thoughts on Raising a Son

My son is six months old.  He is, in my completely unbiased opinion, a perfect little baby.  He smiles and coos and rolls over and puts anything he can reach into his mouth.  Delightful.

All of my son’s playmates are girls, because all of my friends who live near us have daughters.  They are older, and possess such skills as walking, climbing, using words, and eating real food.  My son watches them in awe.

For now, those little girls have the advantage. 

They are bigger and more coordinated and can ask for food and know how to call out for Mommy and Daddy.  They can move from one side of the room to the other.  Some of them are even starting to potty train (oh, what a lofty achievement!).  They laugh and play together.  Sometimes they cry or hit or take things from one another; no toddler is an angel.  On the whole, they are happy, healthy, bright, kind little girls, whom I pray would be blessed to grow into women who continue to be happy, healthy, bright, kind adults.

I am saddened, however, when I consider that this brief window of advantage for those girls will be over before they even realize it existed.  By the time they start elementary school, four or five years from now, they will have entered a world that favors my son for no reason but that he is a son and not a daughter.  The girls will be expected to sit still and quietly learn, but if my son is rude or rowdy, well, “boys will be boys,” and that’s that .

Of course, I want my son to succeed, to be well-taught, and to have every opportunity to grow into a man for whom the world is full of possibility.

But I can’t quite be satisfied knowing that he will have those possibilities offered to him as a matter of fact, while those little girls will have to fight for their voices to be heard and their thoughts to be valued.

So, what’s a mother to do?

Aside from praying for my son to know a world characterized by equality and contemplating how to bring it about in my own life, that is?

I will encourage him to honor and respect all people, however different they may be from him.

I will teach him to listen when women speak, and to value their contributions as dearly as his own.

I will surround him with girls and women like the ones I spoke of before, who are kind and bright and loving and determined—in short, what I hope my son will be.

I will remind him that many things will be easier for him, and that Jesus Christ commanded us to have compassion on the “least of these” among us.

I will love him.

And, whatever else I do, I will be me, a woman who believes that her voice matters, who believes that God will not be satisfied until each person’s dignity is valued as deeply as if it were a truly precious treasure.

I do not know if that will be enough.  I pray that it is.  Until then, I will rest confident in knowing that to God, “…there is no male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

Meanwhile, thanks be to God for those little girls.

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8 Responses to thoughts on Raising a Son

  1. mnfauth says:

    I have the same thoughts raising my own sons – and I’m glad to hear there are mothers like you, and young ladies like the ones he gets to play with – and look forward to the world he will be raised in!

  2. brokenquiet says:

    I love this! I have been thinking a lot lately on what it means to raise a boy, since we’re not sure of the gender of our unborn baby yet. I had no brothers growing up, so I feel completely lost when I think about raising a boy. Aside from raising my child to know who God is and know that God loves him/her, if I have a son, I will definitely want to raise him to respect women and listen to them.

    I was the only girl in my high school class, and I heard “women’s place is in the kitchen” and “you throw like a girl” jokes quite often. While I knew they weren’t serious (or completely serious), it bothered me that girls were so often taking the brunt of their jokes. I felt devalued. Boys need to know and respect boundaries.

    Your son is so blessed to have you!

  3. keytastic says:

    Hey Beth. I don’t have experience with the schools out there, but when boys were rude or rowdy out here, no one said “boys will be boys”. I don’t say that in my classroom now, nor do I think any of my co-workers do. In regards to bringing your son up to respect women, it is my perspective (as a man that respects women) that you’ll have the most success from surrounding him with other boys and young men that respect women. Be thankful you have such a wonderful, loving, and respectful husband that your son can look up to and emulate.

    • emwartick says:

      I’m glad to hear it! It is so important for children to have good role models to show them respectful behavior. The book I linked to in the post argues that there are implicit ways that sexism shows up, in addition to (or maybe instead of) the more blatant ones, for example, that teachers are more likely to call on boys in class. I hope that is becoming less true, but it is harder to see, and so can be harder to counter.

      • keytastic says:

        Well, that book is fine, but what was your personal experience like? Again, I don’t think boys are called on more than girls out here; it might even be the opposite.

      • J.W. Wartick says:

        At some point, however, we need to acknowledge that personal experience cannot be the arbiter of reality. I have no personal experience of someone telling me they hate me because I’m a Christian; but that doesn’t mean it does not happen. I also have no personal experience of wondering how I’m going to pay for food, but that doesn’t mean that no one else has that experience. If studies are showing that things like this happen–and studies are showing that–then we can’t just dismiss them because we don’t have a similar experience.

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