Heid: I’ll keep you

“Mommy,” said John from the back seat. “I love you.”

By Jess Heid john’s mom works

By Jess Heid
john’s mom works

“I love you, too, baby,” I responded, thinking how glad I am that my little man is so forthcoming with his affections.

“I think I’ll keep you, Mommy.”

“Well thanks, John! I am glad you’ll keep me –”

He stopped me. “I don’t think I will put you in jail.”

“Jail?” I responded incredulously. “Well that’s –”

“And I won’t put you in a volcano,” he interrupted again.

“You were considering putting me in a volcano?”

“Well, maybe,” he replied very earnestly. “So you can blast off from the volcano into outer space and then come back down and land.”

I was silent, stifling a giggle since this was clearly a serious conversation. Finally, I replied. “Well, I guess I’m glad you’re going to keep me instead of doing those things.”

“Yeah,” he said. “I love you, Mommy.”

*   *   *

We hear a lot in our world about the struggles that beset girls as they grow up – and they are real. Our future women are bombarded with messages that tell them they aren’t skinny enough, pretty enough, feminine enough, dressed well enough, etc. There are probably a million other not-enoughs that I don’t think of because I’m not raising girls.

But I AM raising boys, so I am hyper aware of the messaging that bombards them, too. I don’t think we talk about this so much.

Boys are held to impossible physical standards – my sons are beautiful, but the odds of them growing into bodies and faces to match Hollywood are pretty slim. If they are not strong enough or athletic enough, they will probably be labeled sissies. If they are, as I hope they are, into the arts and music, they will likely be labeled gay. (And let’s not even discuss the reactions they will get if they ARE gay, because although our culture has come a long way toward acceptance that’s no easy road to walk.)

What I hope most to instill in these little future men is that emotions are ok – are better than ok. That “real men” DO cry sometimes. That “real men” love their families and friends and loved ones deeply and aren’t afraid to say so. That “real men” can be passionate and feel deeply and still be strong and brave and manly.

There is a beautiful innocence in children. John doesn’t know yet that his outbursts of emotion aren’t cool. We’ve supported his emotions and he hasn’t yet absorbed the pressure to be a “real man,” and that the defining qualities of “real men” are stoicism, hardness, and a lack of emotion.

So, because I know that the world will harden him, despite our best efforts – and because I know there will be a day when it will no longer meet John’s standards of “cool” to tell Mommy he loves her … I will take an I love you in in whatever form it comes – the running, leaping, jumping hug, the whisper before bed, and yes, even the promise not to stick me in a volcano.

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  • The Missus

    You, my dear Jess, are awesome! I’m grateful that there are other moms, like yourself, that are raising their boys to be caring, nurturing, and supportive men, and teaching them that men can love and be soft at times without risking their “manhood.”

    I think we need a support group for moms like us 😀

  • Mark

    I have to catch myself sometimes for doing this, but I do try to show emotion whenever possible around my son so he understands that it is perfectly okay for a man to show emotion and, yes, cry and still be a man. I want him to understand that it doesn’t make him weak, and it doesn’t mean he’s not a man; it means he’s human. It takes a stronger man to cry than it does not to cry.

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