How To Raise A Man: One Mom’s Quest For The Truth
|February 20, 2014||Posted by Jennifer under Mommyhooddom|
Watching my two-year-old pee-pee in the big potty for the first time sent a jolt of milestone-activated adrenaline coursing through my veins. After the initial high wore off and I floated back down to our half-bath, it hit me like an overloaded diaper bag: I have absolutely, positively no idea how to raise a man.
So far he’s been easy. Well, not easy (who am I kidding) but not terribly complicated either. Food, water, shelter-type stuff. I think I’ve met the minimum requirements for acceptable parenting.
But this man business, WHOA! The sobering realization that I am raising a little boy, who will someday emerge from his mama-cocoon as a REAL-LIFE-GROWN-MAN, has me in a cold sweat!
Talk about a HUGE responsibility! Men are important! (Not that women aren’t, ok. Hello!)
Now, I know a lot of men like expensive toys. Some of them like to impress us ladies occasionally. And I’m pretty sure quite a few of them feel incredible pressure to live up to a culturally defined notion of what it takes to be a man, but outside that, I really have no clue what it’s like to be a man. Much less how to raise a man.
I realize that Baby B’s dad will play a big role in steering him down the road to manhood, but as his mother, I’ll be the designated driver from time to time. And we all know how important DDs are.
My mom was a HUGE influence on my brother and he’s one of the most solid men I know. I don’t know how she did it either. I mean, we didn’t have Googlebrittanica back in the 80s. Somehow my brother managed to morph into a man guided by Mom’s parenting instincts alone.
But times have changed. In order to figure out how to help my son grow up to be a man, I did what any mom who’s looking for inspiration does in 2014: I logged on to Pinterest.
And found this:
How to Raise a Man
Then I decided to see what Chuck Norris has to say about how to raise a man. He’s about as manly as you can get, right? He’s my generation’s poster boy (ahem, MAN) for all things macho and physical i.e. kicking ass. I figure I couldn’t be the only mom who has ever looked to Chuck Norris for male-rearing advice.
On Chuck’s website it says we should all live by his set of basic life principles. They include things like striving to reach our maximum potential, loving and respecting each other, forgiving and forgetting, and remaining loyal to ourselves, our God, and our country.
Sounds pretty good. I mean, I can’t really disagree. But not exactly what I was looking for. I needed something more man-specific.
So I thought of Gloria Steinem. She’s a world-renowned expert on how to be a woman. Maybe she has something to say about how to be a man.
Unlike 40 years ago, these days she talks a lot about how to be a “human” rather than how to be either a man or a woman.
In an interview she did with The Huffington Post’s Marianne Schnall, Ms. Steinem said of the future of feminism, “I would put all the efforts to humanize the “masculine” and “feminine” gender roles that are the beginning of a false human hierarchy…”
Hmm, seems she wants men to shed their manhood – at least a little.
Who wants to go first? Anyone? Anyone?
Ms. Steinem’s message specifically for men is that they can do anything a woman can do… and should. In the same interview she went on to say, “The deepest change begins with men raising children as much as women do and women being equal actors in the world outside the home.”
Ok. But, I hate to point this out, but, I “raised” Baby B in my uterus, by myself, for 9 months before my husband ever met him. I realize 9 months is not very long, but in terms of developmental significance, it’s pretty HUGE! There was a whole lot of crack cocaine that I did NOT do while I was pregnant, nor have I done during the 28 months I’ve been breastfeeding him. Again, All. By. My. Self.
Now, I will agree that men can and should participate in raising their children, but until the first woman gets the first man pregnant and he actually gives birth while conscious and then begins to lactate, men cannot do “as much as” women can do, when it comes to raising children.
Honey, our next fetus is on you. M’kay?
Fear not Ms. Steinem, I will tell my son to treat women as equals. And my husband will show him how. And hopefully the enlightened society you helped give birth to will too.
But I would put money on the fact that my son is still going to want to “feel like a man” and all that that entails (assuming he doesn’t prefer to feel like a woman or some variation thereof, which I would be fine with too. I’m cool like that.) and I’m going to support him in that whole-hoggedly.
