in his room, repeating the same behavior. I took a deep breath.

“Were you upset because I wasn’t paying attention to you?” I asked. Head and eyes downcast, he nodded. I bent down and hugged him, then looked at him. “It’s important that you learn to tell Mama and me what you need — sometimes that means telling us what you’re feeling inside, understand?” He nodded. “You do it,” I said. “Tell me what you really wanted.”

He shrugged, still looking down. “You to pay attention to me,” he said.

He threw his arms around my waist, leaning his head into me. I didn’t need words to know what filled my young son: He felt wanted.

I have a daughter and I dearly wish I had a son too, but I must admit that cultural messages make raising a daughter feel more optimistic. In educated America masculinity is viewed as toxic and pathological, and male sexuality is virtually criminalized. Turn on many TV programs and watch females putting males in their place over and over again, both mentally and physically, while to represent the opposite dynamic in media seems unthinkable. All complex life evolved as an interplay between masculine and feminine, and health has always appeared to be found in the balance. It is unwise to pretend that men did not build the human world which has empowered women to enjoy their newfound freedoms, or that physical courage, reason, and map reading skills are now obsolete.

"But this boy’s going to be raised to feel and express his vulnerability."

This is the major error of this essay and philosophy in general. Children (male or female) are not just the product of their upbringing. They can be guided; they can learn from example, and they can be taught to understand that actions have consequences. But you think you can raise your son to "feel vulnerability"? I'm skeptical. I think your son will feel how he feels, and this probably doesn't have much to do with your conscious teaching. Despite concerns about raising boys that have emerged over the last 30 years, there are hundreds of thousands of years of genetic programming in your son that tell him that yelling, and running around, and throwing things is a fine thing for a five year old boy to do sometimes.

You mention you're concerned that your son's rambunctiousness may be a sign he's not expressive enough of his vulnerabilities. Could be. There are others (myself included) that worry that their son's race may lead others to interpret that same rambunctiousness as a dangerous threat to be criminalized and violently resisted. Admittedly, this is a different problem, but a more urgent one.
masculinity  parenthood  gender 
october 2016 by kme

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