My son Caidin, who is going into 3rd grade, is still home from school, which can make this process a little challenging. He's really good, but he's still a kid and 'I'm writing, don't bother me,' last for about 10 minutes before he runs in with another question or discovery. It's hard to be upset with him though, he's so enthusiastic about life and he loves to learn and share, but it breaks my train of thought none-the-less.
So yesterday, as I sat there staring at the blank screen, fresh off my second train-of-thought break, I found myself reflecting on who Caidin is and how much I like who he is. He's compassionate, he's curious, he's funny, he's assertive, he's determined, he's loving, he's generous, he's appreciative and I could go on. Is he perfect? No. No one is perfect, but what's important is what a person does when they aren't 'perfect.' Do they learn? Do they acknowledge? Do they step-up? And for an eight-year old he's pretty good at those things too.
My husband will often say 'he's your son.' I'm pretty sure my husband means that as a compliment, I think. And that got me thinking about raising a son in the 21st Century.
Boys today are in a curious place. They are the bridge to the future. Their dads are either first or second generation Women's Movement men and when I look at the men of the world today, I understand why there is so much anger and resentment toward women or the women's movement.
Many men today have no role model to work from. Their father’s world doesn’t exist anymore. Gone is the 1950s man who provided for his family while the little woman stayed home and kept the house. The roles and responsibilities are blurred.
Where Western women orchestrated and embraced the changes of the 1970s, men, for the most part, were thrust into it. What used to work, no longer does. What was acceptable, no longer is. It’s created not only resentment but confusion for many.
When we look around the world we can see other male dominated cultures starting to unravel as well. Women do not want to be held under the rule of patriarchy and just as men struggled in the United States to understand a new reality, they are struggling in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India and Africa. What was once acceptable is quickly being called out as unacceptable, and rightly so.
What does it mean to be a man if the traditional roles are taken away? Men have to relearn what it means to be a man, so what does this mean for raising boys?
A lot of people think it’s ironic that my only child is a boy, but I actually think it’s quite fitting. Who better to foster a sense of awareness and balance, than a mom who, in addition to being The Conscious Mom, is also known as The Metaphysical Feminist? Why can’t the two go together? After all, as Ani DiFranco states in her remake of ‘Which Side Are You On’; ‘Feminism, is not about women, it’s about a shift in consciousness…’ and I agree with that whole-heartedly.
The shift in consciousness is one that moves away from the Masculine dynamic of power over, control, manipulation, fear and lack as the prevailing energies – the energies we have all been living in for centuries and the energies that are at the forefront of our political climate; and moves toward a Feminine dynamic of collaboration, unity, awareness, connection and understanding.
In the world of ‘spiritual speak’ these differing energies have long been identified as masculine and feminine. Not denoting male and female, but identifying energies and characteristics that belong to the masculine set and the feminine set with both genders possessing both energies.
Men, though, have traditionally resonated with the masculine energy principles (hunter, warrior, worker – all equated to provider) and women have traditionally played the role of a watered down feminine energy principle (nurturer, healer, creator) but this has left us, all of us, out of balance.
It is this balance, that as conscious parents, we can help foster.
The opportunity we have as conscious parents is to raise our boys with an understanding, respect and ownership of both the masculine and feminine energies; to foster boys who are both compassionate and powerful, who are sensitive and strong, who are flexible and decisive.
How do you raise a boy to be a healthy 21st Century Man?
I think it’s pretty simple, you treat him the way you want him to treat others; you point out stereotypes when they pop-up; you identify sexism when you see it; and most importantly, you embrace who he is, rather than trying to make him into someone he’s supposed to be.
I came up with ten specific suggestions, but these just scratch the surface:
Be Respectful - respect your son and teach him to respect not only himself but others too. Help him to understand that we are all different, there is no ‘normal’ and in our differences we are all whole and unique and that’s a good thing.
Love Yourself – teach your son to love who he is and know that loving himself is the first step to loving others.
Emotions Are Part Of Life – teach him that feeling and expressing those feelings is a natural part of life. Teach him how to manage his emotions, buy releasing them, rather than suppressing them. Correct anyone who tells your son to ‘suck it up’ and when you are alone with him, explain why someone might think he ought to ‘suck it up’. Repressing emotions only creates problems later in life. It’s not manly to repress emotions, it’s unhealthy.
If We Don’t Communicate, We Can’t Resolve Anything - I remember the first time I said this to Caidin. Caidin was upset because of something that his father had said to him. After sifting through what had happened, I asked ‘did you tell your father how you feel?’ and his response was ‘no’. So in turn I said, ‘how can you expect to resolve anything if you don’t tell your father?’ I then watched him head off to talk to his dad. Teaching our sons to express, to communicate, to discuss is essential for healthy relationships now and in the future.
Household Chores Are Everyone’s Responsibility – it’s not the ‘mom’s’ job to vacuum, do the laundry, wash the dishes, fold the clothes, and dust the house. Expect your son to help out inside the house as much as he helps out with outside chores.
The World Is Full Of Magic and Wonder – a boy who believes in faeries, or is thrilled by butterflies, or loves to watch flowers bloom is frowned upon in society, but not in my home. There is magic and wonder in every aspect of life. To deny oneself from experiencing it because it’s not perceived as acceptable behavior for one gender over another perpetuates stereotypes and makes boys repress a part of themselves.
Laughing Is Good – Laughing at life, at oneself, finding humor, sharing humor it’s part of living a healthy life.
Laughter raises your vibration, it improves your health and it makes life enjoyable.
Crying Is OK – We all hurt. Crying is how we express that hurt.
Hugs Are Great – Hugs make us feel better. They reassure us. They are a way of expressing love and gratitude and they nurture strong connections and bonds.
Discuss Stereotypes and Sexism – children, from a very young age, understand incongruity. Incongruity is when what they see or are told is contradictory to what they know to be true. When we force them to override their truth, we in effect, teach them to not trust themselves. Stereotypes and sexism are things we learn to believe, they are not truths or facts of life. Caidin’s first conscious experience of both was while watching a rerun of The Jetsons. Caidin questioned the episode when Jane, the wife, is trying to learn to drive and it was rife with stereotypes and sexism. I explained it all to him and his response was ‘that’s just wrong.’ As parents we can enforce or deconstruct, the choice is ours.
These are just a few ways to help support and encourage your son in becoming a healthy 21st Century Man.
Of course, who our children ultimately become will be their choice as they grow. All we can do is lay the ground work and hope that our words, our insight, our information, our support and our love guides them and inspires them to be whole, happy, confident, respectful and aware both inside and out.
© 2012 Christine Agro
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Christine Agro writes the daily blog "Life As A Conscious Mom" for Beliefnet.com. She is a Clairvoyant, Naturopath, Master Herbalist, Conscious Mom and Author of 50 Ways to Live Life Consciously as well as of The Conscious Living Wisdom Cards (Special Moms’ Edition). Christine is founder of The Conscious Mom’s Guide , a membership site where she helps support you on your own journey of living life consciously and on your journey of being a Conscious parent. You can also join Christine on Facebook. To contact Christine, invite her to speak or to schedule an appointment with her please email her.