I had a rough introduction to the male side of the human race from the get go. A series of unfortunate events beginning around the age of 4 years old left me feeling vulnerable and broken. Instance after instance of negative, harsh, and even abusive treatment, some minor and some serious, slowly built a worldview in my mind that was heavily steeped in pain, suspicion, and fear towards the opposite sex.
There were of course those in my life who did not fit this bill. My father, brother, uncles, cousins, and some dear male friends helped to soften this fear throughout my life, but it still remained at my core. Then, when I became pregnant with my second child with my husband (another of the sincere and good males in my life), we discovered it was to be a little boy.
I felt a two-pronged surge of joy and terror. Anticipation and excitement were there, but also an unwelcome sense of fear: the fear that I was ill-equipped to mother a boy given my own past hurt and sorrow and that I would “ruin him” or project my issues onto him. I even found in my heart a little bit of fear of “him” and his “otherness” to me. These fears kept me up at night. They even made me cry. Baggage goes deep and I did not intend to carry it over into this journey with my son.
So I set about to heal my heart. I worked long and hard at forgiving, moving through, and coming to a place where I was joyful without fear, unafraid to meet this little guy and bring him to my chest, confident that I could be the mother he needed.
I have discovered some things in the past two years that have made this journey surprisingly painless:
We are clean slates
My little boy came to me pure and innocent. I chose to embrace and hold on to that sacred truth. In the case of those who hurt me, and for many other little boys, this truth was not embraced or respected. They were THEMSELVES victims of their own parents’ emotional damage and misguided ideas, and were themselves victims of emotional or other abuse. I have learned that above all else, our children are unique creatures with their own trajectory and their own journey. They come to us innocent and good and depend on us to protect that. Realizing this and respecting it with my boy, both his innocence, and his inherent GOODNESS has changed how I see all men in general. Great husbands and humans are made in early childhood, when we, as mothers can be the first women to prove to them with our loving belief in them that they are trusted and trustworthy, capable of great and noble things.
How we speak to and about them matters
We have all heard some variation of the quote about how our words to our children become their inner voice. I believe this to be true. As I observe our culture and the ways males are portrayed in the media, I find myself angered at how unbalanced boys and in particular MEN are characterized. In sitcoms, men are often touted as inherently lazy, confused, clueless, weak-willed, and self-interested. I have not found this to be true of ANY of the little boys and men I encountered in my work as a nanny and teacher, nor is it true of my husband or my son. If we choose to use words and descriptions that draw out confidence in our boys, assuming their inherent GOODNESS, they will rise to that. Doing this with my son has healed a lot of my wounds. I am actively working to create a different environment for my children than was given to those who wounded me. My victimizers never had someone speak kindness over them or expect great things of them.
My son has a voice beyond his voice
We poke fun at grown men for not talking enough, but is it possible that part of this problem begins early? Is it possible that we are placing too much emphasis on speech as the only indicator of thought when they are tiny? Emotions are windows to the thought life and children, as all moms know, have MANY of them. Watching my son has taught me that there is a whole lot going on in his head that he can’t tell me about in words. My son is tender-hearted and unusually sensitive to the feelings and non verbal cues of others. He pays attention, and he responds.
I say this is unusual, but maybe it isn’t. I have watched both of my children and many others from birth, and now I understand that long before they have “words”, they are thinking, feeling, hoping, communicating creatures. Observing these things has helped me to see all men in the light of this hopeful and wonderstruck gaze. I hope I can continue to pay attention to the tender underbelly of my boy’s communication, and not assume, brush past, or breeze by it. When I resist the urge to only pay attention to words and whole thoughts, I stop missing huge chunks of my toddler’s expressions about his life. To know this wild and wonderful boy, is to listen to him, and begin to understand just how honorable and lovely the male side of humanity can be.
And so I am healing. One toothy smile and droopy diaper at a time. I walk along with my rambunctious, curious, sensitive little fellow trying hard to be patient and forgiving, both of his little mistakes and also for all the things done to me by those who were also once toddling, precious, and tenderhearted little fellows. Loving and being loved by my boy has healed so much of my fear and mistrust. There is room in my heart now for trust and hopeful expectations from all the men in my life. Thank heaven for little boys.