bad mommi pics

bad mommi pics


How I Teach My Son to Be a Man in a Man's World

So let's just say I smell a little misogyny in the air?  Lately, I feel like womanhood has been under brutal attack. From Kim K. breaking the internet yet again (though mine seems to be working fine), to the infamous catcall video that has solicited an explosion of anger from men everywhere.  Equal pay.  Abortion rights. Twerk contests. All these issues have been bombarding my social media feeds lately.  It seems the world has been waving a huge banner that says, "Hey women! You can't win!" for the last week.

The most infuriating implication within all of it this is that these are all merely women's issues; feminist burdens to bear that have nothing to do with the dominate class of men in our midst.  And though I don't consider myself to be feminist (I'm more a womanist), I wholeheartedly agree with the fight to be seen as equal.  There is one glaring problem though; as my beautiful and wise bestie Rachael puts it, "The problem with feminism is that it gave women equality but it never taught men how to take on new roles."  I concur (with pursed lips and a sharp nod of my chin).  Once women  began to take care of themselves it left men scratching their heads and saying to themselves, "Wait, so what do I do now?"  How can I show my manhood if I'm not clubbing someone over the head and hunting dinner?  What does manhood even mean anymore?  

I believe the most important aspect in this discussion on feminism and equality is that feminism will die unless we teach our boys to be feminists.  Unless we teach our sons to be men who love and respect women as equals we can kick, fight and scream for eternity and it will all be for naught.  And as the black single mother of a son I recognize this job as the most difficult and quintessential task in my life.  How do I teach my son to be a man in a man's world?  How do I teach him not to perpetuate sexism and still flex his manhood?  How do I teach him to love women and love himself at the same time?  

I am by no way, shape or form an expert on parenting.  But I have picked up a few tools during my rocky journey through motherhood.  Since most of my other friends are just now having children (I took one for the team with the whole let's-get-pregnant-out-of-wedlock-and-be-a-single-mom experiment), I had to learn not from watching my peers but through sound advice from family, years of therapy and internet memes. Here are some of the tactics on teaching feminism I've attempted over the years:

I let him play with dolls.

When my son was about 3 I bought him a full kitchen set for Christmas. I mean it had the works: a stove that actually sizzled, a microwave that taught Spanish and all the plates, cups and dishes that he could ever want to throw.  An ex boyfriend of mine looked at me like I was insane when I bought it.  "But he's a boy!" he quipped.  Yup, he sure is and one day he'll grow to be a man.  When I gave him the kitchen set he played and cooked for a while and then drove his toy trucks across it. When I gave him a doll he cradled her for a bit, crooning, "Aww! Chum chummy!" and then proceeded to have an all out wrestling match between the doll and his Optimus Prime robot. He got to experience both sides of the coin.  Rough and nurturing, my son was learning that life is about balance.  Wonder why we have 34-kid-17-baby-momma having dads on Iyanla?  Because we don't teach our sons balance.  Society posits women as the sole caregivers and nurturers and fatherhood is ignored.  (Think about the difference in brunch specials between Mother's and Father's day.)  Nurturing men are just as important as nurturing women; we have to nurture each other.  And I want my son to learn that he can care for others and still be a man.

I don't give him what he wants all the time.

Let's face it, there are a lot of spoiled men walking the Earth these days (spoiled women too but I'm talking about sons right now).  I have come across so many men who are looking for the "perfect" woman: 34-26-34, cooks, cleans, works full time, independent, full hair and makeup 24/7, goes to the gym 3 times a day, "lady" in the streets, has sex like a pornstar and does laundry in her spare time for fun. (I got exhausted simply typing all that.)  In their quest for this "perfect" woman I always ask men what their role is, what's their job while this bionic woman takes on the world?  They usually tell me that a woman needs to work to be worthy of their attention.  As they explain to me why women need to earn respect I envision the little boy version of the guy I'm talking to. I see him in the toy store asking for the G.I. Joe and the firetruck and I see it being bought.  Whether it's from a single mom feeling guilty for the imperfect situation her child is in or from both parents just being proud to have a strong strapping boy, boys usually get what they ask for.  They get the toys, the jobs, the attention.  And girls are taught to work for it; especially little black girls.  So sometimes, just for fun, I tell my son N-O.  Even if I have the money.  Even if he's done everything he is supposed to. He has to learn he doesn't own the world and that everyone works for what they get including relationships.  No one is perfect and no one has it all. It's a reciprocal world and if he wants good he has to give it.  Period.

I teach him thinking"no" means "yes" makes you a pervert.

