My son is 12. He is quiet and thoughtful. Overly mature for his age, adventurous, rugged, and yet within him is a special kind of kindred spirit. As a mother I want to raise him to be more than just a good man, I want him to be an exceptional man.
When my first husband passed away, I faced the realization that I, was the sole responsible parent to raise my boy into a man. I do have help. I remarried, I have my dad, my brothers and my previous father-in-law. I appreciate these men and their role in assisting me in raising a man. Somehow, even with the backup help, I feel like I am alone in raising my son to be a quality man with good moral traits.
Raising a man is more than just teaching them, “yes ma’am, no ma’am, thank you, no thank you”. Boys need to be taught how to be respectful, independent, financially responsible and emotionally strong. I use everyday life as teaching lessons for my son. Examples are everywhere to teach him what is good behavior or choices, and what is not.
One weekend a skate boarding tournament came through town. Since my son is an avid skateboarder, I bought tickets for him and I to go on a date. As we waited in line to get in, there were two “young men” standing behind us. The conversation between these two 20-something young men was appalling. They were bragging about being so drunk they weren’t sure how they got where they were, who they woke up next to and hoped they didn’t catch anything from the girl. My son kept casually looking at me (probably knowing a talk was brewing within me), and then just past me at the men. My inner mama just could handle no more. I decided to teach my son a lesson, and maybe the “young men” behind me.
Me: (in a not so quiet voice) Son, these “boys” are a perfect example of what you should not aspire to be. Drinking like an idiot, and then driving, is far from cool, in fact only immature people with low self-esteem would find it cool to drink that much and then drive. People die every day by idiots who drink and drive. Never lower yourself to the point of thinking it is okay to sleep with a woman you have never met just because you can or because she is drunk. Sex is not something you just do, it is a special moment between two people who love each other and are committed to each other, preferably married. STD’s are no laughing matter and you never want to be the accidental daddy to a baby that was not planned. Use your brains son, don’t act like an idiot.
The “young men” behind me promptly shut their mouths and my son just smiled and said “Mom, I’m smarter than that, and they just sound dumb talking like that”.
You may think that talking about sex or STD’s is a little over the top for a 12-year-old, I say NO WAY. Kids these day’s sadly are not being taught to wait, or at least be selective with someone special. Teens and pre-teens are inundated with sexuality everywhere. I feel it is so important to have age appropriate communication about sex, what it’s about, ramification etc so they have the knowledge to make the right choice when faced with peer and societies pressure.
I also teach my son about money matters; budgeting, coupon clipping and sale watching. He works for an allowance; I don’t pay him unless he has done his job. If he wants something and is short a little money, he often asks if I will cover the rest for him. I always tell him no; not because I am some scrooge of a mother or because we are poor. I want him to know that I am not a line of credit, and life should not be lived on credit. If you are short the funds for said item, you need to wait until you have enough. When we are out shopping I have him look at the price of what he wants. I set a budget of what he can spend. He can then decide if one pair of jeans for $65 is worth it or is there something he likes on the clearance rack where he can get 4 for $65.
I teach him kindness through empathy. Every Christmas I give him the option to give up a small amount of his allowed budget to give to a charity of some kind. I do not force him to give, that defeats the point of teaching empathy. I let him choose. Every year he chooses to give. Last year he got to pick what his money was used for. He thought about it and decided donating some for a box of shoes, a seed bank, and two chickens would be the most helpful to the children in a village in Haiti. His thoughts were, the kids who could wear the shoes now could pass them to another kid when they no longer fit. The seeds could keep feeding a village for years because they “re-seed”. The chickens, they would lay eggs and make new chickens, thus feeding a village for years.
I teach him to love and forgive. That it’s okay to be angry about something, but it’s never okay to demean or degrade another just because you feel they deserve vengeance.
I remind him that Jesus sees and hears all; his actions should always show the love and kindness that Jesus would give even when the choices are difficult.
I teach him it’s ok to be the kid that says no, that sticks up for the smaller kid, that chooses to pass on drugs or alcohol if offered. It’s ok to be the “good” kid.
I teach him to respect nature. We recycle. We don’t litter. We are conscience of wild life and animals. We respect life. I call him my bird whisperer; birds often get into our house through the dryer vent. He can calmly, quietly, whisper to the bird, catch it in his bare hands and set it free. This seems like a small act, nothing special, but every time I see him do it I am filled with an emotional pride at how gentle his soul is.
I teach him all these things, and more, not for accolades for the mother of the year award, because I am far from that (hence my f-bomb posting). I teach him these things in hopes that he will grow up to be a better Human than I have been. That he will make better choices than I made. That he will care more than the rest of the generation growing up with him. That maybe he will be the ONE person that will stand up and make a change for the right when everything around him seems wrong. I teach him so he will not just be a male boy who grew into an “adult” yet remained in boyish ways. I teach him so he will grow up an exceptional MAN.