Sarah Fader is a single mom who wants to raise her son to be a good man. Here’s how she plans to do it.
I’m teaching my son what it means to be a man. He’s only six years old.
I want him to have manners. I show him how to hold the door for strangers. He will be a good man. I emphasize that good men are sensitive.
There is no such thing as a “real man.”
I’m pushing back on the stereotype that men are devoid of emotion.
Men feel anger, sadness, happiness, fear and exhilaration.
It’s okay to cry.
Human beings cry.
Society doesn’t want men to express sadness outwardly. Boys are discouraged from crying.
When you remove a person’s ability to express sadness, they find another emotion to replace it with. Frequently, this emotion is anger. Most men, from my experience, are comfortable expressing anger and are uncomfortable with expressing sadness, unless they are outwardly pushing back against gender stereotypes.
When you’re happy, laugh so hard that your belly hurts and your eyes water.
When you’re sad, let the tears flow. Let it out. Let it go. I am holding you. I am rubbing your back. It’s going to be okay, baby, mama’s here. One day you’ll have a son of your own. One day you’ll hold him when he cries. Some day, you’ll listen to his hopes and dreams.
I want my son to question gender stereotypes.
Each man is different. Each person is different. My son’s gender identity is his own.
Look inside yourself and ask: what does it mean to be a man? What kind of man are you?
I will love him if he’s a heterosexual man.
I will love him if he’s a gay man.
I will unconditionally love him if he is transgendered.
He is my son and I love him, whatever kind of man he decides to be.
I will put my fists up in the face of society’s gender stereotypes to protect my son. I will fight them. My son will express his emotions. He will not become an emotional zombie who only knows how to fight or yell with rage. That is not a man.
That is a coward. A coward uses violence to express himself. My son will be brave. I tell him that he is brave every single day.
“Mommy, I’m afraid.”
“What are you afraid of, baby?”
“There’s a monster in the room.”
“I know you’re afraid. Mommy’s here. I will protect you. You are safe.”
He nods and I hold him. And when I hold him he feels safe, warm, protected, and loved.
One day, he will tell his own son those same words.
When you acknowledge that you are afraid, you can learn to challenge your fears. Society teaches us that men cannot show fear. To be afraid is a weakness.
Be a man
Don’t show your fear
Hold it inside
Stand up straight
Challenge these false notions. Fear is not a weakness; it is a diving board. Stand on that diving board and look into that deep swimming pool and jump. Jump with no idea where you’re going to land. Jump with the confidence that you will survive. You will tread water. You already know how to swim, my brave boy. You are amazing in every way. You are a miracle. You are my miracle. Be who you are. Be happy, be afraid, be sad, be kind, be hurt, be humble, embrace it all! It is all a part of this beautiful thing we call life and that is what it means to be a man. To be a man is to be hu-man.
I love you, my boy. I can’t wait to see who you become in this world.
Photos courtesy of Bigstockphoto and Sarah Fader