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Raising a Boy Right

I’m a girl. And certain events have led me to be the mother of a boy.

And raising him is a scary thing. It all began with getting acquainted with bits that I don’t have. And then it was working out what my boy style was when it came to dressing him. Then it was the toys. The television programmes. The things we’d do.

And I have tried to encourage him to embrace whatever passions he might have, even at the age of almost-two, because I genuinely want him to grow into the person that he wants to be.

I don’t bat an eyelid when my son pulls my high-heeled boots on. I don’t break into a sweat when I find him ‘painting’ my makeup on to his face. Well, I do, but only because my Naked 2 palette has never quite looked the same since.

I’m so happy for him to follow the path in life that he chooses. Whether that path is laid out for him, or it’s one that he carves himself – cutting down thick weeds and moving boulders in his way.

Now, now that we have conversations and I understand his temperament and I credit him for his personality, I am all too aware of the things that I am teaching him.

Made all the more prominent when I stubbed my toe the other day and shouted: “Oh bugger!” And he grins at me and flounces about, as only toddlers can do, saying: “Oh bugger! Oh bugger!”

I’m starting to imagine my son as a grown boy. With gappy teeth, messy hair and homework. I’m starting to imagine him as a teenager, with an awkward smile and a whole host of opinions. I’m starting to imagine him as a grown man. A hardworking, grown man, who will one day leave this nest and make his own. Maybe he’ll find success, happiness, love. Hopefully all three.

And so it occurs to me, quite brutally, that my role as his mum, is expanding far outside of cuddles now. And really, it always has extended that perimeter of instinct, I just didn’t realise it.

My choices, my words, my actions – they all affect my son. And you often forget your power as a parent. You forget the influence you have as a parent.

The people I love, have a big problem with me, the problem being that I don’t rate myself all too highly. I self-depreciate. I’m quick to talk my successes down. And I’m always coming out with negative adjectives when I describe myself.

Do I want my son to see that?

I don’t want him to see his mother scrutinise her reflection, or brush off a compliment, or hide her good days. And I realise that it won’t just impact the way he sees me as a woman, but the way he sees himself.

I hear a lot about feminism and the future of women in society. And I champion the success, hopes and dreams of women. I’m a woman, for Christ’s sake. I have worked hard. I have suffered knock-backs. I have had men shout abuse at me in the street. I’ve had men shout sexual jibes at me in the street. I’ve met some horrible, horrible men. Who make my skin crawl, who can’t understand a woman with an opinion and moreover, talent.

But I’ve been surrounded by many men who only push me forward.

And, similarly, there are women in my life who have never let me think for a second that my worth is any less than any other. Who have taught me the incomparable bond that women can have. And who have taught me to celebrate the differences that come with being a woman.

But, whether this surprises you or not, women are probably more responsible for hurt and upset in my life than men. Women have excluded me. They have made me feel insecure, or lesser-ranked. They have tried to destroy my relationships. They have let me down.

And while this isn’t exclusive to the women I have known, and perhaps I’ve just had a different experience to most, it has opened my eyes to people on a very human level.

I don’t want to define myself by what I’ve done, or what I’ve achieved, but who I am and how I made people feel.

And I hope that my son will follow that.

What do I want my son to grow up to be?

I want him to fight for what he believes in. I want him to have a good, kind heart. I want him to be able to reach his dreams, big or small. And I want him to define himself by the things he loves – as a positive person.

I want him to respect women. But I want him to respect men. I want him to raise a confused eyebrow when someone makes a discriminative remark and then put them firmly in their place. I want him to open doors for people, when they’re struggling with bags, regardless of gender or the height of the shoes that they’re wearing. I want him to feel like he can watch musicals. And fall in love, freely, with a man or a woman, and not feel like he has to hide it away.

I believe massively in equality for men and women. But I extend that to race, religion, who we choose to love, who we choose hate, what we choose to think, and what we choose to do. We’re lucky, where we choose to call home, that we have that choice.

I don’t call myself a feminist because I see too much negativity towards men in relation to that word. And I know that this is abuse of a term that means much more than that. And I know many feel that, in renouncing feminism, that means I don’t support equal opportunities for women.

But I disagree.

As I said to a friend the other day, I see it like this.

It’s like asking someone if they believe in God.

For them to reply: “Yes.”

And for you to assume: “You’re a Christian.”

It’s not how it works for me. And it’s not how the world works.

I want to fight for my son’s future and my son’s rights, just as much as I would want to fight for any daughters that I may be blessed with. And your daughters. And your sons.

I’m tired of the label. And I’m tired of seeing anyone put anyone down, regardless of gender, race, belief, and who they choose to love.

I don’t want to focus on changing the meaning of a word – I want to focus on changing the world.

Deluded, twee, and perhaps a little naive that may sound.

But I can start by raising my boy right.

N.B. I know this is a controversial subject. And I love hearing opinions – they shape who we are. But fighting ain’t cool y’all. So leave your weapons at the door please. Peace and love. And stuff.

