Sweet Baby Boy, Man in the Making
By Chrystal Rambarath
I know I am loved, but I never knew what it was like to feel like I was the center of someone's world. That is how my son makes me feel, every day. With every hug, every kiss, and every smile, my baby boy shows me love in a way that leaves no doubt of his affection for me. I wonder about the man my son will grow to be, and hope that he will love as deeply and be as respectful, honest, kind, affectionate, and gentle. But I was not always enthralled with being mom to a boy...
"It's a boy!" I was not in the delivery room when I found out - rather I was having an ultrasound at one of my biweekly checkups. I was alarmed - how could I raise a boy? I already had my daughter, who, to that point, was a dream …(little did I know, ha!) I knew about girls. I liked girls. Ruefully, I look back and frown at myself for the twinge of disappointment I felt about not having another girl. Because that was the issue - not that I was having a boy, it was more the fact that I was not having a girl. Visions of pretty dresses, bows, braids, dolls and tea parties that danced through my head were suddenly replaced by visions of pee pee teepees!
I went through my pregnancy, getting ready for my new bundle of joy, picking out his bedding and nursery decor, and his baby wardrobe. While I wistfully eyed the pretty girl things in the stores, my darling son made my pregnancy as enjoyable as one could get. It was all in all a gentle experience, and his arrival, all 9 pounds 1 ounce of him, was rather peaceful...due to a cesarean section in the hands of the capable and knowing women who comprised my operating room team. They knew better than I that I did not want a VBAC! I thought that because he was a boy, he would naturally gravitate to my husband, but perhaps because of his shocking congenital heart condition, I was especially attentive and protective of him. Whatever the reason, my son is truly a mommy's boy.
While his older sister is my rainbow baby whom I love with all my being, my son, makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, how much he loves me. I do not know what I did to deserve a child like him, and I am in awe of this son of mine, this man-in-the-making. He is more gentle, generous, and loving than even my daughter who has undoubtedly been showered with infinite affection. I often find myself staring at him, thinking of the man he will one day be. I hope he will continue to be this beautiful human being. I read these articles about raising sensitive boys, and how parenting can and will shape their behaviors. As a feminist, I am concerned about machismo and our patriarchal culture. And as much I am trying to shape my daughter and set examples so that she may one day break any glass ceiling and rise to any obstacles she encounters, I know that much rests upon the men in her life, including her brother.
I look at my son, in all his innocence and childish naivete, unafraid to play house and family with his sister, or heck, even allow his sister to dress him in her princess costumes when she is lacking a playmate. I hear him sing "Let It Go" and "I am Moana", uninhibited and ignorant of society's concept and implementation of a gender binary and somewhat strict rules of gender roles. I hear him say that his favorite color is pink, and I smile, knowing that he says this more because of the influence of his sister than any preference of his own. Even as I hope he fits society's mold, I wonder how much longer will he be free to be candid about his feelings and thoughts. Just as I fear that my daughter will one day be told she cannot do something because she identifies as feminine, I worry about my son facing similar limitations.
As parents know all too well, everyone looks at us and our parenting of the individual. And like I am mindful about preparing my daughter for the world in which she will live, I am preparing my son. I know that it is my responsibility to teach my son to be kind, gentle, honest, and respectful of everyone. It is my responsibility to teach my son how to treat women, as his friends, colleagues, and partners. As his mother, it is my duty to do my part in breaking down the barriers that the world has placed before our daughters, and the boxes into which our sons are compelled to fit. Mothers have enormous power to change the world, one child at a time, simply by the way we raise and treat our children.
At three years old and the baby in the family, my son is not shy about crying if he is hurt. I know that because he is a boy, very soon, his crying will be frowned upon. But I conscientiously tend to him, holding him, and letting him talk to me. I am striving to allow my boy to speak about and express his feelings, in hopes that he will not repress himself as a man. When he shares things, demonstrates kindness and respect, or acknowledges his naughty behavior I applaud him.
While I am undisputedly their primary caregiver, both my children see their father and I take on interchangeable roles. They saw me go off to work, and their dad work from home. They see me study, do homework, and write, and they see their dad cook and clean - (as do I!) Similarly, we encourage them to take on different roles. My son frequently helps me tidy our home and he and I will challenge my daughter when she says, "Only girls do this" or "Boys do that." We have lively conversations about gender roles and my children are encouraged to challenge them.
As much as I love my son, he is by no means coddled. I take incidents of him fighting seriously and he faces consequences. I have seen him defend his sister and himself from children several years older than him. While I will commend him for sticking up for his sister and for himself, he is learning to keep his hands to himself. Very recently, such a situation at a friend’s home occurred and while I was in shock and dismay at my son's reaction, I removed him from the situation immediately. Both at that time and when we got home, I discussed the occurrence and let him know that while I understood his reasons, he could not use his hands.
As children do, my children continue to amaze and bewilder me. Now that I am able to spend a lot of one on one time with my son, each day brings new lessons for both of us. In the moment, I do not always have the answers nor do I handle the uncomfortable moments well all the time. I can only say that it is an education process. One thing I am certain of, is the weight I carry with my son, which probably most mothers and caregivers have with their children. While they are young and impressionable and we are the center of their worlds, we cannot underestimate the power we have to shape them into good men - and women - or however they will identify, by the way we treat them, and how we allow them to treat others.
I want my son to carry his respectfulness and honesty, his generous spirit, and his unabashed expressions of affection into his adulthood. To this end, I am focused on encouraging his boyish lovingness and correcting his less than desirable behaviors. When I think of men with unsavory characters, I wonder about their mothers and what sway they may have had. I realize that some do not have strong mother-son bonds, and I do not know if mine will last, but while it does, I strive to instill in my son as much of what I want in the men in my world. As I enjoy the time with him, and teach my sweet baby boy, I remember that he is a man-in-the-making.
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