Mother’s Day has come and gone again and I’m not gonna lie, I got some pretty memorable gifts this year [especially the VERY accurate drawing my 3 year old made me of what he thinks I look like] but this year’s really got me thinking about what I really want for Mother’s Day. Not necessarily for me, but for my boys. I’m a high school teacher, so every day I spend time with the next generation and in a lot of ways I’m excited for the future. But, in other ways, I’m scared for my boys to grow up in a world that seems less centered on personal interactions and unity and more about the highest score you can get on Fortnight in the solitude of your room behind your iphone. I’m scared that the innocence I see in them now will be destroyed, giving way to a hard exterior shell, unable to show emotions. I’m scared that in the course of becoming men, they will lose the ability to see the world through their childlike eyes, full of wonder and joy in just the smallest things.
Of course I know, as a parent and as a teacher, that a certain about of innocence is lost as experience fills the void of childhood naivete, but I’m terrified to think that all that is pure and sweet within them, will be shamed out of them and replaced with facade of masculinity. Year after year, I’ve watched as countless high school boys enter my classroom, lonely, full of anger, detached from learning and feeling utterly lost, especially as the world prepares to spit them out into reality beyond these safe high school doors. And now as a mother of two boys, I find myself wondering what these boys were like as children. Did they ask why? why? why? about every single thing they encountered like my 3 year old? Did they giggle and clap while sitting in their parents’ laps reading books like my youngest? Did they imagine themselves as adventurers, going on journeys each night, exploring some new unchartered territory, like the stories my husband tells them before bed?
The simple answer is yes. They were just like my boys. But the world we live in isn’t necessarily a safe place for boys to just be who they are, even today. So somewhere along the way, they learned to wall up their emotions and give up on intimate friendships, to just be a “man”.
I am comforted knowing that my boys have the most amazing role model be in their father. They have a man who isn’t afraid to show emotions and be vulnerable. He snuggles them and tells him he loves them and shows them endless amounts of empathy and openness. We can only hope that we give them enough love, that we instill in them the the right tools to handle successes and failures, that we teach them enough times that emotions like crying are healthy.
Someday, though, they will have to live outside of my embrace, away from my watchful eye. And, so what I really want for Mother’s Day, is to know that they will grow up and be thoughtful, kind, empathetic, truthful, passionate, determined, giving, loving men. Can you wrap that up and put a bow on it?