Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Are we raising a bunch of pansies?

Last night's post had me thinking about something that haunts me, and I'm sure all single mothers of boys, a lot. Which is, are we raising a bunch of feminized boys? Are we giving them access to a masculine identity? Basically, when it comes to raising boys, do we have the balls?

Some time ago when I posted my "I Want You to be Average" credo on Facebook, some guy wrote snidely, "sounds like a mom. But how are you going to prepare him for the excellence that comes from hard work and dedication?" I thought this was stupid and beside the point and almost deleted it, but didn't (and once again this comment was "liked" by an older woman with no kids). But it did wake me up to the belief out there held by men that women exist only to castrate their sons. And that it's their job as fathers to "toughen them up". To do what? Be in the military? Be a cop or a firefighter? Is "toughness" and physical aggression an important value in the 21st century western world?

I was, and still am, flabbergasted by a proposition put forth yesterday by Dennis Prager, a radio talk show host I listen to every morning. Now, as much as I disagree with him almost all of the time, I enjoy listening to him because I think he's a gentleman and very smart and philosophical. But yesterday, he was an idiot. He cited some study in which a majority of women, when asked who would they save from drowning first, their beloved dog or a human unknown to them, said they would save their dog. First of all I don't believe this study; but even worse, he used this as evidence as to why women, in particular Hillary Clinton, should not be in power. Huh? I was screaming in my kitchen. What about Margaret Thatcher? What about Golda Meir? Is he nuts??? But again, this opened up the strange world of male hatred of "softness". Which as a woman I just don't get.

I often observe kids and dads while out. And mostly I see dads being gentle and kind with their little boys. But maybe that's because I live in this east LA hippie bubble. I wonder about the tougher dads...or the dads from other cultures. What are they teaching their boys? Are they harming or helping them? 

I personally believe it's the dads' focus on raising "tough" boys who don't cry, don't talk about feelings, etc, that left us with this generation of emotionally constipated idiots, and the reason I'm single. So obviously I skew towards the moms are better mentality. But...I so often worry I'm not going to be enough for B. That at a certain age when I can no longer swoop in and rescue him, he's going to need something more, something I can't give him. And I'm not sure what that is, or where to get it. Will a course of martial arts be enough...?

My fantasy of B is a gentle boy who's delighted by butterflies and is kind to younger kids and surrounded by adoring girls. But that may not be who he wants to be. I can guide him to be kind and gentle, and that's great, but at a certain point he's going to be who he wants to be. I mean, I'd love it if he wore vintage clothes and grew an ironic mustache and played a washboard, but he may turn out to be an Alex P Keaton. Who knows? I know I wouldn't love him any less, that's for sure.


  1. As a teacher in an urban school with a high violence rate, I can guarantee that when it comes to aggressive and "masculine" behavior it is nearly impossible to predict which boy has a single mom at the helm. Furthermore, I wrestle on the floor with my son just as much as my dad did with my brother growing up....of course it follows with a smothering of kisses and raspberries too keep him sweet too!

  2. I don't worry about my son's masculinity. I don't toughen him up and I'm not worried if he's going to be too soft to other people. Whether he forms into a typical male or is more effeminate isn't a concern as long as he's a good man. That part is on him. Either way I dislike the use of the word pansy.

    As for the study, I don't find it hard to believe that most would save the animal they know over the human they don't. Relationship over species. I don't have a pet but I know people who do and would say the same. Only he's misusing the study so pfft

  3. I am a smc of a 4 year old boy and believe kids are just who they are. Without the benefit of a daily male role model, my son can not be interested in anything effeminate. He loves to wrestle and fight. I joke that one of my monthly expenses is an inflatable punching bag because he has popped several, but they keep him off of me. I think kids are who they are. As a kindergarten teacher I have seen many more effeminate boys raised by two parent homes. I have seen gentle boys, rough boys, weepy boys, tough boys...And I see no grand rhyme or reason as to what their family structure is. They are who they are. And we do our very best to gently work out that which is unflattering or direct it for good.

  4. I agree with Momandkid. Felix is pretty rough and tumble, loving trucks and dirt and climbing and hitting and throwing, but he also chooses to curl up with a good book, kiss babies and snuggle pets.

    I think the key is teaching empathy, so they can learn to set aside their personal desires when required in order to help others.

  5. Firstly I love this post. well written , made me smile in places, and serious at the same time. Nice work.

    On the actual issue...

    I also think kids will be who they are. BB was so much a 'boy' right from the beginnings. But he is a soft and gentle boy most of the time.

    I think there are lots of different types of dads too, and not all of them are out to raise boys who don't cry.

    I do think that our boys will actually find male role models though, as a natural part of their development - Maybe someone in the family, or a friend, or even a future boyfriend (imagine that!), or maybe a teacher, or coach, possibly even TV characters. I guess in the situation where there isn't a dad in the house these other characters might have more influence. For that reason I would be being selective about those relationships, and if you find someone who you think is a good male role model encourage that relationship a bit more than the others.

  6. I think that men that have issues often blame on a dad/no dad situation. But I think a good parent/s is what matters, not necessarily what gender they are.

    Although part of it may be because he is much bigger (and therefor heavier), my son is way more rough than his sister. But he is also more snuggly and affectionate. And she is probably the "tougher" of the two and is more likely to get back up and try again rather than cry. But she is also the one that I have watched give her doll kisses. So who knows?!

    I think as a society we would be better off if all people had both masculine and feminine traits and were accepting of the ways that people express their gender.