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.