Raising children can be one of the most terrifying jobs in the world. The future of an entire human being rests on your shoulders. How you raise them to treat others will one day play into the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people they encounter. How they go out into the world will rely heavily on the values and morals you instilled in them from their first breath.
No pressure, though, right?
Now, I understand those circumstances when you do your best as a parent and they still grow up to get into unsavory things and become rather unsavory characters. It’s only to be expected what with free will and all. We can only do so much to try and give them the best shot at life, but once those wings take off from the nest, their decisions are their own, and all you can do is lay in bed at night praying your hardest that they’re safe and happy. Or, if you’re Catholic, you can pray diligently for intercessions from St. Monica whose son, St. Augustine, was basically a hot mess before becoming one of the most-loved Saints, Doctor of the Church, and author of the famous line, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” (If you’re not familiar with the story, in short, St. Monica chased St. Augustine down both with her feet and her prayers until his conversion.)
From an early age, my husband and I try to instill in our children a respect for all peoples, for all living things, and for our planet. We teach them that all persons should be treated with dignity, even when they don’t treat themselves with much dignity; even when someone makes them angry, hurts them, or talks down on them. I know that this is counter-cultural in a world that is so vocal against perceived injustices toward the individual, but whatever.
For our sons, we teach them to hold doors. We teach them to be gentlemen. More than anything we teach them to see more than just a body when they look at another person. We teach them against the dangers of objectifying people; of the detriments not just to the other person, but to themselves as well when they take this view.
We teach our daughter that, while it’s polite for a gentleman to hold the door open for her, what’s more important is whether or not she holds the door open for herself and for others. And if a boy/man chooses not to hold the door open for her, not to take it as a personal insult to her femininity, which should never be determinant on how someone treats her, man or woman. Just like with all of our children, we do our best to teach her that her value should not be measured by another person’s thoughts, opinions, or actions. Nor should they expect that another person’s value is based on their thoughts, opinions, or actions. As Christians, we understand that a person’s value is inherent from God, through Christ.
And so—and pardon my expletive here—I will be damned if another person ever makes my children feel as if their existence revolves around that person’s happiness. I see it every day, these memes and cute photographs of couples that say things like, “a real man treats his woman like a queen”, or “a real man will do a, b, and c, to keep his woman happy [even if said conditions and expectations are completely ludicrous].”
I’m just going to throw this out there: our society needs to STOP trying to raise boys whose sole purposes are to cater to women. We need to stop treating boys and men like incompetent apes who can’t function without the guidance of a woman.
A stay-at-home-dad? Haha! I bet the kids eat nothing but macaroni-and-cheese and watch baseball naked; does the guy even know how to put toilet paper on the roll? A dad who works ridiculous overtime to provide for his family? Well, a real man would attend his little girl’s dance recital instead of working the hours needed to even put her in ballet if he really loved her. But wait, there’s a man who actually seems like a decent guy, who is helpful and competent and loving? His wife must have trained him well.
I’ll be damned if a girl or woman comes along and makes my sons feel as if they have to grant her every wish and whim in order to prove they love her, even if it comes to her doing things that are damaging to her well-being. Sadly, I’ve seen it before, where a man who truly loves and cares for his girlfriend/wife tries to keep her from self-destructive behaviors and she and everyone else turns him into a controlling misogynist with an intrinsic desire to oppress anything with a vagina!
We’re not raising our sons with the sole purpose of pleasing your daughters. We’re not raising them to treat her like a queen while she treats him like a peasant. We’re not raising our sons to be with women who think they have to be “trained” in order to make good husbands and fathers. We’re not raising our sons to be servants and henchmen. We’re raising them to be men who are respectful towards all people, who treat everyone around them with dignity, who will be helpful, charitable, and kind, but know when and how not to be taken advantage of. We’re raising our daughters the same way.
We’re raising our children with the understanding that men and women are biologically different. They see, smell, hear, taste, and feel—both emotionally and physically—differently from each other, and that’s okay. Each gender has their strengths and weaknesses, and they were meant to be complementary. This doesn’t mean that one sex is better or worse than the other. This doesn’t mean that we have to treat the opposite sex poorly because of their short-comings. So please, parents, don’t raise daughters who look down on men. Don’t raise sons who look down on women. Raise kids who have respect all around. Raise kids who know their true value isn’t dependent on who loves them, who hates them, or how pretty they are.