Last night I watched a video discussing the 3 words a boy should never hear:
"Be A Man"!
This phrase implies that boys are only worthy of praise when they negate "feminine" qualities like compassion, generosity and gentleness.
This is a harmful message not only to boys but the world at large.
You are a boy.
A Wild, Fierce, Sweet, Loving, Funny, Challenging Humane Being...these are all qualities that we ALL explore each and everyday but as a boy you will be told that being strong means to deny your emotions and to not ask for help.
There are many men who became known as heroes who initially bought into the pressures to 'Be a Man'...
Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, Nelson Mandela...these men were not always fighting against oppression by peaceful means, however, at some point in their lives something in them woke up and they recognized that compassion is strength, generosity is not weak and stopping to listen to the opinion of another will not break you but inform you.
You are only 5 years old but I already watch you fluctuate between wanting to seem tough and admitting that you like 'girl things'.
You can like it all...
Question it all.
Who says a doll is only for girls?
When you play with dolls, action figures, Legos, cars, rocks, beads, crayons or in the dirt with sticks you're telling a story, right?
Wouldn't it be boring to live in a world where girls only interacted with Barbies and boys only played with Spider-Man?
And what is it that you like about Spider-Man, anyway?
Spider-Man protects people but he also shows vulnerability and humility, doesn't he?
He isn't a bully, he doesn't need to 'Man Up' in fact, he just wants to see everyone happy and safe.
As a girl, a lady, a Mom...I am constantly being bombarded with messages about who I am supposed to be, what I should look like, how I should speak in order to get what I want or need but so do the men in my life.
We hurt each other with these structured lies...
In so many ways.
But at our core we are the same.
We want to be loved.
We want to be acknowledged.
We want someone to say 'I see you' and 'I desire you'.
We want to know we matter and when we don't get that acceptance, we begin to look outwards for things to fill the emptiness and we spend our time trying to get more :
MORE beautiful things, more land, more affection, more food...
And we exhaust ourselves and the world around us trying to do it.
We are all wanting to be loved but not wanting anyone to see our weaknesses.
There is a quote by Marilyn Monroe (someone who was confined by social structures of gender expectations and suffered greatly because of them):
"I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I'm out of control and at times a little hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as Hell don't deserve me at my best."
What if we realized that part of being human is accepting all of it?
The joy, the laughter, the grief, the rage... but instead we swim in these streams of murky confusion mistaking trash and sticks for the salvation of the river's edge.
Being strong is not denying your emotions.
Being strong is being able to make yourself vulnerable to someone else's judgments without thinking it's any of your business.
Holding your head up and saying ' I don't care what else anyone says or thinks about me' is not the same as saying 'I hurt. I want this person's approval and I don't have it but...I love them and myself, anyways.'
I don't want my nieces to feel they can't express anger or demand change and I don't want my son to think he can't be humble or feel fragile.
I am filled with pride every time you say "Hold me, please, I want to cuddle."
I love it because it means you love me and want me to love you and I do...even at your worst.
Last week, I was teaching a yoga class and there was only one guy in a class of 12 or so women.
The class required us to hold some stretches for an extended period of time.
Many in the class were grumbling about the tightness of their muscles and hips but the guy sitting in the front of the class was very limber.
Within minutes, several women began to openly comment on his ability to reach his toes with ease and said it seemed so unusual for a man to be able to do that...
I couldn't let it go.
I said "Yes, he is limber but it isn't unusual to the male body to be flexible...it's that as a society we encourage boys to focus on physical strength, we don't encourage them to stretch, to be flexible or bend over do we?
No...physically AND metaphorically that's 'girly'.
We tell them they need to run, jump, punch, push and lift but to pause, breathe, twist and feel their bodies surrender towards the Earth as they reach to stretch their toes?
So...we expect Men to be stiff, inflexible, tight and unyielding in character and body.
This isn't their nature.
It's learned behavior.
So my sweet boy, Atticus...
I love that you love.
I love that you want to be held and want to play in the dirt.
This ex-ballerina also wanted those things at your age.
Be a boy and grow up to be a strong man...
But understand that strength is not about hiding in fear from your feelings...
It's the complete opposite.
You are brave EVERYTIME you open your heart to someone else.
You are brave when you listen to someone you don't agree with and you are courageous to stand up for the impoverished, confused and forgotten.
Let that heart bleed, my boy.
There is nothing weak about it.
Be a good person.