When my son was very young he was in love with me.  He told me on several occasions that he would marry me when he grew up, to which I calmly replied, "That is illegal in most states." He gave me kisses galore and would climb on top of me in bed and sniff my hair.  Though there is almost no equivalent bliss to your child's tiny fingers grasping your own, I had to sometimes stop him from such displays of affection.  I try to shower him with love and hugs and kisses all the time but when he was little and he went overboard I made it very clear that he needed to stop.  We often think it is cute when our little boys touch a boob or mimic slapping a booty. "Awwwwww, look at that!" we proclaim and giggle because children doing adult things is always funny and it supposedly shows he's a little man.  However funny or "manly" it may be, it's wrong.  I had to learn to push him off when he climbed my way at times.  I had to learn to wipe the slobber from my cheeks and tell him, "Get off!" Not because I don't love him with every inch of my being but because no means no.  I don't want to raise a man who thinks "no" is a play word.  I don't want to raise a man who ignores "no"; not my "no" or the "no's" of any of the women he will encounter in life.  He must learn to respect my body and space just was I respect his.  I try not to barge in on him in the bathroom, I let him shut his bedroom door as he changes and I stopped trying to kiss him when he doesn't want to be kissed.  Respect is taught not innate and he will be a man who respects "no" at all times.

I hug him when he cries and I sometimes tell him to suck it up.

Boys cry.  So do men.  That is ok. It's the simplest lesson we can teach a boy to move towards a world of equality.  If we let our boys cry we teach them that emotion is not weakness.  So the phrase, "Females are so emotional and crazy" better not EVER slip from my child's lips.  Emotions are not crazy; they are human.  They deserve to be recognized in ALL people regardless of the genatalia you possess.  He knows he can come to me and cry.  He can show me his frustrations and pain and it doesn't make him any less of a man.  He also knows sometimes things get hard and we have to get over it.  I stopped running for every skinned knee and busted lip a long time ago and I would do the same for a daughter.  Pain is a necessary and essential part of growth and the cradling arms of motherhood can neither protect nor deny it.  So sometimes I hold him close to me and rock him into peaceful acceptance of whatever ails him.  And sometimes I let him be mad and hurt and deal with it like an adult.  He is a growing person who does not live in a bubble and needs to learn that emotions are real, powerful and part of what makes us beautifully human.

I respect his father.

My son looks just like me.  Some might even think I was the first human to achieve asexual reproduction we look so much alike. But every once in a while his father peeks through.  It's in the way he walks or the cocky way he gets angry or the secret places where he will be a lithe, muscular man like his dad.  He is just as much daddy as he is mommy.  This means I could never insult his father without indirectly insulting him.  No matter how angry he makes me or how resentful I get at times I have made it my mission to show my son through my words and actions that his father is to be respected.  Not only because his dad is a part of him but also because through our relationship he is learning how to be in relationships with women.  We have both come a long way to get to this point but what I love about my relationship with his father is that we have come to a point of mutual respect.  Through blood, sweat and tears we have gotten to a place where we have clear roles as Mother and Father and an appreciation of who the other person is. I can tell his father when he's wrong and he can accept it.  I can also  feel thankful to him for giving me the gift of our beautiful son and tell him that without feeling I lost something.  My son can learn that even if we are not together we work together for him; even if our dreams of perfection are not fully fulfilled in the present they don't have to become our nightmares of imperfection.

I love him honestly.

That doesn't mean I love him with all my heart even though I do.  It means that I love him exposed and vulnerable with wounds, scars and bloody places uncovered for him to see.  In our house, it's just he and I.  He has seen every trip, fall and mistake I stumble through.  Instead of trying to hide it, I talk to him about it.  I show him that when you fall you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and keep it moving.  When you wrong people you apologize.  I have had tearful discussions with him about painful places in my life so that he understands that life is about healing as much as it is about living.  I have apologized when I yelled too much or got to angry or ignored his needs.  And I have taught him to apologize to me.  He is still a child so some things will not be his to know until he has crossed the threshold of adulthood, but I try to share my life with him, include him in it.  I let him read my blog so he knows what I'm thinking and he knows words have power.  I recognize him as a thinking person who is not stupid or oblivious to world around him and therefore I respect his right to know and his voice to be heard.  He is my partner is crime; even if he can't afford to pay rent yet.

I show him incredible women.

I show him me. I am crazy, emotional, flawed and absolutely amazing.  Through the example that I set of getting up every day through every thing he can see that women are strong and capable.  And then I show him other capable women.  I take him to the museum and show him a table full of plates shaped like vaginas and teach him about each awesome woman each plate represents (thanks Brooklyn Museum).  I define feminism for him when he asks and show him movies where women embody empowerment.  And I surround him and myself with women who are diverse and regal in all senses of the word so they can teach him spirituality and laughter and perseverance and grit.  He is a reflection of a village raising a child and I honor every amazing woman who has helped me to shape him so that one day he will honor them as well.

Parenting is the most disrespected, underpaid and important job on the planet.  Nobody told me at 20 that when I made the decision to have a baby I was also making the decision to mold a person.  It is terrifying at times all the things I don't know but it is also awe inspiring all the things he teaches me.  I am never sure if I'm doing the right thing or if I'm completely screwing him up. But this one thing I am sure: I want to live in a world where men and women look each other in the eye and love as equals.  For that to happen I have to raise not only daughters as whole people but also my son.  So go ahead and tell me what you do to raise a conscious kid.  I can use all the help I can get :)