A few days ago I was relaxing with girlfriends, who also had young sons, and we started talking about our battle scars, war stories and uplifting tales about dating and loving in today’s world. When I sit back and reflect now, I realize what was at the heart of those laugh-worthy; cry-worthy and cringe-worthy tales…it was how we as women loved our men.
As an Island girl I realize, as did my friends, that there are ingrained cultural ideologies that led us to seeing men and our relationships with them in a special light. Our mothers in an era of acceptable oppression and extreme racism, classism and poverty, were taught to look up to a man and worship and do for their men more than they would for themselves. To expect little, but give to the point of exhaustion and that’s what made you a “good woman”. Times have changed and so have we. Today’s woman is given more societal support, all-be-it not 100% perfect, to believe and exist as though we ARE equal to men.
My friends and I began talking about how our mothers used to ride their daughters hard and were unwavering in their expectations of them. Demanding that we “act right” and be careful not to offend or act offensively. We remembered the softer, less serious stance they would take with our brothers. Somehow the boys, living under the same roof as us, were allowed to be less than participatory, less than responsible for their actions, and less than accountable for their in-actions. It dawned on me that this is where it all started; and pretty much ended.
Women often buy into the mantra that “men have to change”; but I believe there’s a second part to that not-so-simple equation. We as women have to change how we love our sons so they WILL eventually become the men that our future women love. We have to be careful not to coddle, ignore and permit behavior that does not allow our young boys to take and accept responsibility for their actions and in-actions. We have to remind them to be careful, kind, respectful and thoughtful in their speech. To teach them that strength comes in many forms. Strength can be firm, silent, supportive and appear at times like weakness —all of which are required at different times throughout life. It is up to us to teach them the nuance differences and uses for each.
Our mothers did the best they could with what they had. We thank them for the burdens they beared, and love them for their irrefutable strength. Times were different and so were expectations of women. With that growth and change, we must realize that nobody becomes great without guidance and the challenge to step into their own greatness. We are our son’s first female relationship. We owe it to our young boys to give them purpose by having steadfast expectation of them from a young age. It can be as simple as chores around the house and service in the community. Every moment is a teachable one. We can’t love our boys to the point of making them helpless and useless to themselves and others. In taking away accountability, we take away purpose.
My boys are the center of my world. I love them too much to cripple their future and taint their growth. With this, I resolve to grow and become even greater. I resolve that I will love them consciously, firmly and with their greatness and fullest potential in mind. This is my role as a mom. With the added and equal role being played by their fathers, and other strong men in their lives, I pray that my boys will shine and rise beyond what I have dreamed for them to be.