I am the blessed mother of two beautiful, happy, caring little boys. My job, which I willingly accepted, is to help shape and mold them into strong, independent, caring men. Gentlemen, to be specific. That task, in today's world, is not for the feint of heart.
I have a lot of conversations with friends and family about teaching girls today how to be safe as they grow up. How to avoid situations where they can get into trouble. I have two really smart nieces, both teenagers. I trust them to make good choices. At least as good as any teenager can. But even good, smart girls can find themselves in a bad situation. The trick is teaching them awareness to avoid them as best anyone can. I worry about them. The spotlight the Steubenville rape case placed on the current teenage culture has left me, like so many other parents, horrified and afraid.
But I am not the mother of girls. I am the mother of boys. And during these conversations my mind always goes to my sweet, innocent little guys. Currently in preschool and kindergarten it is nearly impossible for me to picture them as teenage boys, or as young men. Probably because I quite simply don't want to. I want to freeze them in their current state and hold onto them as little kids forever. But I can't, and so I must try to think forward and project who they will become.
NO MOTHER wants to think their kid could become a predator. NO MOTHER thinks their little angel would act as those boys in Steubenville acted. NO MOTHER wants to think of their precious child taking advantage, pressuring any girl. We want them to be respectful gentlemen with all they meet in life. The trick is getting them there. Every day I am reminding them about manners, about treating everyone with kindness. Most days I don't have to work too hard on that. Some days they have a bad day and need a little more watching over. While it's too early to discuss sex and rape, it is never too early to instill the right way to treat people in general. My 3 year old says please, thank you, and excuse me. Well, ok, most of the time. My 6 year old once had to deal with a pre-k class bully. A girl bully. A mean girl. In pre-k. Who would have thought it would start THAT early, but it did. Thank God this girl did not bully my son, but the effect of seeing her treat others, and upset others, still effected him in a very strong way. We had to deal with the side effects because seeing someone suffer bothered him so much. While I worried about him, I was proud of him, too. I liked that seeing someone, anyone, suffer in any way upset him.
My sister once had to pick up my nephew at school when he got in trouble. He was in elementary school and he'd gotten in a fight on the playground. When my sister first heard that she was thinking of all the ways he would be punished. Fighting was not allowed. But the teachers wanted her to know the full story first. Yes, he'd fought. Yes, it needed addressed. But the reason he got in a fight was he witnessed a peer teasing another girl and making her cry. My nephew, brother to two strong willed sisters, could not let that go. The teachers respected his reasons, if not his methods. He did get talked to about better ways to handle it, while still standing up for the girl. But I'll be honest, he was not punished as he would have been otherwise. His Dad was proud that his boy knew at a very early age you don't treat girls that way. He got in trouble in middle school for another fight on the bus. That time someone was attacking another boy. My nephew tried to stop it, and when the attacker wouldn't stop he MADE him stop. At least he'd learned the lesson to try an alternate method first, but when the bus driver couldn't get there quick enough to stop the beating while others sat and watched, my nephew did not hide with his peers. He stood up. He was the only one. I have tremendous pride in him. My sister has done well raising that young man.
Now, I look at my sweet little guys. I look at their bright, sincere, innocent eyes. I hope that they do not have to fight to do the right thing, but I also hope they will not stand by and let others suffer. I hope that when they leave my house and take someone's daughter out for a date, that they hold the door for her. That they treat her with respect. That they never take advantage of her in a bad situation. I know they will make mistakes in life. I know they will have raging teenage boy hormones. What I pray for is that their hearts will be stronger, their mistakes smaller. They have such big hearts. They are caring, and loving. Both have a lot of girls in school that they are good friends with. I cannot believe they will be like those boys in Steubenville. But I am not sitting idle and hoping for the best.
Today, I can lay the foundation. I can teach them right from wrong at a level they understand. I can instill manners and respect for others. As they grow older, and the issues they face so much more complex, I can teach them basic guidelines to use. When something is going on, and they are unsure if it's okay, I will teach them to ask one question: Would my parents think this is okay, or would they be upset if they knew about this? If they know I'd be angry, that I would step in and stop it, I hope they would too. Or at least that they would have the sense to call an adult to intervene for them.
One boy in Steubenville stood up as best he could. He was not there, but he saw the tweets. Saw the pics. And he called the boys out. He was their friend, a cousin of one. And he stated for all to see that what was happening was dead wrong, and was angry. One boy. One lone voice. If only he had been there, capable of stopping the horrible momentum that had taken over that fateful night. But he wasn't able to stop it. But at least that one boy's Mom can know she raised a gentleman. A boy who stood up to his peers the only way he could in that moment. He was not silent. He was not pressured by his peers. He was enraged.
I hope my boys will be so forward. I hope they will not be meek. I hope they will be gentlemen.