I will not teach my son to open the door for a lady

As a domestic violence victim advocate, I keep reading and participating in dialogue against domestic violence. We keep calling it systemic, something ingrained in society and culture. We often attribute it to the way men have been brought up.

Charity begins at home and as a mother to a one year old son, here is my game plan to raise a responsible and sensitive man based on all my bitter and sweet experiences.

1- A spade is a spade — The first role models for a child are the men in the family. Traditionally, aggression in men has been acceptable (it still is, but I see/hope things are changing). When my son witnesses any kind of aggression by an elder in the family, I will tell him it is wrong. Elders can be wrong and it is ok to know it and fix it. Legitimizing or justifying aggression by an elder only reinforces it in the mind of the child. I will teach him to respect people for what they do and not for who they are.

2- Yes, men cry — Every family goes through tough times. I am thankful to my dad for showing us his tears, for showing us that he is also human. I will not shield my son from situations, scenes and images of men crying. It is not enough to say men cry. I will show him it is normal, it is ok to express yourself and that it is not ok to find a punching bag for release.

3- Face violence — In the over exposed world today, it is impossible to shield children from violent imagery. If he ever happens to be exposed to violence, I will explain to him that it is violence, I will call it violence, and I will tell him it is wrong. It is wrong to hurt others and all human beings are equal. I will not try to dismiss it or to divert his attention hoping he will ‘forget’ it.

4- I will hit you — I will not indulge in any violent threats to my child or to anyone that/who has hurt him. If my son bumps into a chair, I will not ask him ‘to hit the chair because it has hurt him’. I will ask him to say excuse me and move it out of the way. When he falls on the floor, I will not ask him to hit the floor, I will teach him to walk better.

5- Do not respect girls — My message will be to respect everyone. I will not ask him to show respect to women, open the door for them, pull out a chair for them — I will not build this gender segregation in his mind. He will do this for everyone.

6- Wear others shoes — This will probably be the hardest lesson but also the most important one to teach empathy and compassion. Well, he is extremely fond of shoes so it shouldnt be super hard :). I will ask him at least once every day — if you were xyz, how would you feel? What would you do? This xyz could be a person, an animal, or even a table. Children are very imaginative and nurturing this imagination to build empathy is the best thing I can do for my child.

7- Parents are humans — I will not let my son take his parents for granted. I will not make unnecessary sacrifices. And when I do, I will let him know what I left to be with him. They need to understand that parents are mere mortals — they make mistakes, they make sacrifices, they feel bad too. Raising children is hard work and they need to see it to appreciate it. They need to know people make sacrifices to appreciate the same with their partners later in life.

8- Guilt free time — I keep hearing that time is the best gift you can give to your children. I add — guilt free time is what really helps them. It puts you in a healthy and happy state where you can make the most of your time together. No one loves my child more than I do. No one will do more or better for my child than I will.

My endless love for my child will be his open wings and not his cover. Afterall, raising children is great responsibility and raising them to become empathetic and compassionate is great success.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely mothers and caregivers out there!

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