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  • Reply
    Amy Antoinette
    3rd July 2014 at 7:08 pm

    It does make me sad that so many women dissociate themselves from the word feminism and claim not to be a feminist because the whole concept has been successfully tainted by misogynists in our patriarchal society. I was heavily 'into' feminism whilst as uni, and so many people I knew (even my own brothers!) viewed feminists as man hating, hairy lesbians who were angry with the world, and didn't wear makeup. Really outdated connotations and stereotypes which seem to have stuck around. Feminism is simply the advocacy of women's rights and the belief in political, social and economic equality of the sexes. In which case, surely most people are feminists? It's just that the word has become so misrepresented that few people associate themselves with it. Anyway, I'll leave it at that because I could talk about feminism all day! I have no doubt you will raise William to be a lovely man with good morals, you're a great mother. PS. Have you read The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf? I think you might like it, it's one of my favourites! xx

    • Reply
      Charlotte Louise Taylor
      3rd July 2014 at 7:18 pm

      I love your opinion Amy. I find it causes a divide sometimes and it needn't do. And I know that it is heavily misconstrued in our society now. I don't know if sometimes a new word is needed. I don't know what the solution is. I wish I did! I'm sure everyone would like me if I did! I think it's just that it's a simple word – as any word is – that has come to mean something, in different ways, to so many people. And it almost doesn't make sense anymore. Like when you say a word over and over again – if you know what I mean? I haven't read that book! I obviously should – I take on any recommendation from you gladly possum. xx

  • Reply
    Alison Perry
    3rd July 2014 at 7:21 pm

    At the end of the day, Charlotte, you can decide for yourself what you believe in, what you label yourself and which labels you disassociate yourself from ๐Ÿ™‚ All your choice. My take on it (which I've harped on about elsewhere!) is that if feminism is the desire for equality then even if you don't label yourself as a feminist, you do hold feminist views. You can call it what you like though. I think it's possible we're too hung up on the word. If you can stand up and say "I want equality for women" then that's the main thing.

    • Reply
      Charlotte Louise Taylor
      3rd July 2014 at 7:27 pm

      Some of my best friends – you included – hold the exact same view. Hi Holly if you are reading this! And I love that you champion the word for it's real purpose. I do. And you know what? When you strip it back – we feel the same thing no doubt. I just want to work towards something that references us, as a human race, and not us as a gender, or any social label that we have become accustomed to as a society. I suppose, working in the industry that I do, I am aware of so many battles. Like how we make a visually impaired person feel when we jokingly use the term "blind as a bat". Or the simple frustration of not being able to enter your favourite shop in person, because they can't put a simple ramp there to enable you to. I do think, admittedly, that my view can be seen as though I want to bend the situation to suit myself, and maybe I do. But like God means different things to many, as a belief, so does feminism. And I guess my point is – why are people hating on an interpretation and not focusing on the message? But aside – you are one of my closest friends. And I think you are wonderful. xx

  • Reply
    Faded Seaside Mama
    3rd July 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Yes and Yes and Yes to all of this! I too don't feel the need to label myself just for having values that meet certain criteria.
    In fact, I've written a post on a similar theme that is more ranty and personal – hence not hitting publish yet, but the sentiment is the same.
    As for the self-deprecation, I pass you this:
    @CharlTaylor I met you and didn't even realise! Gutted!

    @fadedseasidemam Come back again! I'm a bit chubbier in real life! It always confuses people! xx
    You are not. You are beautiful. Use W as your mirror and see yourself as he does xx

  • Reply
    Imogen Walker
    4th July 2014 at 1:48 am

    I think it's so sad that the word Feminist has taken on such a negative connotation for some people. But I think that's kind of the problem- that people who believe in the feminist ideals are put off using a word because of how it's been twisted. For me, I'll describe myself as a feminist until the cows come home, especially if it puts off people from talking to me that don't agree with feminism. But that's just my two cents.
    I want boys when I have kids- not that I have any control of it!- and I hope I do a good of a job as you are doing with William!
    Imogen's Typewriter. <3ย 

  • Reply
    Jess @ Along Came Cherry
    4th July 2014 at 8:25 pm

    Tiger is obsessed with pink handbags at the moment, it's so cute but then on the other side he is also obsessed with cars and anything that has wheels. I knew when I found out I was having a boy that I had a responsibility to teach him how to treat women in a way that is respectful, I still feel like it will be a failure on my part somehow if he doesn't treat women very well. Like you said the same goes for how he treats men, I just really hope I can bring him up to be happy and always come to me if he needs to, of course I hope all the same things for Cherry but I guess I do feel like because we are the same sex I know more about how her mind works. And in regards to the whole feminism thing, this might sound SO bad but I'm not even sure what the words means or stands for. Is that terrible?! xx

  • Reply
    Carie
    4th July 2014 at 8:37 pm

    I think you're right that feminist as a word has become tainted with a particular stereotype; and I wonder whether that's symptomatic of the problem as a whole; if women get caught up in in-fighting between themselves as to what being a feminist actually means and how it should be done 'right', does that prevent, or at least hinder, any of us from making progress into the bastions of male dominance? For what it's worth I'm not sure whether I'd label myself a feminist or not; but I do believe that women are equal to men and was taught that from such an early age that to me it is as obvious as the fact that the sky is blue, and I do believe that true feminism means that we all have the right to choose our own path, whatever that may be. It riles me when I see people who have chosen a very traditional old school path in life, SAHM, or whatever, be derided for not being feminist on the basis that they have not made exactly the same choices as someone else who considers themselves feminist. But anyway, I shall step away from that particular soapbox before I get far too ranty ๐Ÿ™‚ !

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