Grow Up, Dear Son, But With Your Heart In The Right Place

How is raising compassionate boys possible if we refuse to extend compassion to boys, if we don't allow them to cry?

“I am calling from your son’s school. I just wanted to inform you that your son fell down in the school. His tooth is jutting out and he has injured his lower lip. We have given him some ice and sugar,” said the teacher on the phone a couple of days ago.

“Is he alright now? Has he stopped crying? Do you want me to come right away?”

“He is fine now. Take your time,” said the teacher at the other end.

My 5-year old son’s school is just a 2-minute walk from our house. And it was about time to pick him up from school. Since the teacher said that he was ok, I went to the school at the usual school-leaving time, i.e. after 10 minutes. I wasn’t unduly worried about his “jutting” tooth because he already has one protruding tooth (due to two consecutive falls from the previous year) and I assumed that the teacher was referring to the same. And because of the odd tooth, he always bruises his lip when he has a fall.

My son is sitting in a corner of the office room and sobbing. It was a bad fall. The protruding tooth is almost out and dangling; he needs to be taken to the dentist immediately. The lips are bruised all around the circumference. The teacher does not let me hug him or soothe him. She tells me, “Don’t do that; it’s alright. Let him grow up. He should know that he has to take care of himself. I gave him ice and sugar and told him to put it on the lips. Take him to the dentist and get his tooth pulled out. That’s all; he’ll be fine. He has to be independent now. After all, boys will be boys.”

Yes, my son has to grow up. But when a 5-year old, with a broken tooth and a badly-cut lip, is crying in front of me, as a mother – nay, I dare say as an onlooker – I will first give him a warm embrace and soothe him. Then check the damage and do the necessary stuff. I don’t care if I make him less of a ‘man’ with this but I know for sure I’ll make him more ‘human’. What does a grown-up need when his/her hand has a cut? First, some kindness and then a bandage; not a lecture that he can take care of his hand himself or worse, just moving on as though nothing has happened.

How will my son learn to be compassionate to somebody in pain when he has not received the compassion in his times of distress? I am not saying we should fuss over a scratch but a bad fall, yes definitely. As social beings, we all look for support and comfort from our family and friends. A kind word goes a long way in healing. It tells us that we are not helpless, alone or vulnerable in this world. When in pain, we want some warmth and caring. Why should boys be deprived of this kindness just because they are ‘boys’? And then when they grow up to be insensitive men, blame it on the male hormone. Unfair, isn’t it?

“Stop crying. BOYS don’t cry.”

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“Don’t be shy; you are a BOY.”

“Speak loudly, you are a BOY.”

On his first bad day at school, here are ten things that I want my son to know:

  1. It’s okay to cry. Let the visible tears roll down your cheeks and wipe away your pain rather than the invisible ones that will leave scars.

  2. It’s okay to be shy. Some people are introverts by nature; the world needs listeners, too. Don’t force yourself into being an extrovert just because you are a boy.

  3. It’s okay to be soft-spoken. Be assertive, not loud.

  4. It’s okay to have a pink shirt and an orange teddy. ‘Pink’ is just another colour and ‘teddy’, just another toy.

  5. It’s okay to say you are scared. All of us have our fears; the more open you are to them, the more help you will receive in overcoming those. Be a ‘brave boy’ by openly acknowledging your fears!

  6. It’s okay to sit with a book and not run around the place. “Boys will be boys” but boys can be bookworms, too.

  7. It’s okay to ask for help.

  8. It’s okay to join a dance/drawing class instead of a football class. Follow your heart, not what the world wants you to do as a boy.

  9. It’s okay to lose a tooth; you still are my handsome prince! And, honey, you have one tooth less to brush every morning.

  10. Don’t stop running because you had a fall and don’t blame anybody for your fall. Gather yourself up and continue running; just be a bit careful, though. And when your friend falls, take time to lift him up and give him a nice warm hug.

Dear son, be compassionate, caring, affectionate and kind. Growing up and independence will happen.

Guest blogger Hima Bindu in her own words: An IT-professional in my previous life, I am a stay-at-home mom now. Am rediscovering my long-forgotten love of reading, writing and music.

Pic credit: Sam Sheratt (Used under a Creative Commons license)


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