I just remembered my boy is not here. It is midnight. I am home. He is not. I am so happy he has good friends. I was so happy to send him on his way. He is nine years old. So big. So independent. Still a little boy. So tough in school. So loving at home. When his eardrum burst a couple of weeks ago, he still needed his daddy. I wasn’t here, and that broke my heart.
So tonight he’s probably still awake, with all his nine and ten year old friends. Talking all night about guns, and farts, and poop. That’s about all he’s into at the moment. That and loving his mom, and his little sister. He is so helpful at home. He is so stubborn. I know he is only gone for one night, but I feel a premonition coming on, of him leaving home for good. Today, and all the other days to come like this, are practice runs for us mothers. Preparing us for the day that he will never be at home again.
I can’t imagine that now. I can’t picture him as a man. I can emotionally, mentally, but not visually. Of course like any mother, I picture him tall, strong, and handsome. I am biased of course. I hope beyond hope that he keeps his loving, patient, curious personality. I strive to keep him grounded. To explain things to him that are important. To make sure he knows right from wrong. To talk about racism, sexism, equality in general. I am glad neither of his parents is American-born. Not to say I have a problem with Americans! I just like the fact that he has seen two other cultures, and visited Ireland many times. Ireland is not so foreign from here, but enough so that he has an idea, that the whole world is not the same. It is sad that we have never been in Mexico. It is too dangerous right now. We are going to Italy next month. That will be the first time he is in a country in which English is not spoken. That will be good for him, culturally too.
I feel lucky that he attends a diverse school. These things are important. I do not wish to just pay lip service to my ideals. I want us to live them. Out of his three best friends and him, only one is fully Caucasian. The other are half black, half Asian, and he is half hispanic. I wish I didn’t notice these things, but the fact is racism is alive and well in America (and everywhere else). Pretending it is not, does a disservice to minority races, but also white children. If they are brought up thinking everyone is equal, they will not be on the look out for inequality. They will question why there is a higher rate of crime in the black community. I try to explain that just because people were afforded equal rights, does not magically reverse hundreds of years of them being treated like dirt. It doesn’t change their job opportunities. And it does not magically change racist people’s beliefs. As long as one race looks down on another, that other race will not have the ability to earn as much, get as god an education, and so on, and so on. And people are still harping on about crime rates.
When I discuss race, or homosexuality, or any other differences that people are discriminated for, I explain that everyone should have equal rights, and that under the law they do, but that in practice that is far from the truth. My son looks white. He speaks with an American accent. He will not be a victim of white racism. His friends, at some point will. And I hope to God he will stand beside them and speak up for what is right. His father is brown, and has a thick accent. He has been discriminated against. It’s just a fact. It is important for my son to understand, that racism effects people he loves. If my son happens to be gay, I hope his friends stand by him, and I hope he suffers less than homosexuals do today.
The current leader of Ireland is gay, and one of his parents is non-white. A lot of people disagree with his policies, but it is fantastic for kids to see that a non-white gay man can be leader. Ireland’s previous two presidents were female. All these things help children to grow up with equality as the norm, not just some concept that we spew at them. And so when my son asks me the hard questions, whether sexual, racial, and all other allegedly controversial topics, I look him in the eye and try to answer as openly and honestly as I can, in line with what I think is appropriate for his age. I do not want him to learn about sex on the playground. A couple of weeks ago he asks me what rape meant. He said he heard the word in school. His school goes from age 5 – 14. I explained it at a level I felt he could understand. If I ignore it, and tell him he is too young to know about “that kind of thing,” he will seek the answer elsewhere. He already knows what sex is, so I simply told him it is when someone makes someone else have sex with them when, they don’t want to. I told him it is one of the worst things someone can do to another person. I told him it was important for people to respect each other, and especially boys and men to respect girls and woman. He already knows too that men are stronger physically than woman (on average). I do not intend to ram home these messages, especially at his age.
It is my jobs, and all parents’ jobs, to raise our boys to be loving, respectful men. Men who will respect each other, women, and themselves. Men who will not laugh about the drunk girl at the party, but make sure she is okay. And although I do not flood his young mind with all this information yet, it is constantly on my mind, that they are things that need to be said. Do not wait until your son is 20 to tell him not to take advantage of a girl. Don’t assume he will pick up on the moral code. Of course everyone knows its wrong to take advantage of someone. You know what? Let’s call it what it is. These are the tough conversations. RAPE. That’s what it is. I am not saying our little girls are doomed by our little boys. I am saying lets give them the advantage of foresight. Let them practice respect now at nine years old. Let them know what is expected of them. Let them know they should stand up for others. That one of our duties as humans, is to help other humans.
And so here I am on the couch. I’ve furiously typed for the last thirty minutes. Thinking of my nine year old, sleeping elsewhere tonight. I’m thinking of him as he grows. I thinking of how I can best help in that transition, without providing too much information to overload his young mind, but without holding back until it is too late. It is a fine and difficult line to walk. I love my son to bits. I can’t wait to see him tomorrow!