Raising Happy, Grounded Self-Sexual Sons
One of the most contentious posts on the site is a question sent to Betty by a pregnant mom, "How Do I Feminize My Son". Users went crazy because it seemed that this mom-to-be wanted to minimize her future son's masculinity. I think she chose an unfortunate title for her question. Now that I'm raising a boy I better understand what she really meant.
When I got the gender results during my 20 week sonogram, I started doing research on "boys". If you have a miscarriage, it was most likely a male fetus. More baby boys die as newborns and fewer boys make it out of toddlerhood. It makes sense because boys have less genetic material than girls. Misogyny struck me as a biological mechanism to help boys survive.
I decided to ditch the baby advice and breastfeed Grayson on demand. I could never refuse to nurse him unless it was a scheduled feeding. I picked him up every time he cried (which was every time I put him down). He wanted constant connection and I gave it to him investing in every baby sling on the market. Friends and family remarked that I was "spoiling him" by answering his cries and showering him with affection. Studies have found that baby boys are picked up and comforted less than baby girls. That breaks my heart.
Even when he was a newborn I made eye contact with him, especially when I changed his diaper. I remember the moment I decided to smile every time I looked at him even when he couldn't smile back. Why shouldn't we greet every new soul with joy and acceptance as they grow and develop? Grayson smiled for the first time when he was one month old. I have the photo framed on my nightstand. I count it as one of my greatest achievements.
As Grayson started to toddler around, I picked him up and kissed his head every time he fell down. He had my undivided attention and unwavering support. I lavished him with praise and affection much to the criticism of those around me. The best advice I can give any new mom is to say, "fuck off". These are our children and we're going to raise them as we see fit. I never let anyone diminish my role as mother. I never let them minimize my son. Grayson is my priority.
Grayson will be three next month and I already see how the culture places him in the role of aggressor. If he touches an older girls sparkley sneaker, it's perceived as a threat not curiosity. Simple childhood acts are deemed un-masculine. When he chooses a purple balloon or butterfly sticker, I get stares. He put a flower behind his ear - like mommy - and the nannies sitting on the bench responded with "uy yuy yuy". My reply, "don't shame my son". All kids love rainbows and animals and hugs and kisses. Being a boy shouldn't strip his environment of anything he enjoys.
The simple sex ed lessons have already started. I refused to have him circumcised so his genitals are intact. Every time I changed his diaper I praised his pooping skills and referenced his penis while cleaning it. We have an open door policy with the bathroom. Normal body processes are discussed and we laugh when we fart.
I'm still breastfeeding him in the mornings - I know everyone freaks out because he has teeth. Again, everyone can "fuck off". Breastfeeding toddlers keeps them from getting sick. And it's how we teach them about touch. He understands that he has to be gentle. We practice stroking mommy's arm or belly softly in long strokes instead of slapping. As we've continued our breastfeeding journey, I've noticed how compassionate he's become and how he enjoys petting the dog. He kisses and cuddles his stuffed animals and my heart melts. The other day at the park he picked up a little girl's hat and put it back on her head. I support him to display compassion to those around him.
He sees us naked and I answer questions about our genitals, "Daddy and Grayson have a penis and mommy has a clitoris". That simple message establishes equality between male and female sexuality. He knows that it's ok to be naked at home, genitals are fun to touch, and, most importantly, he sees affection between his parents. His father and I kiss and cuddle and he climbs up on us for hugs. I can't tell you how many of our users say that they've never seen their parents touch each other. I believe it's important for kids to understand consensual touch and how to show affection to friends and family. I wanted to break through the social construct that all touch is sexual. I'm fortunate to have a husband who shows as much affection to Grayson as I do. I know that experiencing positive, non-sexualized male touch is nurturing Grayson in ways I don't even realize.
It surprised me how early the lessons on consent started. As soon as he could communicate, around one and a half years old, we started with the concept of asking. If he cries or grunts or demands something, we won't give it to him. He has to ask, "can I" or "may I" especially with other kids. When he grabs a toy, I make him give it back and ask the other child if he can play with it. And if they say "no" then he has to walk away. I've had other parents say, "boys will be boys" or "they're kids" but I insist on going through this time-consuming process. I can't let him do whatever he wants and then try to pull him back when he's 5 or 6. Manners need to be instilled. Respect for others needs to be actively encouraged.
One of the most important choices I made was not to block his sexual development by criticizing him for touching himself. He was three months old the first time he reached down and took ahold of his penis. I smiled and waited for him to move his hand before I taped up his diaper. Erections started at about 6 months and they were met with praise. Grayson is free to touch himself during baths and I simply explain that one day it will feel really good to touch his penis.
I say yes as often as I can (because you have to say no to so much to keep them on one piece). I apologize when I lose my patience or I screw up. My mother never apologized to me...even when I became an adult. The concept that the parent is always right, all powerful, and never wrong sets up kids to be dominated and manipulated...to internalize mistakes and struggle with guilt and shame. Grayson knows that everyone makes mistakes even mommy and daddy. He also knows that most people are nice but some people are mean. Just because someone is an adult doesn't mean he has to listen to them. If an adult he doesn't know tries to touch him or ply him with candy, he's been taught to bite them and run away. He is valuable and he can say "no". I'm not going to set him up to be a victim or people pleaser.
I understand exactly what this pregnant mom was asking - she wanted to know how to raise a compassionate, well-mannered, loving, happy boy in a misogynistic rape culture. Keep his foreskin intact and create the most loving, supportive home you can for him.
Then model the behavior you want to see from your child. If you want them to be polite, you have to be polite. If you want them to be affectionate, you have to be affectionate. If you want them to be happy, you have to be happy. Therein lies the ultimate feminist argument for equal pay, intentional motherhood and cultural fairness for women. We are the mothers raising the next generation of children which, in my opinion, is the greatest contribution anyone can make in their lives.
Mothers can break the cycle of violence and save our planet by raising happy, grounded, self-sexual sons. I imagine the life Grayson is going to have, the challenges he will meet, and the partners he will satisfy. I don't care what he does for a living or if he achieves fame and fortune.
I want him to love and be loved and experience as much pleasure as he can while he's here.