We lack the wisdom to raise our sons the way we raise our daughters
Before our son Kareem was born, my wife Priya, my daughter Madina and I were on a flight and we ended up sitting next to a woman who was expecting her first child. I sat in the middle seat between Priya and the expecting woman while the two of them discussed things only an expecting mother could discuss with another mother. At one point we asked if she knew the gender of her baby and she said,
“A boy thankfully. I am so relieved.”
As she went on to explain why she’s relieved, she said having a girl would be a lot more work, especially when the girl gets older and hits puberty. There would be more rules and different tensions, while with a boy, you can just let them do whatever they want and not worry about it.
It was slightly comforting — but only slightly — to see that the pervasive ‘boys will be boys’ mind-set exists beyond the Muslim community, allowing boys to get away with anything while treating girls differently. In reality, though, it’s quite problematic.
Undeniably, we raise our daughters differently from our sons. At times we even raise them as if they were sons. Unfortunately, we lack the wisdom and strength to raise our sons the way we raise our daughters and what we are left with are various young males who don’t know how to behave like mature men. I’ve always thought about this, but I have been thinking about it even more ever since I had my eight-month-old son.
It escapes our minds how unfair it is that we don’t expect more from boys and men. Our tone and tenor automatically changes to denial or outright refusal when this issue is raised. The result is a cycle that perpetuates itself of young men not knowing how to reach their potential or being creative in their own sense of aspiration. Instead, they end up being quite mentally, emotionally and spiritually immature, and lag behind in their personal emergence of adulthood, especially when compared to their female counterparts.
As a young man myself, I personally don’t think that’s fair to me. I wish I had more direction and mentorship growing up. I had the blessing of being surrounded by great friends, a father who was generous and hardworking, an elder brother that I idolised in every way possible. But at the end of the day, I didn’t really have anyone setting me straight on how the world worked and what was expected from me as young man.
No one taught me about real character, integrity, honour, fidelity or discipline. I didn’t have conversations on relationships, how to treat women, or sex and sexuality. My intellect and sense of personal responsibility were not employed beyond anything that I compelled them towards. The worst part was that I didn’t even realise it; I was content hanging out until late hours, getting away with things that I knew I wasn’t supposed to do but didn’t know why, playing video games and working out, not reading, not writing, and not being informed of the world around me and everything that was taking place in it. I didn’t know any better and no one helped me think otherwise. How is that fair on me?
My female students, community members, friends and relatives are usually steps ahead of their male counterparts. I see such raw potential in the young men who I am blessed to interact with, but their process of socialisation and upbringing has been their biggest obstacle in realising who they can actually be. The ones that usually distinguish themselves are those whose mothers played a key role in their upbringing.
If you are a young man, take steps towards benefiting from the freedom you’ve been given. Seek out mentorship and friends that will help you reach your best. Take time to step away from what everyone else does and figure out what you want to do with your time. Just because the world lets you get away with it, doesn’t make it okay. Anyone can get a girl to go out with them. Anyone can be popular and athletic. Anyone can tell crude jokes or be tough and make fun of those that are weaker than they are. But not everyone steps up to responsibility when the time comes. Not everyone takes on challenges instead of running away from them. Not everyone knows how to honour the rights of those around them. Not everyone knows how to admit they make mistakes and then do right by them. Not everyone knows how to have confidence in themselves and what they have to offer to the world.
But, at the end of the day, anyone can be a boy. But, not everyone knows how to be a man. If it is in fact, a “Man’s World,” let’s fill it with better men.
This post originally appeared here.
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