It’s the middle of the night and I wake up to kicking feet. Two of them belong to the two year old who woke up earlier crying, my little Leo, whom I brought in bed with me since Papa is flying back from his business trip. The other two are inside my tummy, getting stronger and more rhythmic each day. Another little boy, whom we will welcome this spring.
My eyes start to focus in the dark as I shift in bed, trying to find a comfortable sleeping position, but my ears focus on the fan in our room.
My mind and heart have been overloaded by the white noise of society and the behaviors and opinions normalized in this country in the past several years. This is nothing new. We talk about it often and on many occasions, I’ve laid awake at night, baffled and brokenhearted at what can happen. At what has happened.
Cody and I are white, college educated, and by definition, upper middle class. We have college funds and passports, and on most days, we look like a walking J. Crew ad.
And we are raising two white boys.
Their privilege is inherent, and I hate it.
Our lives would be easy if we chose not to engage, to ask questions, to challenge. The greatest hindrances, prejudices, injustices, and attacks in this country do not apply to us, because of the privilege we have been born into. We could close our ears, avert our eyes, if we chose to.
But apathy is lethal and silence only ever favors the oppressors, not the oppressed.
So how do we raise our boys in this culture? I’m asking, because I do not know.
Sometimes, when we tell people we have two boys, we’re told we’re lucky, that they’re easier. I smile and know they are referring to brushing hair, catty drama, and most obviously, tights. (I’m 31 and still refuse to put on any of those leg prisons.)
I take my boy mom role seriously, because the white boys I am raising will one day be white men.
In a society that has a long track record of white men getting away with anything, I must teach my boys differently.
I struggle with this, and what this looks like, and how to model this for them on a daily basis.
I do not need to teach my boys they can’t wear hooded sweatshirts, or to keep their hands out in plain sight, or how to get through a traffic stop.
I do not need to teach my boys to cover their drinks at a party, to hold their keys and be off their phone while they’re walking by themselves, or to reconsider what they’re wearing because they might be “asking for it.”
It’s not fair that any parent has to walk their children through any of these situations, and it breaks my heart knowing how common they are.
Statistically speaking, my white boys are more likely to be on the other end.
I worry about my white boys because I fear for our black boys and I’m scared for our girls.
So how do I teach my boys about consent, power, and equality, while also getting them to eat their veggies, brush their teeth, and go to the bathroom on the toilet, not in diapers, and please dear god never again in the bathtub?
I want my boys to see the value in diversity and inclusion, but I struggle with the disparity between diversity and quality of education in our school choices. How can we make sure not to sacrifice one for the other?
I’m asking, because I don’t know.
I want my boys to open doors, both literally and figuratively, and learn to lead by listening.
I want to teach them to be gracious losers, to be humble in their accomplishments, while openly praising others, publicly and frequently.
I want to teach them to seek out those who are different from them, to learn more, to ask questions, to be open and caring.
I want to raise these boys to be men of character, to be leaders by being servants.
It’s hard to know how to teach your children to stand up, even when they stand alone, when so much of life revolves around the desire to fit in, to belong, even when they’re little boys.
I pray circles around these boys’ lives every day, and know that it starts in our own home. What they see modeled for them matters and it goes way beyond bedtime stories, cuddles and kisses, words of encouragement and “I’m proud of you’s.”
Love is action.
Love is acceptance.
Love is inclusion.
Love is love.
We collect our hotel minis and work samples as sales reps to make bags with friends to give to some of the homeless downtown. There are three men who frequently hang out at the picnic table at the park down by the river, and I tear up every time I pass. Their matching Carhartt coats meant almost nothing to us, but everything to them in this winter. We can do more, we should do more I resolve aloud, and look to the rearview at a sleeping Leo. Will he remember?
We talk openly and fondly of our gay friends, their family life, and their friendship to us. We celebrate with them and hurt with them, as we are all just people who want the same things. Love and acceptance.
I plan to enroll in an introduction class to Judaism for the Spring. I’ve always been curious, and our nanny is Jewish. But most of all, I want to be able to talk to my boys about our nanny’s religion, beliefs, and traditions. I want to teach them about different holidays and customs. There’s so much to learn, and its not about us.
Leo received a gift for his birthday he won’t put down: a baby doll. Not a truck or a workbench or a pile of dirt, but a baby doll. Her name is Emma. I watch intently as I see him hold her gently, give her kisses, pretend to feed her, and give her lots of “hucks” (hug.) Leo watches me play dress up and grabs my shoes to wear around the house, always smiling, and giggling, and when he sees me paint my toes, he sits next to me and points at his own. I willingly oblige, kiss his head and pull him close and silently wonder at the future: how he’ll be as a boyfriend, a husband, a dad. I hope he never loses this soft side.
We can do more. We should do more. We will do more.
How do we raise our boys in this culture? I’m asking because I do not know. And I will keep asking, because one day our little white boys will be white men, and it matters.
The kicks inside me settle once again as I lay on my side, and I kiss my little Leo, my sweet little boy who will wake up to be two tomorrow.
I love being a boy mom, and tomorrow, we start again.
Thank you for this. Your words made me cry, and also hit home, even as I’m raising a little girl. My husband and I talk about our privilege and race almost constantly, yet I’m terrified we won’t be able to help her understand it as we do.