How Do You Raise a Good Boy?
Being a mom raising a boy – or boys – can be scary stuff. When I read story after story about what seems to be rampant cases of campus rape, school shootings, domestic violence, and extreme hazing (see Kate’s recent related post on redefining masculinity), I worry less about my daughter and more about my son. My son is a good boy. But he’s 3 1/2, and when I read endless news about violence perpetrated by boys and young men, I tend to forget that I know hundreds of good, wonderful, nice men, and I worry more that it seems so perilous to raise boys.
But then this weekend, I was brought back to earth by a woman named Denise. We were at the beach on an unseasonably warm day in Maine. This woman sitting nearby was watching her son and his friend frolicking in the water when my preschool-aged son found the very big, very cool hole these boys had dug earlier and began to play in it. As I came to gather him up, encouraging him to dig his own hole rather than ruin someone else’s (let alone, disturb this woman’s momentary peaceful solitude), she encouraged him to stay. She gently warned him that the “big boys” had plans for the hole, but he should feel free to play there for now. When the boys, 10 and 9, came back to their hole, I returned again to retrieve my son, but the boys themselves encouraged me to let him play with them. And they were so nice and genuine about it. A little while later my 7-year-old daughter joined them. And so they played together for hours. Aiden and Sam, the two older boys, dug, raced, and jumped around with my son. They even joyfully engaged in his game of “Cars,” pretending to fill my son with gas and change his tires while he pretended to be Lightning McQueen. And they all seemed to be having a great time.
I don’t know much about Denise. I chatted with her for a little bit. I learned she grew up in the area and moved back from NYC five years ago. I noticed she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring, and I wondered if she might well be a single mom, raising her son on her own – though I’m fully aware that a lack a wedding ring may mean no such thing. After all, I’m not wearing mine, and that’s just because it doesn’t fit. But regardless, I thought, this is a NICE woman raising a GOOD boy with GOOD friends. These pre-teen boys had empathy and energy. They were having fun and being kind all at once. They were the picture of what I want my son to be in six or seven years. And in a few short hours, Denise brought me back to reality. She was the picture of normalcy and reality. And she reminded me that while the news may be about real things that happen to real people, it does not have to be the reality most of us face. After all, a lovely, uneventful, banal, non-headline making afternoon at the beach, can be more real than the 11:00 News.