Glad I got THAT off my chest. Moving on…
Seems I’m not alone in my quest to support manhooddom.
Enter — The Art of Manliness. It’s a site run by uber-sharp husband and wife duo Brett and Kate McKay who celebrate all things MAN. They cover everything from how to shave, to preventing “swamp crotch,” a man-problem-down-there I never knew existed.
They also write intelligent discourse on what it’s like to be a man in today’s crazy gender-neutralized world. In their article, Manly, Manful…Man Up? The Language of Manliness, they say men should express manly virtues like honor, courage, strength and compassion in a way only they can as men. They are quick to say that women can and do express the same virtues, but in a way only they can as women.
Oooo, I got goose bumps!
Embrace your “man-ness” Baby B in a way that only you can. I like that! Strive to be courageous like a man, strong like a man, and compassionate like a man.
Again though, great for when he’s already there, but how do I get him from point A to point B?
Parenting.com, right? In How to Raise a Man by Shawn Bean, he says the gender roles men played a couple of generations ago have “totally evaporated.”
“As a result, there is a new man taking shape in the 21st century,” Mr. Bean writes. “He’s nurturing and supportive, not distant and stoic. He opens the door for a lady, and she’s probably his boss.”
Mr. Bean goes on to say, “He owns a sauté pan and a camouflage diaper bag. Staying home with the kids while his wife works sounds like a good idea.”
Hey, this sounds familiar. Gloria? Is that you (taps on the computer screen)? Are you in there?
I GOT IT! Jeeze!!!
I immediately took a break from googling “how to raise a man” and ran out and bought this toy blender for Baby B. They were out of Easy-Bake Ovens.
Why wait til he’s grown? I think he should start mixing my drinks right now!
Really, I do get it. My son is going to be a man of the modern age. At a minimum, he’s going to have to vacuum twice as often as his dad does and four times more than either of his grandfathers ever have. And that may still not be good enough to get him an actual wife, assuming they still have those by the time he’s grown.
But what I REALLY want to know is how to raise a baby boy to grow up to FEEL LIKE A MAN?
After further research, I discovered that I’m not the only one asking this question.
Seems scientists have argued for more than three-quarters of a century that “manhood” is an elusive, tenuous and hard-won state, according to researchers at the University of South Florida.
Oh, great. I was afraid of this.
Psychologists Joseph A. Vandello and Jennifer K. Bosson in the academic journal, Psychology of Men & Masculinity say achieving manhood is not simply a matter of natural male growth and development. Rather, becoming a man, and maintaining “manhood” is hard to do and causes men a lot of anxiety.
In Hard Won and Easily Lost: A Review and Synthesis of Theory and Research on Precarious Manhood, Vandello and Bosson also say men rely on ongoing public confirmation of their manhood, mostly from other men.
Ah, ha! So this is why we have hockey uniforms and NASCAR – so men can show other men how manly they are by scaring each other to death. No wonder they have so much anxiety!
All kidding aside, it must be awfully hard to be a man. Nobody ever questions a woman’s womanhood. Personally, I never think about it. I’m a woman. Always will be. No big deal. (Well, it is a big deal, but you know what I mean.)
But to a man, being a man is a big deal, according to researchers. And when their manhood is threatened or they perceive it to be threatened by something like a job loss – or heaven forbid – someone calling it into question on the field or on a magazine cover, some of them freak the flip out, sometimes.
This is fascinating stuff! But it still doesn’t answer my question.
What kinds of things SHOULD I DO with my son to help him grow up to feel like a man??
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read the entire internet to find out. Baby B wants to take apart his new blender and I need to go get a screwdriver and help him. Guess we’re going to have to mix those smoothies another day.
Until I find the answer to how to raise a man, I’m just going to have to go with my natural maternal instincts. I hope I can do half as good a job as my mom did with her little man.
Please wish me luck! This is important work. I’m raising a man ya’ll!
What do you think? How DO YOU raise a man these days?