Raise a boy, raise a gentleman

Mom, you are the only girl I like. Most girls are so silly. They cry if you talk to them and they say we are rowdy. So, we have a group called ABC — Awesome Boys Club — in class.”

This was part of a conversation with my almost seven-year-old son, snatches of which kept nagging me through the day. And that’s when I realised that my job as a mother to a man has begun.

How do you inculcate values and ideas in a seven-year-old so that he grows up to be an adult the world needs, a man who has his imperfections but believes that it is fine to accept your flaws and work on it? Well, there is no formula, because if there were one, the world would have been a perfect place. By now, I think we all know perfection doesn’t exist.

This, then, is a serious job at hand. How do you raise your child of such an impressionable age and guide him to be a thoughtful, generous and sensitive man?

For me, it’s always been through personal interaction. I treat my son like my friend, like a man – yes, even when he is seven. Which, of course, does not in any way mean that I am trying to take away his childhood. It just means that there are simple every day things that I work on. He loves stories and while we read a lot together, I keep talking from my experience as well. I tell him about my friends, both girls and boys and try to explain that there essentially is no difference between the two. There is no division of work according to your sex; there is absolutely nothing that draws a line between the two. While it is important to tell him that this is a woman’s world, as much as it is a man’s, I also find the need to do a fine balancing act, where you tell him that needs of the two sexes are quite different.

Let me explain the five golden rules:

When we go out for lunch, while it is cool for mum to pay, it is not cool for dad to be disinterested in conversation.

  1. If mum’s upset, a hug from the seven-year-old is as important as a hug from the 38-year-old.
  2. It’s perfectly fine for the men at home (both the seven and the 38-year-old) to talk about their problems and even to break down if they are upset.
  3. It is never cool to raise your hand at anyone, but especially a woman, nor is it cool to have loud arguments.
  4. There are never separate rules for mum and dad.

I know it sounds easy to pin up rules on your soft board, but what’s really important is that it always helps to have a happy family environment, one that’s filled with attention and love. For a child who is growing up, it is crucial that he is exposed to a world within his home and outside; this is in order for him to have the scope to be a better individual.

For a working mother like me, it is always a challenge to battle the guilt of having to divide time between work and home. But it always helps when the son is growing up in an environment where he is part of a family, where work is divided equally and where conversations are given utmost importance.

In a day and age where opinions are formed on social media, and kids pick up values from television series, the key to bringing up a boy that is sensitive, respects women and lives his life as adult without male entitlement is to open him to conversation of every kind. To expose him to the real world with your experiences. To prepare him for the ruthless world, but give him the strength to create his own identity and space. To tell him that it is super cool to be a regular guy with flaws and that it needs immense strength to accept them. To tell him that a woman’s world is not just restricted to his mum’s universe. The scope is immense — you just need to stretch out and extend that world.

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