I have fairly recently given birth to a beautiful boy. He has quite literally taken over my life.
With his head full of smooth black hair and eyes full of mischief, he is the centre of my universe and as per all mothers, old and new, I worry.
People would lead me to believe that I have somehow won a lottery ticket that raising a boy is so much easier than raising a girl. But to me, raising a boy is exponentially more difficult.
If I had a girl, she would be my only responsibility but when I have a boy, every single interaction he ever has with women is upon me.
Every whistle, every dirty joke, every snide remark, and every inappropriate pass he might make is upon me and my husband.
We are, in its entirety, responsible for all the women who are or will be around him because he will become who we raise him to be.
Hence, on this Mother’s Day, I have compiled a list of to-dos if you are a mother of a boy and don’t want to raise a wolf.
1. Raise him to be responsible for his actions
Never say “boys will be boys.” This cannot be stressed often enough. We tend to raise boys like they are some clan king free to roam this world in dirty socks and sweaty undershirts. Stop it.
Make your boys understand that they too need to be quiet when told to be, need to learn to be obedient, and are not allowed to become just a bigger child as they grow older.
2. Teach him to be kind
We seem to save our lessons of kindness for our daughters only. There is no shame in being kind. No shame in not wanting to jump to fist fights at every provocation. No shame in being “soft,” if it means being kind and mature.
3. Teach him to value women as people
Instead of asking “Who is the prettiest girl in class?” ask him: “Who is the smartest girl in class, or the kindest, or the best at maths?” Teach him to appreciate girls as people and not to solely judge them on how they look. And maybe in that process, we too might learn to do the same.
4. Teach him house chores
Although this applies to both genders in Dhaka, I notice it amplifies when raising a boy.
There is this pervasive tendency to not bother to teach boys house chores. Boys grow up never learning how to iron a shirt, or fold laundry, or make a bed.
Never say ‘boys will be boys.’ This cannot be stressed often enough. We tend to raise boys like they are some clan king free to roam this world in dirty socks and sweaty undershirts. Stop it
These are not magic tricks only members of the sisterhood can learn, these are basic adult lessons.
5. Keep him away from the influence of media as much as possible
In this world of munni baadnam huyie and chikni chameli, we must be careful about what we let our boys, our children really, watch. You might not think much about watching item songs or getting your usual dose of serials in front of your son, but to him these are women dancing provocatively and being appreciated by men or vindictive women who are always portrayed as the villains of all family life.
6. Discipline him
We seem to give our sons a golden ticket to all mischief upon birth. Staying out later than we would allow our girls, looking the other way for small breaks of trust, not bothering to know where he is at all times or who he is interacting with.
The way around this is simply not letting your son do anything you wouldn’t let your daughter do. If it’s not safe enough for your daughter, it isn’t safe enough because of your son.
7. Lastly, be his best idol
Lessons are just words if you are not living it. Create a space for yourself and make him understand that you are not only just a mother, or a daughter or a wife; you are a person and a person first and foremost.
That you are not an all -- sacrificing doormat that can be walked over when need be, you are a person.
You need to be respected as a person and treated as such. Do not tolerate disrespect in any form.
My boy is only turning one next month, hence the above list has not been tested, but I hope to raise him to be a man and not an animal, never to be compared to one, or never to be forgiven for being one.
Because if we are to make this world safe for our daughters, we need to begin with our sons.
Nudrat Lohani Nabi is a client service representative at Jagar Ltd in Sydney.