Friday, May 09, 2014

A New Definition of a Manly Man

 I just stumbled across this photo.

(original found here)

And it really made me think

I'm raising four boys. When I thought about having children, somehow I thought I'd have mostly girls. It wasn't that I didn't like boys. I loved my 5 little brothers so much and thought they were wonderful and hilarious. But was a girly girl growing up. I had tons of dolls and loved wearing dresses. I wasn't into sports. So I guess I sort of thought that my inclinations might equate to me doing a better job raising girls than boys.

I was actually sort of shocked when the ultrasound tech told us that Ashton was boy. I hadn't had any strong feelings about having a girl, but I guess that I'd sort of assumed and hoped I'd have a girl first since I was the oldest in my family and I helped a ton with my younger siblings and it just seemed good and normal to have a girl as your oldest child.

But Ashton was SO much fun. And I was so glad to find out child #2 would be a boy so these two boys would have each other. I have to admit I was elated to find out child #3 would be a girl. I didn't think I could face life with no daughters at all. Then I sort of assumed that at least one of our twins would be a girl. It came as a bit of a surprise when they showed us two boys on the ultrasound.

Now, of course, I wouldn't have it any other way. Four boys and one girl is the perfect family for us. I love the special exclusive relationship I get to have with my one daughter and I love the adventure and rough-and-tumble of my wonderful boys. Plus, as I grew up, I came to embrace more of the things I would have deemed more "boyish" when I was growing up (like hiking and running) while losing interest in lots of "girly" things (I really don't care for shopping, for flowery or "cute" things, for doing my hair - or Eliza's - poor girl, ...).

I'm so grateful for my dear daughter (I wrote a bit more about that back here), but today I want to write about my sons. I love love love being a mother of sons. And while I thoroughly embrace their adventurous spirits and support most of the daring feats, building projects, and nerf-gun wars they enjoy so much and that make them what many would call "all boy," I also strive to nurture their creativity, their compassion, their love for art and culture, the numberous hugs and kisses the twins give me every day (Isaac's pretty affectionate too - Ashton, not so much),  their love for and understanding of babies and small children, and many other qualities that some people might consider more stereotypically feminine.

From the beginning, I've been very conscious of the fact that I'm not just raising boys. I'm raising husbands and fathers and strong men who'll impact the world around them through their kindness, their nurturing natures, their appreciation for beauty, their capacity for empathy and understanding, their skills with young children, as well as their individual talents in various areas of school and career. When we clean out their rooms, we talk about what special things they might want to save to show their children one day. They take pictures of things they're excited to show those future children. Ashton and Isaac are excellent babysitters (as is their sister) and they love helping tend little kids at every activity we attend, giving parents a break while having a great time with the little friends who adore them. They've been taught to cook and clean alongside their sister. And they see how great their dad is with little kids and how he always pitches in on housework and cleaning. Jared and I have made a conscious effort to raise boys who are well-rounded and who will hopefully be well-prepared to be great dads and husbands one day.

I like to think that most parents in the world around us are similarly working to raise up a generation of men who will be the best dads the world has ever seen while also being great husbands and great providers for their families. But why is it that still, when we see a photo like the one at the beginning of this post, it catches our eye because it's rare? Why don't we have more boys who are babysitting? Why is it a rare thing to find men teaching preschool or elementary school? I know the pay isn't great in professions that involve working with young children and that's a deterrent for men who need to support a family and I know there are concerns about boys or men babysitting or working with young children due to very sad (and very rare but often very public) cases of molestation. Still, I'd love to see us work out some of the real issues involved and move towards a society where boys and men's nurturing capabilities are more appreciated and there are more opportunities for them to enhance and share their skills.

Yes, boys will be boys. And I hope that some day that phrase will bring to mind that boys will be nurturing boys, boys will be caring boys, boys will be helpful boys, boys will be gentle and kind alongside being rough-and-tumble. I hope that we can more fully embrace a new vision of a "manly man" that includes a well-developed and beautiful nurturing side.

Here are some images of great manly men (and all-boy boys) in my life with little kids and babies, nurturing, teaching and loving:


Alyssa said...

I love this post and that first picture. My mother-in-law raised a son that I would consider a new definition of a manly man. She taught him to cook, to knit, to care, to nurture. He's a great husband. Love it, Love it!

Anna Banana said...

And the tears come. This is a fantastic post! I love the nurturing side of my little boys.

Eyrealm said...

What a GREAT post Saren. I didn't find this until after we saw you today. Thanks for taking the time to find all these precious pictures. Such a great collection of present and future most important parts of manliness!

Brooke said...

I had the absolute joy of watching our 11-year-old neighbor hold his newborn baby sister throughout Sacrament Meeting today. He held her and stared lovingly at her the whole time. It melted my heart. I'm so grateful that there are boys like that out there today who will become strong and loving fathers tomorrow. I hope I have the wisdom and patience to help mold my own four sons into that kind of man, as you are doing with yours.

Kristie said...

I love this! As the mother of 4 boys I'm becoming more and more aware that we need to celebrate these great men! My boys are very loving and affectionate and just adore babies. In fact my 8yo came up to me the other day and begged for another little baby! I can't help him out there, however I just know there going to make amazing husbands and fathers one day.

Camile said...

I have three daughters, no boys. And how grateful I am for mothers like you who are raising this kind of manly man! I just loved the pictures at the end - got me a little teary-eyed.


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